London

We’ve compiled the best of the best in London - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Amused Moose Comedy

    Soho

    This roving West End comedy night group is often considered the best way to see new talent as well as established household names doing "secret" shows. Famous British comedians like Ricky Gervais, Eddie Izzard, and Russell Brand are among those who have graced an Amused Moose stage, and every summer a handful of the Edinburgh Fringe comedians preview with them. They keep the bar open late (and serve food), and there's a DJ and dancing after the show. Tickets are often discounted with a printout from their website, and shows are mainly on Monday, Wednesday, and weekends.

    22–25 Dean St., London, Greater London, W1D 3RY, England
    020-7287--3727
  • 2. Artesian

    Fitzrovia

    They don't take reservations at this jewel box of a cocktail bar at The Langham hotel, but you can order a drink while you wait for a chic mirror-top table surrounded by some of London's most beautiful people. The innovative, creative cocktails involve exotic ingredients, like aromatic bitters all the way from Marrakesh, and are simply unforgettable, if pricey. Service is also top-notch, making this a nightlife treat.

    1C Portland Pl., London, Greater London, W1B 1JA, England
    020-7636–1000
  • 3. Bar Américain

    Soho

    The Beaux-Arts-style interior of this enduringly popular subterranean bar just north of Piccadilly Circus is so opulent that you'd be forgiven for thinking it had been here since the 1890s. In fact it's a relatively new revival and has been a hit since it was reconverted in 2012, along with the cavernous Parisian-inspired Brasserie Zédel and the racy Crazy Coqs cabaret, which share the premises. The nifty cocktails cover Pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, and Post-Prohibition standards, with additional special menus on occasion.

    20 Sherwood St., London, Greater London, W1F 7ED, England
    020-7734–4888
  • 4. Beach Blanket Babylon

    Notting Hill

    In a Georgian mansion house close to Portobello Market, this always-packed bar is distinguishable by its eclectic indoor-outdoor spaces with Gaudí-esque curves and snug corners—like a candlelit fairy-tale grotto, folly, or medieval crypt. Also perfect for an alfresco lunch or intimate dinner, the cocktails here are the star of the show.

    45 Ledbury Rd., London, Greater London, W11 2AA, England
    020-7229–2907
  • 5. Beaufort Bar

    Covent Garden

    Things could hardly get more glamorous than at the Savoy's lesser-known Beaufort Bar—a black-and-gold art deco–inspired spot with dramatic low lighting that specializes in vintage champagne and an enticing spread of heritage cocktails. Dark and sultry, with a rising cabaret stage once graced by Gershwin and Josephine Baker, this venue has nightly live jazz piano music beginning at 7 pm.

    Strand, London, Greater London, WC2R 0EZ, England
    020-7420–2111-reservations only
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  • 6. Cafe OTO

    Dalston

    A relaxed café, book, and record store by day, and London's leading venue for experimental music by night, Cafe OTO is a Dalston institution. Its programming of free jazz, avant-garde electronica, and much more is enough of a draw that it regularly sells out, with music fans steaming up the windows and spilling out onto the pavement and road outside to smoke during breaks. Café customers are kicked out at 5 pm to make way for sound checks. It's open as a bar (no cover) on nights when no concerts are taking place.

    18–22 Ashwin St., London, Greater London, E8 3DL, England
  • 7. EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney)

    Dalston

    East London’s coolest performing arts venue occupies two huge spaces (one standing, one with unallocated bench seating) in an old art deco movie theater. Original architectural details add to the shabby-hip feel of the place, while in EartH Kitchen, the bar and restaurant on the venue’s second floor, you’ll find Scandi-modern styling (along with delicious cocktails and reasonably priced dishes from a changing roster of pop-up chefs). The wide-ranging and very much on-trend program runs from world music and hip-hop to country, folk, and dance, with stand-up comedy and free sets by leading DJs in the bar.

    11--17 Stoke Newington Rd., London, Greater London, N16 8BH, England
    No phone
  • 8. Experimental Cocktail Club

    Chinatown

    It's easy to miss the unmarked shabby-chic black door with a scuffed wash of red paint on Chinatown's hectic Gerrard Street main drag, but once you find it and make your way past the sometimes hard-to-please doorman, you'll be in a secret three-floor speakeasy that is also one of London's coolest cocktail joints. With a lively crowd, heavenly cocktails, moody lighting, and a DJ spinning smooth jazz sounds, the vibe is laid-back, sexy, Parisian cool.

    13A Gerrard St., London, Greater London, W1D 5PS, England
    020-7434–3559
  • 9. Gordon's Wine Bar

    Westminster

    Nab a rickety candlelit table in the atmospheric, 1890s, low-slung, brick-vaulted cellar interior of what claims to be the oldest wine bar in London, or sit outdoors in the long pedestrian-only alley garden that runs alongside it. There are no reservations, so be prepared to line up outside during busy periods, like after work and on sunny afternoons. Either way, the mood is always cheery as a diverse crowd sips on more than 70 different wines, ports, and sherries. Tempting cheese and meat plates are great for sharing.

    47 Villiers St., London, Greater London, WC2N 6NE, England
    020-7930–1408
  • 10. Heaven

    Covent Garden

    Offering arguably the best light show on any London dance floor, London's first and most famous gay club Heaven is unpretentious, loud, and lively, with a labyrinth of rooms, bars, and live music parlors. Set under the arches at Charing Cross railway station and going strong since 1979, on Thursday through Saturday nights it's all about the G-A-Y club and comedy nights. Check in advance about live performances—they can take place any night of the week. If you go to just one gay club in London, Heaven should be it.

