Fri
Aug 1 2014 11:00am

Your Fun Fandom Tour of London!

Platform 9 3/4

Say you’re headed to London (as quite a few of you might be for this year’s World Con!) and you want to get in some fun fandom sight-seeing. You’ve gone to the museums and the art galleries already, or you’re hoping to dilute those places with a little more wandering and time spent on the Tube.

The great thing about London is that many of its famous sights are directly related to SFF’s most beloved fandoms. Remember how the opening of the 2012 Olympics was full of Poppins and Bond and Potter? There’s a reason for that. So here are some places you might want to stop off—and a lot of them are probably more obvious than you realize.

Baker Street/187 North Gower Street

187 Gower Street, Sherlock

As soon as you get off the Tube at Baker Street, you’ll be confronted by a large statue of the Great Detective himself. Walking a quick block takes you to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, where Holmes and Watson might have lived… sort of. If 221B were a real address, but who cares? Of course, if filming sets are more your speed, a couple stops further bring you close to 187 North Gower Street, where BBC’s Sherlock is filmed. The address won’t be tacked on the door, but Speedy’s is standing in all its glory.

 

King’s Cross Station

Platform 9 3/4, Harry Potter

A warning to Potter fans: King’s Cross Station is not correctly laid out to be the same station that Rowling used as a doorway to Harry Potter’s new life at Hogwarts. In fact, she modeled her version of King’s Cross on the Euston Railway Station (which is quite close to 187 N. Gower St, for those who’d like to make that a double trip!). She chose King’s Cross because her parents met there, but sadly there is no barrier between platforms 9 and 10 in the station. There is a barrier between platforms 4 and 5, however, which is the barrier used in the Potter films. There is often a cart sticking half-way out of a wall there, though you might have to wait in a line to get your picture with it.

 

185 Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd

It doesn’t matter what history tells us, there’s something so delicious about the horror of the Sweeney Todd narrative. No, he never lived, or went on trial (you can check court record from the period—his name is nowhere to be found), or did the horrible things the story claims. But it did say that he lived at 185 Fleet Street, and if you take the Tube to Temple or London Blackfriars, a short walk brings you there. It’s also not far from the River Thames, in case you want a glimpse of the water.

 

Parliament/Big Ben

The Great Mouse Detective

It’s in EVERYTHING. Someone is always blowing it up, or crashing into it, or about to gas the nation’s elect. You could stroll by and play the “1812 Overture” if you’re feeling more inclined to anarchy, or Glenn Miller if you’re more in the mood to dance with Captain Jack Harkness on top of a balloon. Nearly every version of Sherlock Holmes eventually has something to do here. It never ends.

 

Kensington Gardens (in Hyde Park)

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Peter Pan’s very first appearance was in a vignette nestled in J.M. Barrie’s novel The Little White Bird—called “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.” In that story, a young boy flew into the gardens to live on an island in the middle of the water with the birds. There were no Darlings, no Neverland, no Hook… but there were fairies. Peter Pan’s statue can be found in the park, along the water. And if you’re quiet enough, perhaps some of those fairies Barrie was always going on about will accidentally speak up and let you catch them.

 

Greenwich Maritime University

Thor: The Dark World

Superheroes seem to break New York City more than any other metropolitan area, but London got some play in Thor: The Dark World, as the thunder god tried to defend the students at University of Greenwich from Malekith the Accursed. Remember how that great big ship sort of tore through their nice lawn? And then Thor got stuck underground, and had to board the Tube like a normal person to get back? That was adorable. Also, that campus is pretty.

 

Paddington Station

Paddington Bear at Paddington Station

Where Paddington Bear came from! There is actually an adorable statue of him in the station, and all sorts of toys for sale. So if you want a life remarkably like the Browns, you could stop by and pick up your very own Paddington….

 

Brandon Estate

Brandon Estate, Doctor Who

Another one for you set aficionados, this is better known as the Powell Estate from Doctor Who, where Rose Tyler grew up. Take the Tube to Kensington or Oval, and it’s a short walk away. Then you can take pictures of you and your traveling companions in your best freeze-frame poses! There are plenty of episodes to reenact, and so many costumes to emulate.

