Imperial College is the UK's leading science, technology and medicine university. The main campus is in South Kensington, near the big museums. During the summer months - July to September - they rent our their 1,000 student rooms so you can stay in central London at a great rate.
I've seen the rooms and they are nicer than many budget hotels so we need to dispel the myths of student accommodation: these rooms are en-suite, clean and well-maintained, and felt more like a hotel than student digs.
Better Than Many Hotels
University accommodation certainly comes with some preconceptions so let me tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to see the Imperial College rooms. Most have been recently renovated, and it felt modern, clean and safe. Really safe. Like "solo female travelers wouldn't need to worry" safe.
There's a 24 hour Reception and front entrance CCTV, with a swipe card entry system. The communal areas are bright and clean with lifts/elevators or stairs.
Modern, Compact Rooms
The rooms actually reminded me of the Hoxton Hotel with their clean and modern style. The rooms are compact but certainly manageable, and the great views - gardens, back of V&A, etc - make the rooms feel larger. Suitcases can be stored under the bed, plus there's a wardrobe and shelves for unpacking. Every room has a desk and chair too.
All rooms have a telephone plus wifi for a one-off connection fee, however long you stay. This is also available all over the campus so you can take your laptop to the breakfast canteen or to the Eastside Bar, etc. All rooms have tea and coffee making facilities.
Clean En-suite Facilities
Most of the rooms have an en-suite bathroom (only a few in the oldest block have shared facilities). The bathrooms I saw were spotless and there is a daily cleaning service included however long you stay. Towels are included too and can be changed daily, if required.
The rooms do not have a TV but there are TVs in social areas, often near the kitchens so you can have TV dinners. Note, no crockery or cutlery, etc is available but you are allowed to use the kitchens. The rooms do have a clock radio and a complimentary bottle of water.
Prince's Gardens is a wonderfully quiet oasis from busy central London and I may well be popping back there for summer afternoon relaxing. There are great facilities too including the Eastside Bar (yes, it's a student bar but you've never seen one as nice as this - see below), a convenience store on the ground floor, and the Ethos Sports Centre that all guests can use for a small fee. There's a gym, exercise studio, climbing wall, a 25m swimming pool and more. Yes, a swimming pool in central London, next to your budget accommodation. All activities are £5 or students can get a monthly membership for £30. (2010 rates)
Breakfast is served in one of the campus canteens so you get a chance to see more of Imperial College. I had lunch here and, again, have to say it's a clean and comfortable room, plus the food was fresh and quick.
Imperial College is minutes away from the South Kensington big three museums: Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and the Science Museum, plus one of the Halls of Residence - Beit Hall - is next to the Royal Albert Hall.
Harrods in Knightsbridge and High Street Kensington shopping areas are also close by.
Many of the halls are surrounding Prince's Gardens which are the only privately-owned public gardens in London.
Easy access from Heathrow Airport by tube as South Kensington is on the Piccadilly Line. It's about a 40 minute tube ride, then a 5-10 minute walk.
Eastside Halls has the Eastside Restaurant & Bar which is the nicest student bar I've ever seen. Great prices for drinks and 'gastropub' main meals are around £5 so no need to search for a restaurant each night. Even if you're not staying, this would be a great destination after a day at the museums, or before a late night at the museums.
The Eastside is a contemporary bar and eatery, open from midday to 11pm Monday to Saturday and from midday to 10pm on Sundays. A great place for meeting friends, there's a range of ales and wines on offer as well as tea and coffee.
Imperial College have three buildings in South Kensington: Eastside Halls and Southside Halls on Prince's Gardens, and Beit Hall next to the Royal Albert Hall. Eastside and Southside are the newest buildings and have that modern feel, and Beit Hall is a listed building (must be preserved) so has a different character. Many prefer the high ceilings and the quadrangle courtyard the rooms overlook. There are also some triple rooms in this block.
How To Book
Rates vary throughout the season but start from around £35 per night for a single room with en-suite.
Book at: www.universityrooms.com (Look for 'Beit Hall' and 'Prince's Gardens')
This site also allows you to compare university accommodation across London from other universities.
For more information and photos see the: Imperial College Summer Accommodation website.
If you are looking for London Accommodation for Large Groups HouseTrip have some large private homes that can be rented.