If you're planning to include a few UK destinations in your gap year plans, London certainly has to top the list. Among the areas you should be sure to add to your itinerary is the bustling West End, which is known for its vibrant theatre and fascinating museums.
To make sure you don't blow your budget, search online for money-saving deals on hotels in the West End. This way, you can avoid spending over the odds and still stay in the heart of the area you're exploring.
So, just what are the top ways to soak up culture in the West End?
The West End's array of museums and galleries has to feature on your to-do list. Here, you will find some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, including the British Museum. This houses more than seven million artefacts sourced from all over the globe, so can give you an insight into all kinds of different cultures, both contemporary and historical.
Free to enter, it is easy to spend hours on end exploring the marvellous displays here, which span a wide range of cultures and themes. For example, you can discover some landmark developments in writing and timekeeping, as well as learn more about the Aztecs and the Incas.
You will find many famous artefacts as you walk through the galleries, including the Rosetta Stone. Containing a decree passed a council of priests in relation to Ptolemy V, the stone was inscribed with three copies of this decree, each in a different language - including hieroglyphics and Greek. The presence of the Greek inscription helped scholars decipher hieroglyphics, making the stone one of the most important artefacts to those studying ancient Egypt.
In addition to its permanent collection, it frequently hosts temporary displays. From July 19th to November 25th you can see its Shakespeare exhibition, which is perfect if you're keen to learn a little more about London during your visit. The artefacts on show include coins, armour, drawings and maps - among other items - and the collection looks at how London transformed into a global city, using the Bard's plays for contemporary insight.
If you have a passion for art, visit the National Gallery. This houses the national collection of Western European art from the 13th to 19th centuries. The museum itself is easy to spot, since it dominates Trafalgar Square.
Head inside to see a host of famous works by artists including Thomas Gainsborough, Peter Paul Rubens and Paul Cezanne. With so many pieces on display, it can be easy to feel a little overwhelmed. However, there is a good selection of audio guides on offer to help you learn more about the art the gallery is home to.
It is impossible to talk about the West End without mentioning theatre. The area is best known for its colourful musicals, comedies and classic performances in the city's most prominent playhouses, so there will always be a wide selection of shows to choose from. Les Miserable and The Mousetrap are just two of the options running at the moment.
If you're visiting the city this summer, it is particularly worth keeping an eye out for performances of Shakespeare plays being staged as part of the World Shakespeare Festival. Many of these are being retold for a modern audience, giving you a great opportunity to see fresh interpretations of the Bard's work.
Of course, the West End is also home to fantastic restaurants, bars and clubs, so don't forget to squeeze a night out or two into your itinerary.