Babe: Nephew in the city
July 20, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

My 17yr old nephew is staying with me in London for a few days next month, as I'm taking him to his first gig. He likes graphic design, Jack white and playing guitar. What cool things should he go, see and do?

I had my first visit to London in 1998 when I was 16, and grew up in the same small, dull, townie-centric place he's in. Back then, I wanted to go to Tower Records, look at comics in Forbidden Planet, eat at somewhere that wasn't McDonalds and buy some of the hippie crap that appeals to teenagers in Camden.(We also - oh callow youth - thought the Trocadero was AMAZING, if only because I could buy a McDonalds at 9am.) Given the internet and such, I'm not sure record stores are as big a draw and I am not a practicioner of his main interests of drawing or playing guitar. I was thinking about taking him to the Design Museum when we have a day together, and maybe somethign to eat at Taro or Wagamama (no Japanese places where he lives so it would be a nice experience) but I was more thinking of shops or places I could give him a list of along with an A-Z.

So far I was thinking of sendign him to Cass Art or the London Graphic Centre (there is no art shop in his town, despite there being 100k people there) and the record/book exchanges in Notting Hill, and maybe Portobello or Camden, as even though I've become jaded and cynical it will seem impossibly cool to a first-time teenage visitor. Or will it? He's a huge indie fan so I wonder where the rock tourist hangout is these days.

My other thought was somewhere like Brick Lane or Covent Garden, just because it's busy and there are vintage clothes stores about (his town has no vintage scene - my college friend dressed entirely in 1960s clothing and got constantly verbally abused on the street for it - but he's whippet thin and would probably dig it) and lots of interesting stores and atmosphere - and the National Gallery is nearby as well. Or maybe the South Bank? He's a bright kid and interested in politics and books and news, but I don't think the historical side of London appeals much.

Where would you want to go if you were in his shoes? Bonus points if it's cheap or free, as well. He's pretty independent, but from my memories of coming to the big city on my own, he might not feel totally comfortable going to eat in cafes on his own or anywhere that feels fancy or out of place, so nowhere that feels particularly elitist or inaccessible either.
posted by mippy to Travel & Transportation around London, England (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think your instincts are good. Here's a few random ideas:

* Camden market, sure. Still interesting and everyone should check out Cyberdog.

* Food-wise, I don't think much of Waggamama's food or their service. Maybe Yo Sushi, if only just for the whole conveyor belt thing.

* He could go to Poland St to gawk at the smaller and slightly indie music stores, Denmark St for the guitar and instrument shops.

* Venues are many and various, but maybe the 12 Bar club and the Barfly for some interesting and heavily lived-in venues that aren't too expensive.

* Browsing the book market on Southbank itself could be interesting. Hell, send him up and down Charing Cross Road.

* I'm thinking that Smithfields market is a bit expensive now. Portobello Rd or Borough on the right days might be better.
posted by outlier at 10:57 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes to the Design Museum, and yes to Brick Lane - especially cos the nice new Rough Trade shop is just round the corner - there might even be an in-store gig going on when he's there if you're lucky. And there's all sorts of hip arty addy stuff going on in the streets around there.

There's also the tiny Slam City Skates / Rough Trade shop in Neal's Yard, if you end up in Covent Garden.
posted by ZipRibbons at 11:09 AM on July 20, 2012

I dunno about Camden Town. It still seems to be a huge magnet for the bizarrely dressed teenagers of Europe, but it's not very hip. I'd take him round Dalston/Shoreditch area myself. You could go for lunch at one of those new Americana BBQ places that are springing up everywhere (apparently Pitt Cue Co is nice?), or Lucky Chip burger, or something similar.

Definitely recommend going round Brick Lane checking out all the vintage shops. Sunday is the best day if he's around then. He'd probably like the Rough Trade shop there even if he does download all his music. The Southbank is always a good bet too, always something going on down there.

As well as Cass Art, there's also Atlantis Art which is just off Brick Lane, it's even bigger than Cass and a great place for browsing.

I remember coming to London when I was 17 (and yes, I did go to Camden but it was the height of Britpop) and just loving riding on the tube, going to vintage clothes shops, and goggling at all the cool people everywhere. So i'm sure he'll have a great time wherever you go. Good luck!
posted by Encipher at 11:36 AM on July 20, 2012

Denmark Street to check out the guitar shops. Forbidden Planet is right by there these days - you could show him around, share some of your interests. Monmouth St around there has some cool hipster clothes shops. Belgo is near there too - that's a good place to take a teenager for lunch.
posted by w0mbat at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2012

Definitely Brick Lane, I can't stand it now but my 17 year old alternative-music loving self would go nuts. Camden just feels a bit skanky, and not in a good way. Shoreditch/Dalston are great but you'd be hard pushed to find actual places without knowing what's where, whereas Brick Lane's wares are all on show.

For off-beat graphic stuff there's a lot of amazing street art between Shoreditch and Hackney. I stumbled into a fantastic art project just off Kingsland Road last week. It's in a derelict housing estate that's about to be torn down - an mural artist set up shop and basically went to town on it, his studio is right in there and he's a really lovely bloke. If the weather's nice you could also stroll down the canal - interesting stuff abounds.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:11 PM on July 20, 2012

Magma in Seven Dials (there are two shops, both good) have great design stuff - books and objets as he's into that. I buy a lot of presents for male friends from there.
posted by curious zoe at 2:11 PM on July 20, 2012

Hi - just to clarify, I am mainly looking for places he can go on his own. I planned to give him an Oyster card and a day to do whatever he wants.

Borough Market and foodie type destinations will not interest him, I'm afraid. We might go down there together with my SO to get something interesting to eat, just for the atmosphere, but he's not a food person. It's also expensive and he told me before coming that he wouldn't have any money - even if I slip him some I think the prices will shock him a bit (I remember the experience of taking my mother to Fortnum and Masons...) because the only places to eat out where he lives are McDonalds, pizza/chicken takeaways and a recently-opened Mexican chain restaurant.

Thinking about it, how hard is it going to be to get into MEATliquor during the Olympics? That would feel very London-y to him I think, so I'd like to take him there if I can.
posted by mippy at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2012

And yes, I thohgt the same about Dalston/Hackney. He will love the art on Brick Lane if nothing else.
posted by mippy at 2:51 PM on July 20, 2012

Keep an eye on ianvisits' event diary. I've lost count of the one off talks, lectures and exhibitions I've seen thanks to Ian's efforts to keep track of what's going on in London at any given time.
posted by garius at 9:12 AM on July 23, 2012

If I was 17 again, I just know that I would love Camden. I understand now how tacky it is, but back then it would have been a sweet adventure in band tees and weird characters to tell my friends about back home. Same with Soho and its drab salaciousness, plus Berwick Street is close by and there are some great record shops there.

[You might be right about record shops being less interesting now that you can download everything, but they still represent a "curatorial taste" - a good record shop is like a well-executed Tumblr stream, and they can force you out of your filter bubble and into unexpected directions. I guess you'll find out if he feels the same!]

If he's into art I'm sure he'll want to go to both Tates, but you could also suggest a wander around Mayfair to check out all the commercial galleries there - they're perfect places to while away a few hours at no cost.
posted by Chichibio at 7:10 AM on July 24, 2012

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