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Living in Luton
The University of Bedfordshire is in Luton... or rather, half of it is in Luton. The other half, as you might have guessed, is in Bedford. Out of the two, Luton is the bigger town, but if you’re not that into city life you don’t have to panic - it’s still pretty modest in size so you won’t have any trouble finding your way around.
As well as all the usual supermarkets around town, The Mall in Luton’s centre houses all of the big brands you’d expect to find in any other city. It’s a bit of a funny building as it just looks like a big concrete box from the street, but a recent refurbishment has left the inside a lot more eye-catching and that’s where you’ll be spending most of your time anyway. There’s also a large market area indoors, so you can go and ferret out some student bargains on your groceries without having to try and balance your brolly with your shopping bags! If you’ve not been to Luton before, you’ll probably notice a strong international flavour in some of the market stalls...
Because of its status as a commuter town to London, Luton has a particularly significant Asian population, and this cultural input gives the town a bit of extra colour and variety. This is most visible in the Bury Park area, which is the hub of Luton’s Asian community. It hardly needs to be said that you WILL be getting familiar with the Indian restaurants around here, but visit in the daytime too and check out some of the specialist and independent shops. Every year the Luton Mela, the biggest Asian music festival in the region, takes place in Wardown Park. Another festival, the Luton Carnival, is held on the May bank holiday every year and is the biggest of its kind in Europe, drawing thousands of visitors.
For entertainment, there’s a good selection of clubs and pubs in the town, supported by the presence of all the students, a couple of cinemas within a ten minute walk of campus, and a theatre attached to the town library. Luton used to be famous for hat-making back in the industrial days, and there is a building called the Hat Factory, but it’s a local event venue and doesn’t actually make hats. If you do want to see some historical hats, go to the Wardown Park Museum instead.
Last but not least, don’t forget the Chilterns! One of Luton’s biggest perks is that it’s close to London but also close to this amazing countryside (and the hills also mean you have a better chance of snow than everyone else in the area). The Chilterns and their ancient woodlands are easily accessible from Luton even without a car, and within a hour you can be breathing in the fresh air and walking, cycling or trotting your way through some fantastic scenery.
Big Day Out
- London: Why are you still here? It’s only 30mins away: Go!
- M1: The surrounding hills mean that this big motorway has to come through Luton, and with it the whole of England. However the silver lining is that you can use it to go in the other direction and explore all the places they came from!
- Luton Airport: It’s only five minutes down the road, and if you can make your student budget stretch that far you’ve potentially got the whole of Europe to visit.
Good to know
- Car?: Don’t take one. Or take one, but don’t expect to move very fast in it. Being a commuter town the roads are often clogged but such a well used route has the bonus of a public transport system that can get you pretty much anywhere.
- Bus: Arriva runs the local service so check out their website for more detailed routes. There’s also a shuttle bus for students.