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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com