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This article is the second in a series featuring the top five cities for students around the globe in 2012, determined by QS. A number of factors were considered in the organization’s ranking process, including educational institutions, quality of living, affordability and employer activity. London came in at number two.

London drew visitors from all over the world for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, but parts of the British capital may seem just as crowded as the academic year begins. Located within London’s city limits are some of the top universities in the world, including Imperial College London, the London School of Economics (LSE) and University College London.

Related article: Best student cities -- Paris

The city also is a cultural leader and key financial centre on the world stage and succeeds in attracting students in all areas of study. Business and economics students are drawn to London for the courses and prestige of LSE, while history buffs and literature lovers studying at many of the city’s universities spend time digging through the British Library’s wide collection of books and manuscripts, one of the best in the world. Taking into consideration high living expenses and the elevated tuition rates at these world-class institutions, attending university in London can be a pricey endeavour, but is one many consider a worthy investment. About 400,000 individuals study in the city across more than 40 universities,  and 33% of that population is made up of international students, contributing to the city’s already rich diversity.

Best spots
Students predictably group around the areas near their university campuses, which are spread throughout the city, filling the pubs any day of the week beginning as early as 5 pm. But there are plenty of cultural offerings across London that draw students to every corner for some top nightclub, bargain ethnic restaurant or museum exhibition.

The East End of the city is especially popular among students who explore the markets, galleries and museums in the area’s creative neighbourhoods, like boutique-filled Old Truman Brewery  and the Geffrye Museum dedicated to English interior decorating. Brick Lane is popular among students for its many inexpensive Indian restaurants like Muhib and Tayyabs, which serve heaped bowls of curry, and a popular option for a night out is to start with dinner in the area -- where many of the restaurants allow diners to bring their own alcoholic beverage -- then move on to the numerous nightlife locales nearby. Favourites include music-oriented Big Chill Bar in the Truman Brewery Complex and the unpretentious boozer Pride of Spitalfields, often also branching into the nearby 20-somethings’ hot spots of Spitalfields and Bethnal Green areas.

The bars in Shoreditch, a neighbourhood that attracts a hipster crowd, stay open later than most and often have dance floors, a feature that leans more club than pub, such as the sceney Book Club and the finely decorated Callooh Callay. Top spots Piccadilly Circus (which students adore for its musty, dated bookshops) and Leicester Square draw students with their booming clubs, and promoters are usually littered around Leicester Square on weekends, handing out flyers for discounted entry.

While the majority of students stick to pubs for a night out, few miss a chance to party in some of the top nightclubs in the world, like Ministry of Sound in the Waterloo/South Bank area that can pack in thousands of clubbers and the longstanding club Fabric in Clerkenwell.

The upscale Kensington neighbourhood in west London might price out many students to live, but they still can be found shopping in the many high-end stores along Kensington High Street and meandering in and out of the area’s museums, such as the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Soho and Covent Garden in the centre of the capital, undeniably trendy, are top spots for shopping and dining as well. 

London’s colourful markets are popular among all city dwellers, and students can be found wandering around Borough Market in Southwark for local produce, artisanal foods and gourmet goods like duck sandwiches, all at affordable prices. Sunday UpMarket off Brick Lane sells apparel, accessories and home goods from small-scale designers, and Broadway Market, located in the uber cool Hackney area, is known for celebrity spottings and delicious Ghanaian food.

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