Skip to the main content

London cafes, pubs and restuarants are reopening after lockdown. Please follow their guidance about staying safe and observe the rules they set out.

Written by Georgina Bartlett, BA History & Matilda Singer, BASc Arts and Sciences

Despite UCL being home to 19 libraries (yes, we counted), bagging a comfortable study space can be a challenge. We thought we would share our favourite off-campus spots for those days when you need to get away from the rush. 

Ambrose Cafe

Perhaps one of the best-kept study secrets around UCL, this nearby cafe can be found inside Heals, the large department store on Tottenham Court Road. Ambrose sits on the first floor, and offers a relaxed, open space with plenty of spots to settle down and work. There’s even a long table towards the back, where you can plug in your laptop and enjoy the free wifi. Since it’s located inside a furniture shop, you might expect that its interior design easily trumps UCL’s cafes as well. While the coffee is on the pricier side (be prepared to pay upwards of £3 for a cappuccino), it’s worth taking the short walk from campus to this more homely study space.

Burr & Co 

Don’t be fooled by the opulent exterior of this building on the corner of Russell Square and Bernard Street: Burr & Co is in fact a cafe. Presumably others have been similarly dissuaded by the posh hotel vibe, because every time I go in it seems to be half-empty and I can easily find a table to myself. Typical of Victorian architecture, the high-ceilings and large windows create a light and airy space that can be rare to find in such a central location. Added bonus: Burr & Co transitions into a bar space serving wine and beer on tap and stays open until 10pm Tuesday to Saturday so friends can join you for a drink when it’s time for a break from studying…

(un)common space at Tate Britain

London’s art world isn’t always accessible, but thankfully there are several initiatives around that offer young people a leg up. One of these is Tate Britain’s (un)common space, a free destination for anyone aged 16-25 to work on their projects, collaborate, and relax outside of the university bubble. Open every day of the week from 10am to 6pm, those from backgrounds currently under-represented in the arts (for example, working class, disabled, BAME and/or LGBT students) are welcomed through their doors. And there’s more: free self-serve coffee and tea is provided on weekdays. 

The Wallace Collection

If you need to escape the chaos of London coffee shops, try spending a few hours in one of London’s numerous free museums and galleries. Not to be confused with the Wellcome Collection across the street from campus, The Wallace Collection is a lesser-known art gallery over in Marylebone, about 20 minutes walk from campus. The Collection is made up of 18th and 19th century works - everything from paintings and sculptures, to furniture and porcelain - that are sure to inspire productivity when you’re in a slump or lacking motivation to work. Visit a cafe on the ground floor or simply grab a bench in one of the first floor galleries. 

Exmouth Market

If you come from a small town, Exmouth Market can sometimes feel like a home away from home. Around a 25 minute walk from UCL, this welcoming street is lined with several independent cafes that definitely deserve your custom. Brill, the colourful LGBT cafe and record shop, is hard to miss: though a little small, their delicious bagel lunches and friendly atmosphere will keep you keen to bag a study spot. If you ever feel the need to get away from the bustle of a crowded university in central London, Exmouth is the destination for a calmer study day. 

The Observatory

A perfect blend of gallery and cafe, The Observatory on Marchmont Street is an undiscovered gem in that it only opened a couple of years ago and doesn’t seem to be on the student radar yet. Not only do they serve great tea, coffee and much-needed study snacks, the walls of this cafe are also decorated with the work of up and coming artists and photographers, which makes for a more thoughtful place to spend an afternoon. We can also attest to their incredibly friendly staff - Pi rented the space to host a successful magazine launch back in February.