6 Ways to Deep Dive in London’s Pop Culture

One of the ways I like to get under the skin of a new place it's through pop culture. There is something about urban legends and fandom that say a lot about the local's vibe.

Cover photo: Queue for the Sherlock Holmes Museum

Now that I’m beginning to understand some of the slang (some, just some, thanks to this infographic by Anglotopia), it’s time to update my pop culture knowledge and start a list of things I can’t miss. I’ve been to some, I’ve missed some (basically because I wasn’t looking for them) and some I didn’t even know were there! Hilarious… I grew up with plenty of British references, mostly humor (Monty Python, Black Adder*, Mr. Bean, The Office) and music (Beatles, Joy Division, Clash, Oasis, Blur, Jools Holland show), but I feel I need to update them. Shall we?

221B Baker Street

Ah getting to know the house of the most famous detective in London, Sherlock Holmes! But wait… Wasn’t he a fictional character? Funny story, no matter how many times I repeat that to myself I still treat him like a real person. Instead of visiting the museum that day (we have that saved for when Diogo comes to visit) we went straight to the souvenir shop (which is where you also buy the tickets for the museum by the way). It’s very hard to keep in mind he’s not real in that environment. My friends, this may as well be one of the most popular tourist traps in London but if you’re a fan of the character you can’t help to drop by for a visit (even if it’s just at the souvenir shop).

By the way, my all time favorite Sherlock Holmes so far is the one played by Jeremy Brett (he was so dramatic all the time). And well we all kind of know by now that Ian McKellen will rock it too right? (no spoilers please, I haven’t seen the movie yet) What’s your favorite?

Closest Tube Station: Baker Street Station, Marylebone Rd (Bakerloo Line, Circle Line, Jubilee Line, Hammersmith & City Line, Metropolitan Line); approximately 5-minute walk.

Notting Hill

This one I can scratch off the list although I didn’t visit the neighborhood for the movie. In fact, I don’t even remember the movie. I’m not too fond of Hugh Grant, to be frank… So, remember that shot when Spike strikes a pose in front of the blue door for the journalists and the paparazzi waiting outside? Apparently, that’s a huge deal. It’s like an “it happened here” kind of moment. Well, I’ve been there already, I might go back for another stroll, but I don’t intend to chase a blue door… If I do come upon it I’ll take a photo and caption it with “there!” The whole area is nice by the way, just in case you haven’t seen the movie or (like me) don’t remember how it was.

Closest Tube Station: Notting Hill Gate (Central Line, District Line, Circle Line, Hammersmith & City Line); approximately 10-minute walk to Portobello Road.

Running Into a Wall (Harry Potter style)

This one is definitely in Dhanish’s list. Visiting Platform 9 ¾ that is, not literally running into a wall. He’s the hardcore fan who’s read all the books and saw all the movies; I’ve watched the first movie and maybe ¾ (pun intended) of the second one… Ok, to the fans I’m being blasphemous, I know. Let’s assume I haven’t found the magic yet and that I have to dedicate some heart and soul to it alright? It’s on my list, it’s on my list.

Closest Tube Station: King’s Cross Station (Circle Line, Hammersmith & City Line, Metropolitan Line, Northern Line, Piccadilly Line, Victoria Line); the trolley that disappears into the wall is free and it’s inside the station (skip the overpriced souvenir shop). 

Isn’t It JUST a Zebra Crossing?

Ok so let’s assess Abbey Road* and The Beatles. I love The Beatles. I grew up listening to their records with my dad. But to cross the same zebra crossing as they did for the cover of their eleventh studio album with the same name as the street? Maybe I give it a go but try something different, or a new angle… Because this was the album released before the last one, but it was actually the last time they were together in the studio, as a band. So, I have mixed feelings about it. Let’s see if the famous zebra crossing speaks to me in any way (if it doesn’t I’ll let you know).

Closest Tube Station: St. John’s Wood (Jubilee Line); approximately a 5-minute walk to Abbey Road Studios.

The Most Famous Serial Killer of All Time

What’s our idea of family fun? Why a Jack the Ripper tour of course. Isn’t that what all families do for fun? An enthusiast of crime mysteries and the Victorian period (Dhanish), a fan of all that’s gruesome and scary (me), and a student who wants to work in criminology (my son). Please, we’ll be the groupies leaving the tour with t-shirts and signed book copies! We are of course doing the Russell Edwards tour and we promise to tell you (almost) all when the time comes.

Closest Tube Station: Aldgate East (Circle Line, District Line, Hammersmith & City Line); meeting point is at the station, Toynbee Hall exit.

Horror Festivals

Boy, am I going to love this city and its three horror festivals (if you know other festivals of the genre that I haven’t heard about please let me know)… FrightFest starts later this month, but I will have to skip it this year. I don’t have the time right now for proper research, to binge on trailers and to assess the level of fright to narrow down the movies I want to watch. Kudos for the films that were at this year’s Fantasporto and that will be screened here too: Landmine Goes Click, Awaiting, III and Suspension. Closer to the end of the year, in October ( a very appropriate month for spooks), the London Horror Festival and the British Horror Film Festival. I’m sure I can clear a day or two in my busy schedule to go see a couple of films and plays.

What would you add to your London’s pop culture list of must-sees? Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter. If you’re not much of a talker, follow us on Instagram and Pinterest for your daily dose of travel inspiration.

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