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A (Pop) Cultural Tour of London

London is huge, both in real world terms and also in the influence it has had on western pop culture. Iconic bands, literary geniuses and acclaimed actors have all called London home, as has a little bespectacled wizard called Harry Potter, but more on him later (actually, there isn’t much more I can say about him as I haven’t read the books or watched the movies, but my girlfriend dragged me along to platform 9 ¾).

You could explore London’s iconic pop culture landmarks for weeks, but here is what I got up to during a few days in the big city.

The Tower of London

I hadn’t heard much about the Tower of London until it was mentioned in an episode of The Inbetweeners.  Pathological liar Jay supposedly hooked up with a girl there, and although I was too cheap to pay the £22 entrance fee, great views can be had of the tower (more of a castle really) from the cheap seats. An added bonus was the thousands of poppies surrounding it – one for every Commonwealth soldier who lost their life in WW1.

A pop cultural tour of London - The Tower of London, mentioned by Jay in the Inbetweeners

London Bridge

We all know the London Bridge song from our childhoods, but the only thing falling down was my excitement level when I actually saw it – it’s just a bridge, and not even a nice one.  I didn’t bother taking a photo, so you’ll have to make do with the far more interesting Tower Bridge.

The Tower Bridge - part of my pop cultural tour of London

Streets from the monopoly board

I used to be a huge Monopoly fan, so it was pretty exciting to actually walk the trail that the top hats and irons had blazed all those years ago.  I saw a few of the streets and stations, but I couldn’t find Mayfair and Park Lane, probably because I’m not classy enough. This is a photo from the affordable yet still respectable red property – Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square, part of my pop cultural tour of London

Fleet Street

Fleet Street was home to the “Demon Barber” Sweeney Todd, and it’s quite a nice street to walk down. The old buildings were more interesting to me than the Sweeney Todd influence as I only got about 10 minutes through the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film when I realised it was a musical and quickly turned it off.

Fleet Street, the home of Sweeney Todd - part of my pop cultural tour of London

Greenwich

Famous for “Greenwich Mean Time”, I was far more interested in this London suburb because parts of Thor 2 were set there. I’m a pretty big Thor fan, and not just because I “knew” Thor before he was famous (he was on an Australian soap called Home and Away), I’m not sure if I should have just admitted that I used to watch that though…

Greenwich is a really nice part of London, especially the Royal Naval College, which has some famous halls, although they were closed to the public on account of a graduation when I was there. There is also a naval museum and a park with great views over the city.

The Royal Naval College in Greenwich, part of my pop cultural tour of London

Camden Town

Charles Dickens liked to include Camden Town in his novels, and it has also been the music centre of London since the mid 60s – it was even the birthplace of the Britpop music scene. Camden market is full of cheap clothes and food, but since our bags are too full anyway we decided to walk along the canal past Camden Lock and eventually on to Little Venice. The canal is nice but Little Venice isn’t anything special, so don’t feel like you have to go all the way there. Camden is also one of the best areas of London to stay in, according to this post at least!

Pop cultural tour of London - Camden

King’s Cross Station

This is where Harry Potter teleports to the magical wizard land and does spells etc (or something similar). There is a small Harry Potter shop and the staff will even help you take the iconic platform 9 ¾ photo – there was quite a crowd there though.

Big Ben

London attractions don’t get much more iconic than Big Ben, and I’m sure it’s featured in a lot of movies over the years. My favourite “Big Ben Moment” was the final fight scene in Shanghai Knights, where Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson fight an English mad man. The clock, and Westminster area in general, is a must see on any tour of London, although the crowds can get pretty crazy. Buckingham Palace is also nearby, although it definitely isn’t the most impressive palace I’ve ever seen. I was surprised at how plain it was, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be flash inside.

A pop cultural tour of London - Big Ben as seen on Shanghai Knights

Essex

England has some pretty terrible reality TV shows, and The Only Way is Essex is apparently one of the worst. I haven’t seen it, but since I read British news websites I’ve seen photos of a lot of the cast – fake tans/tits are the name of the game here. I stayed with some friends who had recently moved to Essex but unfortunately I didn’t meet any stars of the show.

Epping Forest in Essex, part of my pop cultural tour of London

The little things

I watch a lot of English TV shows and movies and constantly hear references to shops that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. I ate at Chicken Cottage, which they talked about in the movie Four Lions. If you haven’t seen it you should definitely check it out – it’s about English born Muslim terrorists plotting an attack in London, and surprisingly it’s a comedy. I also saw a Carphone Warehouse, where the incompetent agent from the TV show Extras ended up working, along with Cafe Nero (referenced in Peep Show) and Boots pharmacy, also mentioned in Four Lions. I also stayed really close to the dingy flat from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (in Borough) although I found that out after we left.

A storm brewing in London - the end of my pop cultural tour of London

Would you like to go on my pop culture tour of London? What areas have you seen on film that you’d like to visit? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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2 Comments

  1. October 26, 2014 at 9:04 pm — Reply

    There’s soo much to see in London. Would love to just get an apartment in the city and stay there for a few months.

    • October 30, 2014 at 7:24 am — Reply

      Yeah, that’d be great – it’s an awesome city but I think next time I’ll go in summer!

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