The Solaris guide to London

I have been living in London for 15 years and I still love the big smoke dearly. So when friends ask me about what to do when traveling to the capital of Britain I am happy to give advice. So in order to not repeat myself all the time I thought I’d write up this little tourist guide for y’all…

A disclaimer: This is by no means an extensive list. Covering everything this amazing town has to offer would be impossible! So this travel guide is aimed at people being obsessed with the same stuff that I am: Shopping, Urban Art and Record Shops!

To start off I’d like to give the basic advice of allowing enough time. I’d say visit, at least for three days, not including travel. When I go on a city break, I try to fly in late on a Thursday to wake up fresh the next day and fly home on the Monday so I don’t have to rush on the weekend. Just saying’…

Regarding accommodation, I would go for an AirBnB in the East London area: Shoreditch / Hackney. That’s where all the fun is and you are not stuck somewhere in Zone 4 with no way to get home conveniently.

Airport wise, I prefer Gatwick and Luton as it’s relatively well connected. Stanstead and Heathrow are further away and a bit of a pain in the butt.

Regarding travel within London: I’d get an Oyster card as soon as possible to get the best travel deals and the convenience of touching in and out. This card can be acquired at any tube station and returned for a refund when you leave town again.

The two apps to download: UBER and Citymapper! Now you are ready to go…

Day 1 – Friday: Shopping Mania!

Fresh out of bed I’d start with a breakfast on the go at Pret-A-Manger. Yes it’s a chain but we don’t have a lot of time and the food is great. Soho and Carnaby Street are full of stores with international acclaim so I’d wander from Holborn via Neil Street into Soho and further on to Carnaby Street. As I am into my Streetwear my points of call would be Supreme, Maharishi, Patta, Palace, Oi Polloi and Foot Patrol. More common spots to hit would be Adidas Originals, Nike, Size? and Carhartt. For a more eclectic taste I’d recommend Lazy Oaf and Dover Street Market. Especially Maharishi is worth a visit as the shop has a fantastic interior design!

A word of warning regarding visiting Supreme: The Hype is strong! Schedule in around 2 hours of waiting time to enter the store, especially on a Friday when they just got new stock in.

For lunch, I would try to grab a filthy meal deal at Boots or another super market along the way. You really can’t fill your belly cheaper and we need all our money for booze and trainers later on!

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy you can grab some food at the Japan Centre on Piccadilly Square: They got very affordable Sushi and Bento boxes. 

Now that we are fed and freshly dressed we can continue to start record digging: Sounds of the Universe, Reckless Records, Sister Ray and Phonica are all in the area and cater for the vinyl obsessed.

The pubs will start filling up from 4 PM onwards so it’s a great time to wrap up your shopping spree ( no pun intended ) and start getting some beers in whilst soaking up the hustle and bustle of the city. Expect to see loads of Bankers getting absolutely shitfaced! Great people watching spots are The John Snow or The Coach & Horses.

British etiquette: No half Pints and Shandies allowed! A proper visit to the pub consists of four pints average BY LAW! Bar snacks can be consumed, I would recommend Pork Scratchings. More certified British snacks would be Wotsits, Monster Munch and Scampi Fries. Bar snacks / crisps are regarded actual food in Britain so don’t feel bad if your dinner accidentally consists of 5 pints of beer and a bag of dry roasted nuts. We all been there!

The John Snow pub actually belongs to a group of pubs run by the Samuel Smith brewery: This means it doesn’t serve big mainstream beers like Heineken or Stella but brands brewed by Samuel Smith. The good thing about it: The price for booze is very affordable and well below other pubs! So seek them out, there are a couple located in Soho!

For dinner, I’d hit Bodeans to get some filthy ribs or pulled pork. Other places to check out would be Wahaca for some Mexican Street Food and great Tequilas or any of the other chain restaurants that litter the area: Busaba Eatthai, Byron Burgers, Chipotle wraps. What can I say… I am a man of simple pleasures!

If you wanna go posh I’d recommend Yauchatcha: A trendy Dim Sum place with great food and interior…

For some late night entertainment I would just spend the night in the pub and get drunk: It’s a British classic! If you feel more cultural you might want to catch a musical or check out the Prince Charles Cinema: Their prices are really cheap and they show a lot of weird cult flicks and sing-a-longs! My favorite cinema in London… 


If you want to drink late and don’t fancy a horrible overpriced and naff Soho bar I’d go to the Crow Bar which is open until 3 AM. But be careful: The patrons do enjoy their Heavy Metal!

If you feel peckish after I’d definitely go to Bar Italia for a late night snack and coffee: This place is just legendary and a must see!

