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aug 13 2013

3 Free Ways to Get Your Pop Culture Fix in London

Kaeli and April at Abbey Road in London

Make the pilgrimage to Abbey Road Studios for a chance to make the iconic album cover your own.

(Courtesy Kaeli Conforti)

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of traveling around Ireland and London with my mother and sister during a 12-day vacation we'd been planning since I was in high school. As this was our first trip to London, my sister and I quickly came up with a list of places and things we had to see, hitting all the major tourist attractions like the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the infamous Tower of London. As we flipped through guidebooks and asked our friends for suggestions, we began to realize there were a few other spots we couldn't resist visiting while we were there. Whether you're a Beatlemaniac, the ultimate Harry Potter fan, or a lover of all things Doctor Who, a trip to these three London spots is sure to create some classic vacation photos for your collection. The best part: apart from a cheap ride or two on London's Underground (aka. The Tube), you can capture the perfect British pop culture souvenir photo for free.

Crossing Abbey Road
There comes a time in every Beatles fan's life when this photo just needs to be taken. Grab your friends, hop on the Tube's Jubilee line to the St. John's Wood station, and take a 5-10 minute walk down Grove End Road to Abbey Road Studios, the place where the magic happened. Chances are you'll spot the crowd lined up to cross the street long before you see the Studio, so join in the Beatles-inspired merriment and help a fellow pilgrim get the perfect shot (they'll most likely assist you as well). A word of caution: this is an active street and there are cars full of people going about their day who will honk at you for blocking the road, so work together and wait for gaps before jumping into the middle of the road. No photo is worth compromising your safety, but with a little patience and creativity, it works. After your moment of Beatles-fan glory, walk by the Abbey Road Studios entrance gate to read song lyrics and graffiti messages left by thousands of fans from around the world, all lovingly written in sharpie along the front wall.

Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross Station
I have to admit, I did feel a little silly asking a security guard at King's Cross Station where I could find a fictional place from the Harry Potter series, but when we spotted the line of people in front of Platform 9 and 3/4, it was nice to know I wasn't the only one—it does get a little confusing because platforms 1-9 are on one side of the building, platforms 10 and up are on the other, and there is no obvious middle-ground. You are given the option to buy the professional photograph taken by the team from the nearby shop selling all things Harry Potter, or alternatively, you can switch off with other people in line and take free photos with your own camera. There's a funny, enthusiastic guy working the line, handing out different colored scarves according to which House you've decided you belong to (Gryffindor is the most popular choice by far), and you get to do two photos each—the first, a stationary pose where you're shown pushing your cart through the imaginary border followed by an action pose where, with the toss of your scarf, it looks like you're running through it. There are also props available, like wizard's wands, to create your own scene, and be prepared for an epic photo shoot if the person running the line wants to get involved—he actually handed me a wand, asked me to point it at him, and jumped backward at the last minute to make it look like I had stunned him in mid-air!

A real-life Tardis (it's bigger on the inside)
My sister and our friends are big fans of the hit BBC television series Doctor Who (I'm just starting to get into it now) so when we found out there was an original blue-colored police telephone callbox located just outside the Earl's Court Underground station, we knew we had to stop by for a photo-op. For those of you who don't watch Doctor Who, the blue callbox is a Tardis, or a "time and relative dimensions in space," a time-traveling transportation device on the show. We took the green District line from our hotel near Victoria Station to the Earl's Court station, all-in-all a 20 minute adventure for some great photos to make all our friends jealous. For a look at the inside, Google recently added this special feature that lets you view the fictional, imaginary inside of London's real-life Tardis. Click on this link, let your mouse hover over the blue police telephone box, and click on the double-arrows that appear next to it. As they say on the show, it's bigger on the inside.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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