London rocks!

Bohemian Rhapsody hits the big screen at the end of this month, telling the tale of rock band Queen’s meteoric rise and revolutionary sound, up until their appearance at Live Aid in 1985, as well the story of the life of their extraordinary frontman Freddie Mercury. Queen formed and lived in London, recorded their music and played legendary gigs in the capital. Let the film inspire you to visit the city to pay homage to your music heroes, whether that’s Queen or Bowie, Pink Floyd or Amy Winehouse, The Beatles or Oasis – London has been a home, and a muse, to them all. Here’s how to follow in their footsteps.

 

Tour

To mark Bohemian Rhapsody’s release, Queen fans can book onto a rock tour to get their fix of Freddie and the band. London Rock Tours runs a half-day tour in the capital that’s fully focused on Queen, taking you to the places where they were formed – such as the pub where Freddie first met Brian May and Roger Taylor – where they recorded and where they lived. You’ll visit the sites and locations that played a significant part in the band’s history, as well as where some of their videos were shot and the site of the last-ever Queen performance.

Alternative walking tours that include Queen sites along with other historic sites of some of Britain’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll bands, include Rock Walk and Classic Rock Legends tour. You can also walk to Freddie Mercury’s final home, Garden Lodge Mansion in the upmarket neighbourhood of Kensington. Although it remains a private home you can read some of the letters that people have written in memory of Freddie and posted on the wall.

London is a must-visit on any music pilgrimage; London Rock tours also offer music adventures such as the Classic Rock & Beatles Tour and Punk and New Wave tour, plus many others; the Rock ‘n’ Roll London Tour takes you around the sites made famous by the likes of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Sex Pistols, Blur and Oasis. Undiscovered London offers the Camden Markets and Music Legends Tour, where you’ll learn about the lives and music of Amy Winehouse, Pink Floyd and other artists who lived and worked in the north London neighbourhood of Camden; David Bowie fans should check out the David Bowie Musical Walking Tour around the artist’s home neighbourhood in south London, Brixton; or go time travelling in the Swinging 60s bus tour, which transports you back to the music-defining decade.

A simple stroll around the streets of London will reveal sites that British rock legends have made famous. Soho’s Berwick Street is the location for Oasis’ seminal album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory cover shot; download the Blue Plaques app to discover where eminent musicians, such as Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, lived or played. Take a walk down Soho’s Denmark Street – affectionately known as Tin Pan Alley for its large number of musical instrument shops that have served famous customers over the decades. Visit the Handel & Hendrix Museum at 23 Brook Street, where you’ll learn about the lives of two very different musicians who lived at this address centuries apart. And you can’t come to England’s capital without recreating The Beatles’ legendary Abbey Road album cover – head up to the neighbourhood of St John’s Wood and pose on the zebra crossing they made famous (watch out for the traffic!). Which Beatle will you be?

 

Shop

Are you a fan of vinyl records? London is a haven for vinyl addicts. Flip through the albums at Rough Trade West (the original, which opened in 1976) near Portobello Road, or its UK flagship, Rough Trade East at the Old Truman Brewery (also home to live performances). Rekless Recordcs has been selling second-hand records for more than 40 years and has a huge vinyl – and CD – collection. Flashback Records has three stores across London – Shoreditch, Islington and Crouch End – bursting with second-hand vinyl as has Sister Ray Ace in Shoreditch, which also hosts live music performances. And if you’re in London for Record Store Day (13 April 2019) you can catch a huge range of free gigs at independent record shops.

 

Stay

Scheduled to open in Spring 2019, the Hard Rock Hotel, located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, will pay tribute in its memorabilia collection to former residents such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Madonna. Hard Rock Hotel London will boast around 1,000 stylish rooms and suites, together with two vibrant bars and a lively Hard Rock Cafe®. In the lobby, the world-famous Rock Shop® will feature Hard Rock’s iconic merchandise.

K West Hotel & Spa may be a four-star retreat in west London but it also prides itself on its cutting-edge style and ambience. And that’s down to its location within former recording studios where legends such as The Kinks and Bob Marley laid down tracks. Its Studio Bar is all chic furnishings and chandeliers, playing host to a cool urban crowd at the weekends.

Notting Hill-based boutique property The Portobello Hotel has a 24-hour honesty bar, which may be one of the reasons behind why so many famous musicians and bands have stayed here. Book a room here and you’ll be in the company of guests that have included U2, Mick Jagger, Blur, Alice Cooper, Oasis and the Sex Pistols – although not all at the same time (now that would be some party!)

Karma Sanctum Soho invites you to ‘live the rock star life’ – and how can you not when it has a 24-hour bar and hot tub? Two Georgian townhouses were converted into 30 boutique hotel rooms and the hotel certainly nods to Soho’s artistic and avant-garde history. The likes of Motorhead are said to have checked in here.

 

Play

Fancy ordering a pint in the same venues your rock heroes drank in or played at? London is packed with pubs and bars where your favourites kickstarted their careers – head to The Dublin Castle pub in Camden, which has hosted The Killers, Blur and Amy Winehouse both as performers and customers! Check out the Camden Assembly, (formerly known as The Barfly), a bar where Oasis, Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand crafted their art, as well as The Good Mixer, still a live-music venue and a pub Amy Winehouse, Blur, Pulp and Oasis were regularly seen at. In Earl’s Court, The Troubadour is a historic music venue where Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix both played, while in Islington, pub The Hope & Anchor has played host to bands such as U2, The Police and The Stranglers while they were cutting their teeth in the music industry. Rolling Stones’ fans can grab a bite to eat at Bill Wyman’s Sticky Fingers restaurant in Kensington.