 

St. James’s Park

St. James's Park

Sure, you could always try dining at the Ritz like Good Omens’ unlikely angel-demon team, Aziraphale and Crowley, but this is way more fun. Head to St. James’ Park with some food for the birds. If the ducks start getting on your nerves, you could always pretend to have Crowley’s powers and upend them. There’s a cafe at the center of the park if your tired and need a tea and scone break. A perfect spot to meet your better/worse half. (You could try to find Aziraphale’s bookshop in Soho, but he probably wouldn’t let you in, anyway.) From the park, it’s easy to get anywhere, right next to Buckingham Palace, Parliament, the London Eye, you name it.

 

And those are just a few places! There are so many more, you practically bump into them as you walk. What are your favorite spots?

7 comments
Richard Chapling
1. Chappers
Some additions and corrections from someone who lives near London, and has had occasion to go to some of these places:

Baker Street:
Also close by is Lord's Cricket Ground (featured at both ends of Life, the Universe and Everything, but you knew that), with the Museum of Cricket (where the Ashes are kept, for one thing). Has been known to occasionally also host games of cricket. Shopfuls of memorabilia are also available.

King's Cross:
Is a real mess since they 'improved' it, especially the underground section. Best advice is sometimes to ignore the signs altogether. As for the trolley sticking out of a wall, it's currently located here. (Or it was when I was passing through last week, anyway.) (For the PDF impaired, here.)

Parliament/Big Ben:
Properly called the Palace of Westminster or the Houses of Parliament, but people'll know what you mean. UK residents can ask their local MP's office for a tour.

Parks in general:
In central London in the summer, parks are normally heaving, with almost no space to sit. This holds true up to relatively late in the evening, despite almost no one living nearby.

Greenwich Maritime University:
A place of this name doesn't actually exist. Ask for the Royal Naval College or the National Maritime Museum to get to the right place. (And don't take your London geography from films, whatever you do. )

Brandon Estate:
Should (presumably) read "Take the Tube to Kennington or Oval, and it’s a short walk away.", if you don't want people four and a half miles away from where they should be getting off. Also nearby, The Oval, London's other cricket ground (hence the name of the station). Worldcon coincides with the final Test match of the summer, so expect it to be busier than usual there.

In general:
if in doubt, use the Underground (please note: not the subway. Only 'Tube' or 'Underground' are used); even with congestion charging, the traffic in London is awful, and most distances are too far to reasonably walk.
Athreeren
2. Athreeren
If I remember correctly, the first question companions have asked when they met people from the future for the first time (in The Sensorites) is whether Big Ben was still there – it was. Much later, we learn that Big Ben has in fact been rebuilt something like seven times.
Athreeren
3. Muswell
Big Ben = a bell. It's very hard to actually see it, the angle's not right. The tower it hangs in was until recently simply the Clock Tower, now it's the Elizabeth Tower. The tower itself is *not* called Big Ben.

Head down to White City to see Broadcasting House, former home of many sci-fi greats including Doctor Who.

@1 - I've always worked on the principle that anything in Zone 1 is in walking distance of anything else in Zone 1, though I suppose that's not so true for tourists limited in terms of time. The open-top hop-on hop-off tour buses are quite good for the 24-hour period of your choice, and I'm not just saying that because I used to be a guide on one. They're getting ridiculously expensive, though.

Don't forget the Tower for all manner of geekiness, including Doctor Who in recent years.
Athreeren
4. Russell H
Re the Royal Naval College/National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, that was also the site used for the scenes of the inquiry into Captain Bligh's conduct in THE BOUNTY (the one with Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian).
Athreeren
5. Beerofthedark
The Naval College is also featured (albeit very briefly) in The Golden Compass. The Millennium Bridge (the wobbly one) was destroyed in one of the last Harry Potter films (forget which one). And the University College London main building nr Euston doubles as the British Museum in The Mummy Returns (as well as appearing in myriad other films and series - it's very telegenic).
Athreeren
6. Lesley Arrowsmith
So, am I the only person who thought "I hope they don't destroy the brewery!" when Malekith arrived at Greenwich? The Meantime Brewery and pub are just along from there!
Athreeren
7. Mike Cheater (SHSFG)
The Naval College, Greenwich also turns up as a location in Pirates ofthe Carribean: On stranger Tides. But you're probably trying to forget about that.

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