    Villiers St., London, Greater London, WC2N 6NG, England
    0844-847–2351-24-hr ticket line
  • 11. Jazz Café

    Camden Town

    A long-standing hotbed of cool in Camden, the Jazz Café hosts top acts in mainstream jazz as well as hip-hop, funk, world music, soul, and Latin fusion. On Friday nights, DJs sample club music from around the world while on Saturday Soul City nights, DJs play disco, house, and soul. Book ahead if you want a table in the balcony restaurant overlooking the stage; otherwise you'll be standing (and probably dancing).

    5 Parkway, London, Greater London, NW1 7PG, England
    020-7485–6834-for venue info
  • 12. KOKO

    Camden Town

    Once known as the Camden Palace, this legendary venue has lush red decor and gilt-trimmed boxes that recall its past as a Victorian theater, but now is the home of packed dance nights featuring everything from funky house and electronic to club classics and indie, in addition to concerts on the big stage. Headliners who have performed "secret" gigs here include Madonna, Prince, Kanye West, Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Amy Winehouse, while recent gigs range from Angie Stone to Adam Lambert. A renovation following a 2020 fire has added a four-story extension to the original theater and two adjoining buildings, incorporating a good Italian-themed café/pizzeria. A membership gets you access to a cocktail bar in the large roof dome, a summer rooftop bar, an intimate jazz and blues bar, and a recording studio.

    1A Camden High St., London, Greater London, NW1 7JE, England
    020-7388--3222
    View Tours and Activities
  • 13. Le Bar at Louie

    Covent Garden

    On any given night, ace jazz player Trombone Shorty might work his way through this beyond cool New Orleans–meets-Paris cocktail lounge on the second floor of Louie restaurant. Even if Shorty's not there playing that night, the friendly staff dish out deviled eggs, truffle pizzas, and themed cocktails until 2 am five nights a week.

    13–15 West St., London, Greater London, WC2H 9NE, England
    020-8057--6500

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 14. Mr Fogg's Residence

    Mayfair

    Explorers of all stripes will be captivated by this Jules Verne--inspired cocktail parlor, which is chock-full of the weathered maps, hunting trophies, taxidermy, suspended penny-farthings, and Around the World in 80 Days globe-trotting items of eccentric fictional Victorian British adventurer Phileas J. Fogg. Expect Victorian tipples and gin-based afternoon "Tipsy Teas" from staff in bow ties and other old-fashioned getups.

    London, Greater London, W1J 6JD, England
    020-7036–0608
  • 15. Pizza Express Jazz Club

    Soho

    One of the United Kingdom's most ubiquitous pizza chains also runs an acclaimed jazz venue in Soho. Established in 1976, the dimly lit basement restaurant hosts both established and emerging British and international jazz acts every night, with food and pizzas available about 90 minutes before stage time. The thin-crust pizzas are always popular, but it's the intimate live jazz sets that draw in London's hip jazz aficionados.

    10 Dean St., London, Greater London, W1D 3RW, England
    020-7437–9595-for restaurant
  • 16. Prospect of Whitby

    East End

    Named after a collier ship, this is one of London's oldest riverside pubs, dating to around 1520. Although a regular for Dickens, Pepys, Samuel Johnson, and the American artist James Whistler, once upon a time it was called The Devil's Tavern because of the lowlifes—sailors, smugglers, footpads, and cutthroats—who congregated here. With a 400-year-old flagstone floor and ornamented with pewter ware and nautical objects, this much-loved boozer has a terrace with views of the Thames, from where boat trips often point it out.

    57 Wapping Wall, London, Greater London, E1W 3SH, England
    020-7481–1095
  • 17. Ronnie Scott's

    Soho

    Britain's most famous jazz club has attracted the biggest names—from Stan Getz to Ella Fitzgerald—since opening nearby on Gerrard Street in 1959 (moving to its current location in 1965). It's usually dark, hot, and crowded, and thankfully the food and table service are now largely up to par. The ultracool James Bond vibes can't be beat, despite the sad departure of the eponymous founder and saxophonist, Ronnie Scott, who died in 1996. A full program of free-form jazz sets and shows takes place every night, with additional late gigs on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are recommended.

    47 Frith St., London, Greater London, W1D 4HT, England
    020-7439–0747
  • 18. Scarfes Bar

    Holborn

    Named after renowned London-born artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe (whose work adorns the walls), the Rosewood’s seductively glamorous bar is one part Edwardian gentleman's club to two parts Downton Abbey drawing room. Recline on sofas by a roaring log fire or sink into velvet armchairs and explore the bar's impressive collection of fine wines, cocktails, and spirits (there are more than 180 single malt whiskies alone to choose from). Bar snacks are restaurant-standard dishes, and there's complimentary live music six nights a week.

    252 High Holborn, London, Greater London, WC1V 7EN, England
    020-3747–8670
  • 19. sketch

    Mayfair

    One seat never looks like the next at this downright extraordinary collection of esoteric living-room bars off Savile Row. The exclusive Parlour, a patisserie during the day, exudes plenty of rarefied charm; the intimate East Bar at the back is reminiscent of a sci-fi film set; the Gallery is a golden-yellow wonderland; and in the Glade it's permanently sunset in an enchanted forest. The space-age dinosaur egg–pod-shaped restrooms are definitely London's quirkiest.

    9 Conduit St., London, Greater London, W1S 2XG, England
    020-7659–4500
  • 20. Swift

    Soho

    Book ahead to avoid the lines at Soho's top-ranked bar and cocktail lounge on Old Compton Street. Split into two distinct areas, head through the ground-floor aperitivo bar to the infinitely more sexy speakeasy in the basement, where there are lambent brass lamps, antique mirrors, dark red leather booths, and an array of world-class themed cocktails, ranging from a rum-based Josephine Baker to a vermouth and orange bitters–tinged Dita Von Teese.

    12 Old Compton St., London, Greater London, W1D 4TQ, England
    No phone

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