Day 2: Tourist stuff and museums

On Saturday I’d start early with a walk through Bricklane. There is loads of great Street Art to check out: Either in the Normadic Gardens, on the walls around Bricklane or at Stolen Space Gallery at the Whitechapel end of the street. In any case, check out the motorcycle shop run by London Artist D*Face called Rebel Alliance and grab some nice patches or a cool T Shirt! If your art taste is more contemporary: There is Whitechapel Gallery just down the road also.

FYI: I put a lot of stickers up in that area so keep your eyes peeled and tag me on Instagram! đŸ˜‰

If you get hungry grab a beigel from the legendary Beigel Bake at the top of Bricklane. Open 24/7 on 365 days in the year! I even spotted Apex Twin there one day so you are in good company. Go for the salty Beef Beigel with mustard! A Bricklane essential…

Then onwards to London Bridge. Take the 149 Bus from Liverpool Street Station and ride all the way down to the river. Have a walk via Borough Market, past the Golden Hinde towards Tate Modern. Especially the new extension is worth a visit as you can be a bit of a peeping Tom!

From there you can continue walking up alongside the river towards the Southbank Centre, the London Eye and finally Big Ben! If you still can walk I’d cross the river and go central again via Trafalgar Square and maybe holla at Buckingham Palace if you must. That should all your tourist snaps be done then!

I’d then jump on the tube and head back East to grab some Vietnamese food in Shoreditch. But a word of warning: Don’t get caught up in some naff tourist bar after for drinks! If they have an excessive amount of neon in their windows… MOVE ON!

My recommendations for after food liquid entertainment would be Dragon Bar, Jaguar Shoes, Old Shoreditch Station and the Bricklayers Arms to name check the few cool places in the heavily gentrified area. A hidden gem is the Bar Bohemia with its entrance innocently hidden between a news agent and a Kebab shop. But don’t be fooled! Bar Bohemia is a fantastic place for cocktails in a 60ties retro setting. Highly recommended! They got loads of Absinth too… be careful!

As the night progresses I’d head up further East: Dalston is full of pubs and venues to dance the night away and get some drinks in. My recommendations: The Shakewell Arms and Dalston Superstore ( yes it’s a LGBTQ bar but Hetero friendly and a lot of fun! ) and The Alibi.

If you are a fan of the Resident Evil franchise I would definitely check out the Ridley Road Market Bar. It’s a trendy Berlin-esque bar in the middle of the notorious Ridley Road Market in Dalston where during the day many local butchers sell their wares… just so you can enjoy the sweet smell of rotting flesh whist queueing up for your Mojito at night! It’s definitely an authentic East London experience…

For a late night snack I’d recommend the awesome Lamb Shish at Umut 2000: All meaty awesomeness wrapped in home baked bread and cooked over a big fire!

If you see some elderly men walking up the street: That could be British art duo Gilbert & George who frequent the same Turkish restaurant every day for art reasons. Mangal 2 doesn’t only serve great Turkish food but has the most hilarious Twitter feed ever. Check it!  

Sunday Day 3: Chill and Sunday Roast

Sunday is fun day! As all museums and shops will be open it’s possible to wrap up any loose ends from Friday or Saturday. Just make sure you are in a good pub to eat a proper British roast around 5PM!

A great spot to hang out when the weather is good is the Columbia Flower Market. It’s very close to Bricklane so if you still want to check out Stolen Space or the markets you can easily wander over. My pub of choice in the area would be The Royal Oak for a cheeky afternoon pint and a roast!

For record lovers, the East has some great shops to discover as well: From the more obvious Rough Trade and Sister Ray to Love Vinyl, Kristina RecordsEldica and Lucky 7. And whilst you are in the area, why not say hi to NTS Radio which has its recording studio near the Dalston Overland Station.

  via NTS
via NTS

When the night falls head over to The Haggerston, a pub between Haggerston Station and Dalston. They have live Jazz on Sundays and the place is rammed with Hipsters… and I mean this in the best way possible! It’s open late so expect to get drunk and have a dance! Do it! If you are single this is a great spot to check out too #meatmarket

Now if you have been clever and listened to my advice you can sleep in a little before packing your things and heading home on Monday. I hope this guide helped you a little. Hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions, always happy to help! For further research, I would recommend TimeOut and TripAdvisor.

Essential British vocabulary:

Cheers! Thank you!

Are you taking the piss? Are you bullshitting me?

Let’s go for a cheeky half! Let’s get really drunk!

You foookin’ cunt!!! You god damn vagina!Worst insult in the British language )

Twat! Idiot!

Getting smashed / shitfaced / hammered = Getting drunk

Hair of the dog = To continue drinking when hangover

In that note… hope you enjoyed my little introduction  to the awesomeness that is London. And remember: Don’t take the piss… you cheeky twats!

Group hug, Solaris

Solaris on tour: Amsterdam calling! Part 1

Its always fun to go on a city break, especially when the weather has been this horrible in London like this year! So when I got asked to DJ at a wedding in Amsterdam I jumped at the opportunity to escape the grey and rainy same old same old. So I grabbed a suit, an USB stick full of beats and off I went!

