Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of London and get you in the mood for travel

Movies and TV Shows

Passport to Pimlico (1949)
Classic Ealing comedy about residents' bungled attempt to declare French independence in a London suburb. A welcome side effect is that the pubs stay open late.

Performance (1970)
Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell's cult movie stars Mick Jagger as himself (degenerate rock star) and James Fox as a gangster on the run. In 1996, Cammell shot himself in the head—a chilling reenactment of the film's climax.

Blow Up (1966)
Gripping thriller about a fashion photographer who believes he has unwittingly captured a murder on film. Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Birkin dazzle in Michelangelo Antonioni's evocative take on '60s London.

The Long Good Friday (1980)
The original British gangster movie (starring a youthful Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren) spawned countless lamentable imitations of the Guy Ritchie ilk.

Notting Hill (1999)
One of Britain's most famous screenwriters, Richard Curtis, eulogizes his hood. Hollywood star (Julia Roberts) falls for English fop (who else but Hugh Grant?) in this lighthearted rom-com.

The Queen (2006)
Power struggle at the palace. Helen Mirren scooped the Oscar for her uncannily accurate lifelike portrayal of Her Majesty's struggle to come to terms with Princess Diana's death. Michael Sheen is equally convincing as an ambitious young Tony Blair.

Books

The Diary of Samuel Pepys (1660 to 1669) Witty, candid insights into Restoration London. Rich in indiscretions and infidelities, plus firsthand descriptions of historic milestones like the Great Fire and Great Plague.

London: The Biography, by Peter Ackroyd (2000) Sprawling, anecdotal, erudite 800-page overview of the city's evolution, from the Middle Ages to the late 20th century.

The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad (1907) "Dark, compulsive novel detailing the history of an anarchist bomb maker in London. Especially fascinating in light of the current paranoia about terrorism."—Mark Sladen, director of exhibitions, Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Put Out More Flags, by Evelyn Waugh (1942) Biting satire of English upper classes. As World War II looms, socialite Basil Seal misbehaves in Mayfair and plays dirty tricks at the Ministry of Information.

London Fields, by Martin Amis (1989) Visceral dissection of late 20th-century London by one of Britain's most formidable literary talents. Recounts the death foretold of Nicola Six. Is her killer dart-playing thug Keith Talent, or suave, sleazy banker Guy Clinch?

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith (2000) Smith's astonishingly assured debut (at age 24) chronicles three generations from three different families coming of age in North London. Sassy, vibrant portrait of modern, multicultural London.

Music

Compilations:

London is the Place for Me
Infectious calypso recorded by early Afro-Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s, compiled by the great Soul Jazz label.

Abbey Road
The Beatles' last album (1969), as famous for its cover photo of the Fab Four crossing the road, as for unforgettable tracks like "Come Together" and "Here Comes the Sun."

London Boy
This compilation of early David Bowie songs captures the spirit of swinging London in the 1960s.

Mellow Yellow
Flower child Donovan takes a trippy stroll through "Sunny South Kensington" and witnesses a "Hampstead Incident."

London Calling
Fusing rock, reggae, punk and rockabilly, The Clash symbolize the edgy energy of London in 1979.

Never Mind the Bollocks
Brash, frenetic, vitriolic debut from the Sex Pistols. Still as raw and relevant as ever.

All Mod Cons
The Jam's penchant for social commentary is evident on tracks like "A' Bomb In Wardour Street" and "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight."

The Singles Collection: The London Years
Smash hits from 1963-1971 courtesy of rock and roll's hardy perennials, The Rolling Stones.

Tales from Turnpike House
Electro-pop snapshots of life in an Islington tower block from Saint Etienne, whose fascination with London infuses much of their music.

Alright, Still Loudmouthed
Lily Allen takes a bittersweet swipe at city life, undercut by an irresistibly upbeat tempo. Guaranteed to lift the spirits on a rainy afternoon.

Classic Songs:

From the swinging '60s to punk rock, Top of the Pops to streetwise rap, these are the sounds of London:

1. "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" by Judy Campbell
2. "A Foggy Day" by Ella Fitzgerald
3. "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks
4. "God Save The Queen" by The Sex Pistols
5. "London's Burning" by The Clash
6. "Camden Town" by Suggs
7. "Cockney Translation" by Smiley Culture
8. "Common People" by Pulp
9. "West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys
10. "LDN" by Lily Allen

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