From the October 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler
The music. The clothes. The hair. Bond, Twiggy, and the Beatles took the world by storm in the 1960s, when Time magazine immortalized “Swinging London” as the capital of cool. Fifty years on, there’s new interest in the city’s most daring decade.
1. Retro Roadster Tour
Post-war fuel shortages gave birth to the Mini Cooper, which first hit the streets of London in 1959 and has ruled its roads ever since. One tour company offers chauffeured rides in the retro roadsters that were beloved by everyone from Princess Margaret to the Beatles.
2. Counterculture Haunt
The Troubadour, one of London’s oldest folk clubs, was the site of Bob Dylan’s first impromptu gig in the city in 1962. Throughout the ’60s, the gritty bohemian café hosted the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon, and its eclectic mix of live performances and poetry readings still draw an artsy crowd today.
3. Secret Agent Man Cave
Old-school Brit James Bond became the era’s suave style icon when Sean Connery launched the martini-sipping, Aston Martin-driving spy onto the big screen in 1962. The martinis at clubby Dukes Bar (a haunt of 007-creator Ian Fleming) are said to have inspired the famous line “shaken, not stirred.”
4. Retro Style Show
In the ’60s, Brits set the sartorial standard and the world followed suit. Disposable paper dresses, drainpipe pants for men, and daring miniskirts by Mary Quant—whose iconic silhouettes continue to lure fashionistas to her new Chelsea boutique—are among the trendsetting fashions on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
5. Musical Memorabilia
Visit the British Library for an intimate view into the Fab Four’s creative process, including an unpublished lyric by George Harrison found on a discarded scrap of paper from the Abbey Road Studios. Head to the British Music Experience at London’s O2 Arena to see Roger Daltrey’s fringed Woodstock outfit, a satin minidress worn by Dusty Springfield, and John Lennon’s tiny spectacles.