Fresher’s is an overwhelming week for any student. It’s a week full of choices, new experiences and, if you’re anything like me, tears. The choice and opportunity university offers can appear intimidating rather than exciting. It’s an emotional transition; These emotions are only heightened when your university is set against the restless city of London. I remember how I felt as a fresher, having only recently moved from a town which had one Starbucks that closed at 7pm. London’s size and intensity overwhelmed rather than excited me. It took me 2 years to figure out where I liked to go and what I wanted to do. So now I, a wise third year reminiscing fondly on her first year naivety, am ready to pass on my wisdom and knowledge.
Mae + Harvey
What is it? A cosy café found on Roman Road.
Why is it worth going to? I went to Mae + Harvey for the first time only recently after admiring it’s charming ambience in passing. Their coffee is great and the cocktails they offer spice up your everyday coffee date. The café is small but the space is well used and the servers are friendly which ensures that Mae + Harvey is a great place to study, read, chat or just daydream.
I too am a millennial so I will answer the question I know everyone is too ashamed to ask:
Is this spot Instagram-able? Definitely! The café is well lit, with a neutral colour scheme that will serve as the perfect backdrop for a picture of you pretending to read Emma or Great Expectations.
What is it? An independent cinema down the road from Stepney Green station.
Why is it worth going to? Genesis is a must-go for any cinephiles. They host a number of different, exciting events every month. But Genesis is so much more than just an edgy cinema which caters to the desires of pretentious film students. Their café is equally as pleasant. The layout is open and relaxed with high ceilings, long tables and walls plastered with vintage movie posters.
Is this spot Instagram-able? I think so, especially with the new East London mural designed by Wumzum. Although, keep in mind that this is a cinema and so the lighting isn’t ideal.
What is it? An inviting bakery nestled in amongst the residential neighbourhoods of Stepney Green.
Why is it worth going to? This bakery is fairly famous, proudly boasting in the fact it was established nearly 100 years ago. The breads and pastries are dangerously delicious (I ate one of their sourdough loaves in a day last year.) They offer an enticing selection of freshly baked goods for reasonable prices.
Is this spot Instagram-able? Kind of? There isn’t really anywhere to sit. Still, it seems like you can’t do anything on Instagram without seeing a picture of a cro-dough, so why not!
Brick Lane Bookshop
(We are going a little farther afield, because let’s face it there are only so many new, exciting things I can recommend in Mile End.)
What is it? A charming bookshop that serves as a quiet spot against the hipster, hubbub of Brick Lane.
Why is it worth going to? Brick Lane is exciting, it is both everything which makes East London great and everything which makes it insufferable. If you are exhausted by the sheer number of food markets and street performers I recommend visiting this small but lovely bookshop. It is the perfect place for biblophiles to browse, uninterrupted.
Is this spot Instagram-able? Sure, especially if you want to prove to all your Instagram followers that you can read.
What is it? A pizza restaurant in Shoreditch.
Why is it worth going to? I won’t lie this place is more expensive than the other relatively cheap options I have offered but it is delicious. My friend went to Italy a week after we visited Homeslice and maintains that the pizza here was better. You can be the judge of that. I recommend bringing a big group of people because their pizzas are intimidatingly large.
Is this spot Instagram-able? No. Trust me, I am saving you from yourself here. The pizza is good but messy. If anything I recommend making a pact with your friends to ban all photography from the table.
Junk Yard Golf Club
What is it? An indoor mini-golf course and bar in Shoreditch.
Why is it worth going to? Rather than trying to scout out a seat in the over-crowded Half Moon Pub or going for a night out in Drapers and inevitably losing a shoe to the unnervingly sticky dance floor, why not check out Junkyard Golf Club? Junkyard offers a few different golf courses, each with an inventive theme. While you complete your course you can enjoy a funky cocktail as well.
Is this spot Instagram-able? Yes! The eclectic, neon design will serve as the perfect backdrop for all your edgy pics.
So there you have it. Here are a few places I would recommend to my first year self. But the biggest piece of advice I would give to any fresher is to do your research! Find places you think sound interesting and visit them. The sooner you step outside your comfort zone and find places you like, the sooner London will feel like home.
Image – Wikipedia