The Classic Rock Lifestyle: London

I was thinking about writing this post for a while. London is a city I love so much and I have been to London five times, more than any other city I’ve visited in Europe (besides Dublin, but I live in Ireland so I end up going there a lot). I love many cities in Europe, but something about London made me come back and visit multiple times. And I love other parts of England too! I love Brighton, Liverpool, and Oxford and these cities are great day trips from London. I’ll talk about these places in the post.

I still haven’t seen everything in London, but every time I visit, I love it more. I hope to move to London one day.

Since I was a teenager I had a fascination with British culture – music and movies mostly.

I even used to pretend I was English, talking in a London accent on a regular basis. I’m a wannabe English person (with a bit of wannabe Californian) and I can’t deny it.

London has a rich classic rock history. Lots of bands from London, recording studios in London, and everyone plays a show in London. Let’s talk classic rock history and then we’ll talk about the cool places to go in London!

Classic Rock London:

So what bands are from London? Lots of them and a lot of them are in lists of best bands of all time! With some of these bands, not all the members are from London. A lot of musicians came to London since there are better opportunities. Here’s a list of bands that started in London:

Blues Incorporated, The Rolling Stones, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Kinks, Dave Clark Five, Manfred Mann, The Yardbirds, The Who, Small Faces, The Pretty Things, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, Marc Bolan, Yes, Supertramp, Queen, and The Clash.

Lots of classic rock songs are about London, here’s a playlist I made of some good songs about London:

Here’s a little bonus! A couple scenes from Procol Harum’s music video for “A Whiter Shade of Pale” were shot in Piccadilly Circus!

Without further ado, let’s talk about some classic rock themed places to go!

Beatles fans will have a blast in London. There’s a Beatles store on Baker Street. Has a lot of cool stuff, but the shop is a bit small. Great photo opportunity though.

Of course, you should visit Abbey Road too! Don’t forget to bring a sharpie and write on the wall! Here are some pictures I took over the years at Abbey Road:

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A lot of Beatles fans like to take pictures in front of 7 Cavendish Avenue, Paul McCartney’s home, but I haven’t been there yet.

There’s more to the 60s than The Beatles, let’s check out some other classic rock landmarks!

Quite a few of these are within walking distance! Get on the Tube and get off at Oxford Circus Tube Station. You’re 5 minutes walking distance from Carnaby Street, 7 minutes walking distance from Soho, and 7 minutes walking distance from Handel & Hendrix. There’s quite a few good restaurants in the area. Pret a Manger is everywhere in London, but in Soho there’s a Veggie Pret – everything in the cafe is vegetarian and there is a good selection of vegan sandwiches, soups, and desserts. I went to Vegan Hippo for dinner once and it was very good. If you’re a Lush addict like me, Lush’s Oxford Street store is amazing, with two floors of products! In early January there’s usually a sale and you can get their Christmas seasonal products 50% off.

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Carnaby Street is important because of its history as one of the top places to buy clothes in the 60s if you were a mod. It’s been mentioned in Sadly it doesn’t look like it did in the 60s and it isn’t very mod anymore, but there are some mod shops there like Sherry’s and The Face. Other places popular with mods that you’ll find there are Pretty Green, Levi’s, Doc Martens, and Lambretta Clothing. Fred Perry is nearby. When the “You Say You Want a Revolution: Records and Rebels” exhibit was at the V&A Museum, there was a popup shop on Carnaby Street. It was about to close so everything was on sale. I lucked out and got a bag and a postcard. Eoin got a Jimi Hendrix shirt. I won’t be talking about that exhibit in this blog post because it’s no longer at the V&A Museum, although there’s a Pink Floyd exhibit at the V&A now.

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Handel & Hendrix is a place you can’t miss, especially if you love Jimi Hendrix. You get to see recreations of his bedroom and record collection and you can read about his time in London in the museum section.

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Also in Soho, there’s a plaque where the Marquee Club used to be with Keith Moon’s name on it. There’s not really anything in the area, but if you have time, it’s cool to get the picture.

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Ever wanted to touch a rock star’s guitar? Take a bus to Mayfair and you can go to The Hard Rock Cafe Vault. Not too far away is Hyde Park. Lots of classic rock bands have played concerts in Hyde Park like The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Blind Faith, and Pink Floyd.

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As for neighbourhoods that have it all: good food, good shops, and lots of culture, check out Camden! There’s lots of vintage clothing and vinyl popups and shops and food popups. I tried the vegan fish tacos at the Club Mexicana popup and the food was delicious! One restaurant there that you can’t miss is Dou Dou (Thank you to my friends Nat and Stephanie for showing me and my fiancé Eoin this place), it’s a 100% vegetarian Chinese buffet – you will be saying “I can’t believe it’s vegetarian!”. It’s affordable and tasty – perfect for a shoestring budget.

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If you’re a Mod, check out The Modfather. It’s also very close to the Amy Winehouse statue.

Not too far away from the market is a Clash mural (sorry for the bad picture, I only noticed this when I was on the bus).

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If you want a nice walk, you can walk along the canal from Camden Market to Little Venice. Little Venice is beautiful.

I have to include some record store recommendations. London isn’t cheap for records. If you are a bargain hunter, find a charity shop like Oxfam, you might find some nice records. I don’t come to London for record shopping, so I’m not the best person to recommend record shops. I’ll leave that to someone else. 🙂 However, it was a lot of fun to browse Rough Trade Records.

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What if you want to get out of London? I got you covered! Liverpool and Brighton are two great classic rock themed day trips! Liverpool for The Beatles of course and Brighton for Quadrophenia (break out the album because it’s the perfect length for the train trip. If you’re in London for a week, only do one of these as a day trip. If you’re in London for two weeks, you can manage both, or if you don’t want to stay in London too long.

If you go to Liverpool, try to get a good deal on a train. The bus is at least 5 hours, but can cost as little as £5 on National Express. The train takes a little less than 3 hours. To get a cheap train fare, travel during super off peak times. You’ll also maximise your day trip.

When I went to Liverpool back in 2013, I went on the Magical Mystery Tour with my mum. You get to see quite a few Beatles landmarks around the city, the tour guides are really knowledgeable and they play corresponding Beatles songs during the tour, like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. It’s worth the money! After the tour, they will take you to the Cavern Club! Also take a walk down Mathew Street.

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As for statues, there’s a John Lennon Statue across from the Cavern Club. I’ve never seen the Eleanor Rigby statue, but that’s on Stanley Street. On the Liverpool Pier Head, you’ll see The Beatles Statue. Sadly, I didn’t get to take a picture next to it because it was installed in 2015.

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There’s also The Beatles Story Museum, which I’ve heard good things about. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money to go there. Liverpool has a lot of free museums that are worth visiting so if you’re on a budget you can still find a lot to do there. If you want to visit Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s childhood homes, you’ll need to book that in advance through the National Trust’s website.

The first time I went to London in 2010, I went to the British Music Experience when it was at the O2. This museum covers everything from the 60s to today and there’s lots of cool memorabilia on display. The British Music Experience has since moved to Liverpool. You might want to check it out if you have time.

Brighton is a beautiful coastal city. The Royal Pavilion, Pier, and Beach are all worth visiting. You’ll find lots of vegetarian restaurants and cool shops. I went to the vegetarian restaurant Iydea when I was there. This is a very doable day trip and works well if you want to do a day trip outside of London, but don’t have enough time to go to Liverpool.

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With London, you can’t do it all in one trip and you’ll want to go back. Don’t go too crazy and try to see everything.

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