Where to Shop, Eat, and More: A Guide for UCL Students in Bloomsbury London

26 June 2024

A blog by first-year undergraduate student, XueFei Liu on where to shop, eat and more in Bloomsbury.

Photo of the outside of Bloomsbury Market

Coming to study in a new place can be exciting, especially if you're coming to UCL, located in the heart of one of the most wonderful cities out there. Yet, undoubtedly, there can be a sense of nervousness and a constant question present in your mind: where do I buy what I need to buy? Have no fear, I was in your shoes just around a year ago. Thus, by the time you finish this article focused on Bloomsbury, you'll be more than ready to navigate London! 

Supermarkets, Grocery Stores, & Daily Necessities 

London is full of supermarkets, markets, and grocery stores. Before you dive into this jumble, let me break down the advantages and disadvantages of some major chain stores, and you can decide where you want to go once you land. 

  1. Tesco 

Tesco itself is divided into 4 branches: Express, Metro, Superstore, and Extra. 

Pros: As one of the most famous supermarket chains, Tesco Express can be found literally everywhere not only in London but also across the UK (for the record, there are 10 Expresses within a 5-mile radius from UCL’s Main Campus). The Express stores are usually open 7 days a week until 11 or 12 PM, which is a huge saviour for those late-night study session snack hauls.  

Cons: The Superstores and Extras provide a large range of both food items and daily necessities but are quite far from UCL Bloomsbury (the closest superstore is in Kensington, and the closest Extra is in Wembley). 

Photo of the outside of Tesco Express
  1. Lidl 

Pros: Lidl is one of the cheapest supermarkets in the UK. Designed with a warehouse style, it offers a large range of items from the Lidl bakery (which I highly recommend for a quick breakfast or snack) to grocery veggies to pots and pans. 

Cons: While Lidl offers a wide range of products, the selection is not as extensive as some of its competitors. Another thing to note is the long lines at Lidl, particularly on weekends when it can be packed with customers (no joke, I’ve seen go to the entrance a few times) so, be prepared to be flexible with your shopping times. 

Photo of the outside of Lidl
  1. Sainsbury’s 

Pros: Sainsbury’s has a good selection of items from various international brands as well as a good number of chains across London and the UK. The smallest chain, Sainsbury’s Local, also offers non-food essentials as well as food. 

Cons: Sainsbury’s tends to be one of the more expensive supermarket chains in the UK, so get your wallet ready. 

Photo of the outside of Sainsbury
  1. Boots 

Pros: Not exactly a supermarket but more of a beauty retailer and pharmacy chain, Boots is more daily necessities-focused, featuring makeup, stationary, bath products, etc. 

Cons: You can buy a quick bite to eat, and they do offer a range of snacks and sandwiches, but it’s not an ideal place to do grocery shopping.  


Food stores and markets: 

Some of us might not have the best cooking skills, and that’s completely okay. Aside from the Student Union shops and cafés on UCL’s main campus, here are some food store suggestions to take a break from your typical McDonald's. 

There are a couple of Asian food stores branches that offer both hot & packaged food with halal, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options scattered near UCL Bloomsbury: 

  1. Oseyo (on TCR): a mostly Korean-focused store including a selection of ready-to-eat meals, self-heating meals, and cooking utensils. 

    Photo of the outside of Oseyo
  2. Yohome (across from UCL Torrington Place): a mostly Chinese-focused food store offering hot meals for both breakfast and lunch as well as a good range of microwavable and frozen meals.  

    Photo of the outside of Yahome
  3. Tian Tian Market (Brunswick Centre): as the bigger store of the trio, it offers a selection of desserts & breads as well as ready-to-heat meals, snacks, and frozen delicacies. 

    Photo of the outside of Tian Tian market

There are also 2 Food Markets near UCL Main Campus that I highly recommend: 

  1. The International Food Market on TCR: open every weekday (11:00-14:00), offering Indian, Thai, Spanish, Chinese, and other international food. There will be a massive crowd starting at around 13:00, so if you’re in a hurry to get to a lecture, go there early. 

    Photo of the outside of International food market
  1. Bloomsbury Farmer’s Market in Torrington Square: open every Thursday (9:00-14:00) with various food stalls from Japanese to Spanish to the typical steak-and-fries. Again, try to avoid and work around the crowds forming around 13:00. 

Photo of the outside of Bloomsbury Market

If you’ve reached the end of this article, I hope that I’ve alleviated some of your pre-arrival nerves. Yet, I must admit that living in London is not cheap. So, if you’re having trouble and need some monetary assistance—such as budget-managing advice or loan arrangements—head over to UCL’s Financial Support (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/funding/financial-support) where they offer schemes and guidance for students to help manage your money issues.  

After all, you’re at UCL, and we’re here to help you make the best of it!