If you’re heading to London for a holiday and want to amp up the excitement by learning a little about the city, or if you want to immerse yourself in the rich history, architecture, romance and let’s face it, a little drama, a great way is to watch a show set there, or at least based on it.
With some of the most famous streets, attractions and that skyline, it’s unsurprising that London has been the inspiration, subject and setting of some top shows, movies and documentaries over the years.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourites that are still available (both fact and fiction!) on some of the top streaming sites to help get you in the mood for a truly British trip.
Secrets of Underground London
For the transport aficionados out there, we couldn’t leave a tube related show off our list, and this has been well regarded as one of the best. Available on Netflix, in this show about the world-famous underground network and beyond, experts examine the ruins and relics hidden beneath London’s surface, unearthing a Roman amphitheatre, plague pits, air raid shelters and much, much more. As it digs deep, it unearths some of the most unnerving stories of the city, from the Great Plague to the fire that rocked the city, and how life came to be above ground as we know it today.
For those who want to experience a more glamorous side of London that’s steeped in history and royalty, this one may be for you. The Crown (another Netflix classic) has become a popular hit as of late, thanks to its stunning, surprising story and star-studded cast. This drama follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the happenings that shaped the second half of the 20th century.
Soak up some of the luxury and lavishness of the series with a stay at the Devonshire Hotel Paddington.
Fancy a London show with a bit more grit and fast-paced action? Luther is a genre-bending crime drama about a police offer who isn’t afraid to break the rules. Most of the show’s scenes are filmed in the fun and lively area of Shoreditch – a must-visit if you do indeed like a gritty side of cities, with plenty of hidden charm. Plus, Ruth Wilson and Idris Elba make one of the best pairings on TV, and it’s often credited as where Elba truly found his authority as an actor.
Another gritty crime drama, this time with a female lead, is the hugely popular Marcella, starring Anna Friel in the lead role. Marcella is a former London detective who returns to work to investigate an open case from 11 years ago which involves an unidentified serial killer, who appears to be out there in action again. Marcella also has to deal with a troubled home life, where her husband, Jason (Nicholas Pinnock), has made the decision to leave her. The series was commissioned back in June 2015, with the bulk of the location filming taking place in London and the Port of Dover. After their broadcast on ITV, episodes are available to stream on Netflix in and outside the UK.
Binge the series with your other half at a relaxing Bed and Breakfast in Paddington.
The top ITV series Whitechapel is beyond far-fetched, but has plenty of components to keep fans of crime dramas engaged and enthralled. Rupert Penry-Jones heads up the cast as an East End detective looking into a series of disturbing crimes, with a little help from Steve Pemberton’s tour guide. The first series focuses on a Jack the Ripper copycat, while the second series revives the Krays and the drama they brought to the city.
The Debate Continues
Made back in the 1950s, this is a great choice for those looking to soak up a little of the country’s political history. It’s often forgotten today, but the House of Commons was totally destroyed back in the air raids during the Second World War. This half-hour film looks at the rebuilding of the chamber, orchestrated by Giles Gilbert Scott. Discover all about how George VI managed to bag a tour of the building, even though the monarchy is still not allowed into the Commons chamber to this day.
Postcard from London
Clive James compares the city of his youth with early life in the capital of 1991. He speaks to many London famous faces at the time, including Peter Cook, Michael Caine, Alan Coren, Stanley Green, Terence Donovan and Victoria Wood. Fun fact fans will delight viewers throughout this piece. He also visits Fleet Street just after the papers have left – a great tour of one of the most famous streets in the city.
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has become world-famous, after taking centre stage on Netflix, now well into its 5th series on the streaming site. The episodes, each completely different, with a different cast each time, take a dystopian, satirical look at the impact of technology on society in the developed world. It makes regular use of London as its muse — either as a setting in its own right or to stand in for somewhere else. Run, another disturbingly dark show to debut on Channel 4, follows four seemingly unrelated Londoners whose lives are nevertheless interlinked.
Sit back, enjoy the sights and the deliciously dark stories and take advantage of some of the best London Hotel Deals around as you relax.
The Road: A Story of Life and Death
The documentary by Marc Isaacs centres on individuals who have emigrated to London, and reside along the A5, an ancient road that runs from Hyde Park Corner all the way up to Holyhead. The short, engaging film focuses on those starting new lives in London, and on others reflecting on their time in the city. The stories are diverse, bittersweet and a fair spotlight of London life; from a Buddhist monk seeking nirvana in Colindale to a lonely alcoholic navy veteran.
What show or documentary are you going to watch before (or during!) your trip to London and stay at The Devonshire Hotel Paddington?