 

15 incredible ways to celebrate World Gin Day in Britain

Shaken or stirred, with tonic or in a cocktail, the popularity of gin continues to boom and, with more than 160 gin brands across the UK according to the Gin Guild, plus a host of boutique distillers opening, Britain continues to lead the gin revolution. As World Gin Day celebrates its ten-year anniversary on 9 June with a four-day festival in London, make sure these British gin experiences are on your to-do list.

 

England

Stay at Britain's first gin hotel, Portobello Road Gin’s Distillery hotel, London

Book into The Distillery on Portobello Road; this gin lovers' paradise is home to two gin bars, stocking a huge range of gins (including the famous Portobello Road Gin) and the Ginstitute, the hotel's gin museum and blending room, which runs masterclasses showing you how to make your own gin blend.

 

Embark on a Gin Journey tour, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle

The Gin Journey takes its guests in a chauffeur-driven carriage to five bars in your city of choice, including a local gin distillery, with samples of specially selected premium gin in each. Other tours on offer in London include ‘The Gin Masters Masterclass’ for a chance to learn all about the various styles of gin and its manufacturing from a master distiller.

 

Head for London’s largest collection of gin, London

Featuring more than 500 gins and 30 tonics the Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room is seriously impressive, offering the discerning gin lover more than 14,000 possible gin and tonic pairings, plus new gin cocktails.

 

Order gin from a ‘Bath’, Bath

The Canary Gin Bar in the south-west England city of Bath, is a haven for gin-lovers due to its vast collection of the spirit on offer. A micro-distillery has also been launched at the bar and has created its very own type of gin, ‘Bath gin’.

 

Enrol in gin school, Leicester
Join the Gin Experience at the 45 Gin School in Leicester and tour the home of Burleighs London Dry Gin, before selecting and distilling your choice of botanicals and bottling your own 70cl bottle of gin, under the guidance of a master distiller.

 

Feast on cake and gin, London

Hayman’s English gin makers and Brigit’s Bakery have joined forces to offer a Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour of London. Tours on the charming, vintage Routemaster bus take in some of London’s most iconic landmarks as a bespoke B Bakery Afternoon Tea is served with Hayman’s Gin infused treats and three seasonal Hayman’s Gin cocktails.

 

Scotland

Indulge in gin pamperingm, Glasgow

Created by the people behind Glasgow’s first dedicated gin bar – Gin71 – the Gin Spa is the world’s first botanically inspired day spa. Find bespoke treatments using the bar’s passion for gin mixed with natural botanical ingredients and sip on a complimentary gin cocktail that comes with every treatment.

 

Venture to the far north for gin, Shetland

Take a tasting tour at the UK’s most northerly gin distillery; the Saxa Vord Distillery on the Shetland Isles. Its recipes infuse gin with either locally harvest apple mint or bladderwrack seaweed to give it a unique Shetland twist.

 

Sail on a gin cruise, Edinburgh

The people behind Edinburgh’s Juniper Festival, Scotland’s first-ever gin festival, now offer special gin tasting events on board its Juniper Cruise. Heading out from Edinburgh on the Lochrin Belle canal boat, its two-hour tasting session teaches guests about gin’s fascinating history while sampling five Scottish gins. Cruises run until November and the Juniper Festival itself takes place at Summerhall, Edinburgh, between 1-3 June.

 

Gin along the North Coast 500, Caithness

Ask someone else to drive this stunning road trip along 500 miles of the far north of Scotland as you’ll want to stop by these two gin distilleries en route and sample the goods. Head to the new visitor centre of the Dunnet Bay Distillery, in Caithness, to discover tales of illicit distilling and the history of prohibition in the local town of Wick, before sampling its flagship gin Rock Rose. Further along near Inverness is the intriguing Glen Wyvis, 100% owned by the local community with a new distillery that aims to be 100% powered by green, renewable energy.

 

Mix gin with chocolate, Perth

The Perth Chocolate and Gin Street Festival, an hour north of Edinburgh, is a haven for those with a passion for chocolate and a love for gin. Coming to the city this November (17-18), there’ll be gins to try from all over the UK and a chance to see how well the two products go together in the chocolate and gin pairing event.  

 

Wales

Buy biosphere-inspired gin

Taste and take home the unique Pollination Gin, distilled by the family run Dyfi Distillery, located in the UNESCO World Biosphere of Dyfi in north-west Wales, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. It’s produced in very limited small batches, made from foraged botanicals from within the biosphere, pure grain spirit and locally drawn spring water, making it a special gift to take home.

 

Sample sea-inspired gin

Fans of seafood should put this on their must-try list; a small batch gin made with a variety of botanicals infused with seaweed from the Welsh coast, Dà Mhìle Seaweed gin is pretty special. Find out more of how this unusual gin is made with a tour of the distillery near Ceredigion in west Wales, two hours from Cardiff.

 

Northern Ireland

Take Northern Ireland’s very first gin tour

The Belfast Gin Jaunt launched last year and takes guest to five bars to try seven different gins – including three distilled locally – starting at a Victorian Gin Palace and finishing three hours later at the city’s famous Cathedral Quarter.

 

Explore Northern Ireland’s first craft gin

Find out the fascinating story of how Northern Ireland’s first craft gin – Shortcross Gin – came about in a tour of its distillery on the Rademon Estate in County Down, one of Ireland’s oldest historic estates located just half an hour from Belfast. And, of course, the essential tutored tasting of the end product.