Nightlife & the Arts in London
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Mobile AppDownload Fodor's City Guide App for FREE!
There isn't a London nightlife scene—there are lots of them. As long as there are crowds for obscure teenage rock bands, Dickensian-style pubs, comedy cabarets, and "bodysonic" dance nights, someone will create clubs and venues for them in London. The result? London has become a veritable utopia for excitement junkies, culture fiends, and those who—simply put—like to party. Nearly everyone who visits London these days will be mesmerized by the city's energy, which reveals itself in layers. Whether you prefer rhythm and blues with fine French food, the gritty guitar riff tunes and boutique beers of East London, a pint and gourmet pizza at a local gastropub, or swanky cocktails and sushi at London's sexiest lair, London is sure to feed your fancy.
As is true of nearly all cosmopolitan centers, the pace with which bars and clubs go in and out of fashion in London is mind-boggling. New trends, likewise, emerge all time. In one recent development, the dreaded velvet rope has been usurped by the doorbell-ringing mystique of members-only drinking clubs. Some of the city's most talked-about nightlife spots these days are those attached to some of the best restaurants and hotels—no wonder, when you consider the increased popularity of London cuisine in international circles. Moreover, the gay scene in London continues to flourish. One constant on the nightlife scene is variety. The understated glamour of North London's Primrose Hill, which makes movie stars feel so at ease, might be considered dull by the über-trendy club goers of London's East End. Likewise, the price of a pint in Chelsea would be dubbed blasphemous by the musicians and poets of racially diverse Brixton.
Whatever your pleasure, however your whim turns come evening, chances are you'll find what you're looking for in London's ever-changing arena of activity and invention.
Time was, bars in London were just stopovers in an evening full of fun—perhaps the pub first, then a bar, and off to boogie the night away at the nearest dance club. These days, however, bars are not just pit stops but all-night or all-day destinations in themselves. With the addition of dinner menus, DJs, and dance floors, at many of London's most fashionable bars patrons stay into the wee small hours of the morning. The scene is known for its bizarre blends, its pioneering panache, and its highly stylish regulars. From exotic spaces designed to look like African villages to classic art deco creations to cavernous structures housed in old railway stations, London's bar culture is as diverse as it is delicious.
Comedy and Cabaret
From renowned comedians such as Eddie Izzard to amateurs who try their luck on stage, in London you'll find plenty of comedy and cabaret acts to keep you entertained all night long.
The city that practically invented raves is always on the verge of creating something new, and on any given night there's a club playing the latest in dance music. Because London is so ethnically diverse, the tunes that emanate from the DJ box are equally varied—an amalgamation of sounds infusing drum and bass, hip-hop, deep house, Latin house, breakbeat, indie, and R&B.
The club scene here ranges from mammoth-size playgrounds like Fabric and Cargo to more intimate venues where you can actually hear your friends talk. Check the daily listings in Time Out for "club nights," which are theme nights that take place the same night every week, sometimes at the same clubs but often shifting locations. Another good way to learn about club nights is by picking up flyers in your favorite bar.
The eclectic music scene in London is constantly becoming more of a mishmash—the electro scene has evolved into the "nu rave" scene, and the constant arrival of new bands adds to the capital's already diverse music scene.
Jazz and Blues
Jazz in London is highly eclectic. You can expect anything from danceable, smooth tunes played at a supper club to groovy New Orleans-style blues to exotic world-beat rhythms, which can be heard at some of the less central venues throughout the capital. London hosts the London Jazz Festival (www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk) in November, which showcases top and emerging artists in experimental jazz. The Ealing Jazz Festival (www.ealing.gov.uk), at the end of July, claims to be the biggest free jazz event in Europe.
Ever since the Beatles hit the world stage in the early 1960s, London has been at the epicenter of rock and roll. The city is a given stop on any burgeoning or established band's international tour. Fans here are both loyal and enthusiastic. It is, therefore, a good idea to buy show tickets ahead of time. The "Gigs and Tickets" section on www.nme.com is a comprehensive search engine where you can easily book tickets online; Time Out is another good source for upcoming shows.
Browse London Nightlife
Browse London Nightlife By Location
- Bloomsbury and Holborn
- Covent Garden
- East End
- Kentish Town
- King's Cross
- Leicester Square
- Little Venice
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe