In London, the cost of being cultured is relatively cheap. In my three weeks studying in the heart of the British Empire, I’ve explored a wide-range of the free museums, churches and art galleries. Among the museums I’ve visited are the Museum of London, the British Museum and the National Gallery. By visiting these cultural hubs, which for the most part are free, those interested are able to get a real taste of the politics, history and current issues facing my adopted city of London.
In Los Angeles, USC sits adjacent to the city’s museum campus, which includes the African American Museum and the California Science Center. Yet when you consider the more than 300 museums London has to offer, it pales in comparison. Museums offer a window into the society. So when a society is completely new like Britain’s was to me that was my best resource for getting a crash course history lesson.
London also has a plethora of palaces, large cathedrals and historic abbeys to visit. Despite my low chances of ever being royalty and me not being Church of England congregant, touring those venues offered more insight into British culture. The high-rising ceilings, intricate stained glass windows, portraits of royalty from the Tudor dynasty down to Prince William and Kate Middleton have all helped inform me of some aspects the country has valued over the centuries: religion, custom, class. (Also, as an American, the fact that these cultural centers have nearly 2,000 years of history to cover is daunting.)
Before coming to London, I would never have thought I’d wake up early to tour a museum before class. But now I do just that. There’s just so much to learn — and for free. You can’t beat that.
Plus, it helps me save money. According to Europe Backpacker Index, London is regularly one of the most expensive cities to travel to because of pricey tourist attractions. Therefore, the museums, art galleries and churches are a great way around that.
Museums also supplement the lessons taught in my classes (or “modules,” as they call them at British universities). Oftentimes when discussing arts culture in London, I’m able to contextualize it because I now know about Queen Victoria’s lengthy reign or how King Henry VIII changed England’s religion from Catholicism to Protestantism.