I associate Amsterdam mostly with two things: Very strong weed and the horror flick “Amsterdamned”. While the first might kill your ambition to do anything apart from eating waffles with Nutella, the second one literally might kill you if you stand too close at a canal during the 80ties!

As the days of herbal self medication are well behind me I had plenty of time to find new ways to entertain me in the Dutch capital. So I grabbed my camera and hit the road. 

There are three things I look out for when I am in a new city: Geeky stores, record shops and the local streetwear retailer of choice! The last one on that list was the most obvious: Patta rules Amsterdam when it comes to sneakers and clothes so my first point of call was to check out what’s happening at the Dutch version of Supreme or Palace.

The store was close to Centraal Station and featured a very minimal white interior and rows and rows of kicks! As the T-Shirts didn’t flatter my shapely body and 5 panel caps are a young man’s game I ended up purchasing only with a Patta coffee mug like the Streetwear tourist that I am!

Put the kettle on… now all I need is Supreme teabags!

While there are a lot of chic stores in Amsterdam I didn’t really run past anything that caught my attention fashion retail wise. Honorable example: The Comme Des Garçons Black store next to Patta… creepy big babies anyone?

Another thing I expected to see more was surprisingly Street Art! I guess it must have something to do with the narrow streets and squeezed buildings which don’t really provide a lot of paintable surface! Then again, I haven’t really done any research and just ran up and down through the city centre so maybe the outskirts of Amsterdam are full or crazy murals, who knows…

Stickers, on the other hand, were EVERYWHERE. Just good that I packed a big duffle bag of Solaris ones so I could go All City!

Whilst on the topic of Street Art: Somehow it was Banksy season in the Dutch capital: Pink posters advertising the Banksy show at the Moco Museum were everywhere so it would have been rude not to go!

As much as I liked Dismaland, I really prefer my Banksy on the streets and not in a museum. It’s still mind boggling to me what crazy prices Banksy pieces command and how much he became the blueprint of what Joe Public perceives as Street Art: Some funny riff on a celeb stencilled with some paint drips around it and an ‘edgy’ slogan below. I don’t blame Banksy for this development, but the level of celebrity he achieved makes visiting exhibitions like this slightly surreal… and may I say… naff.

Curated by Steve Lazarides, the show had a lot of pieces on display that Banksy is known for. It just feels weird seeing a piece of Graffiti displayed in a gallery environment that you still remember seeing on a grubby wall in East London. There was an attempt to juxtapose the Banksy artwork with Warhol pieces which fell a bit flat as the Warhol artwork was put into the basement gallery, next to the toilets and the gift shop… poor Andy!

Seeing the Warhol show being put into the lower floor gallery shows how much Banksy draws the crowds these days. As much as I am happy for his success I do wonder how he feels about having tourists buying bootleg merchandise at shows that display work that could have gotten him arrested just a few years back. I guess he might actually really appreciate the irony of it all! 

Oh and did I take a picture at that Banksy tourist wall? OF CAUSE I DID, because I am just a sheep like everybody else! XD

Well, after I exited the Moco Museum I head back into the town centre, running into quite a couple of galleries and stores which were, literally, up my street.  Turns out I ended up in the part of Amsterdam known for it’s antique stores, art galleries and boutiques: Nieuwe spiegelstraat.

First up was the cool stuff store ‘Famous‘: Toys, Books, Screenprints oh yes please! On the shelves the usual suspects: Warhol, Murakami, Medicom… basically how my flat would look like if I had serious money… or would be Jayawesum!

Onwards I ran into more great galleries. The big discovery for me was the show of Ayako Rokkaku at Gallery Delaive at Spiegelgracht 23: Her psychedelic comic art is just great, especially as she painted everything WITH HER FINGERS! Whut?! Cray cray!

I was especially in awe of her layered 3D perspex paintings that were so polished that you couldn’t really make out the seams of the glued together slabs of plastic. Amazing…

Further up the road, even more Banksy at the Lionel Gallery! This show had mostly prints and some pieces by other contemporary artists like KAWS, Hirst and of cause, Warhol. Here my big discovery was Spanish painter Yago Hortal: Loved his bold colours and abstract shapes… check him out!

I had a lot of fun just walking around and looking at what’s happening around me. And although there wasn’t a lot of Street Art out there, I at least spotted an Invader and a really psychedelic bike… I wonder how long it’s owner sampled the local mushroom offerings to come up with such a bold design! 

Let me sign off for now with this famous monkey: Who would have thought one day it would be in charge of the art world! Still, there is lots of other great things to see and do in Amsterdam, so keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 of my Dutch travelogue where I hit the local toy and record shops!