23 August 2021
London is a huge city with so much to offer, so to make it easier for you to navigate we've provided you with our top 5 favourite areas for nightlife in the city.
In you live in London then it you must absolutely have at least have one night out in Soho, the epicentre of London’s nightlife scene – It would be rude not to! Soho is an exciting mixture of restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs, theatres, cocktails bars, and after hours. This party-loving neighbourhood, known as the LBGTQ+ capital of London, is heaving with places to grab a drink or a pint so you will never be in danger of being thirsty! Soho has something to offer for everyone, no matter what you are into and thus it attracts a wide mixture of people with thousands flocking to area on any given weekend in search of some good fun.
If you’re looking for places with an extensive list of great cocktails then you may want to check out Disrepute, Swift and The Bling Pig. Another great venue you may fancy visiting is Freedom, which has a designated cocktail bar on the main floor and later in the night when those cocktails really start flowing, you can make your way downstairs to the club area for a dance session. LGBTQ+ venues are mostly located on and around Old Compton Street, with the two most iconic being The Duke of Wellington and the Admiral Duncan. The Admiral Duncan offers a tone of entertainment from cabaret shows to karaoke and attracts the most colourful people on the scene, so make sure to check out their website to see what’s on.
The Yard is another popular queer venue that has a beautiful plant-filled courtyard and a loft style bar which becomes absolutely packed on hot summer nights. G-A-Y is a bustling 3-floor party bar attracting the younger crowds and has everything you can expect: cheap drinks, plasma screens everywhere playing music videos, and Britney and Madonna music on repeat all night long. This party bar even has a designated girls’ room on the bottom floor which seems to always be packed to the brim. When this bar shuts its doors, the young crowd flocks to G-A-Y Late, which is the afterhours version offering a similar experience into the later hours of the night.
Last but definitely not least, this one’s for the girls, SHE Bar is London’s only exclusively lesbian venue. This cave-like basement bar is a ton of fun and not only offers club nights but also has lots of other entertainment on from drag king talent contests to cabaret, karaoke, and live comedy. With sadly, very few lesbian venues left globally, this bar is a very special safe place for queer women, so boys, chances are you won’t get in. Not to worry though, as you can already tell Soho has something to offer for everyone so be sure to plan a night out in this area!
Shoreditch, located in East London, is known as the hipster capital of the city, and is divided into three main areas. The first is trendy Shoreditch High Street, famous for Boxpark, a food and drink venue built entirely out of shipping containers. Start off the night at BeatBox on the top floor of the venue, where you can pair the beverage of your choosing with a bite to eat from over 20 resident street-food vendors. Then head down to the junkyard themed Crown and Shuttle, where you can enjoy a craft beer outside in their famous garden area. Or if cocktails are more your thing, you have plenty of options, starting with the infamous London Cocktail Club, a British-Americana themed bar where you can sip on a jam jar daiquiri in one of their racing car chairs. Don’t forget to visit the photo booth before you leave! If you take your cocktails a little more seriously, choose between the dark and moody Cocktail Trading Co., offering truly unique pastry-topped cocktails (their milky cocktail served inside a croissant is a must try!), or the secret basement bar in Smokestak – a must-see for medical and pharmacy students, all their cocktails have an apothecary theme!
A five-minute walk from the station will take you to your second Shoreditch location, the urban mecca of Brick Lane. Here, your first stop has to be 93 Feet East, a converted brewery turned club venue with a huge outdoor courtyard covered in fairy lights and tropical plants. They also have a resident day-time DJ outside during the spring and summer months, as well as food trucks offering a range of sweet and savoury options to pair with your fruity cocktail. Famous for their 12-hour raves, you could easily take your afternoon tipple well into the night, as the sun goes down.
If you fancy something a little more interactive, try out one of the many activity bars in the area. Play hours of ping pong at Bounce, jump into a giant adult ball-pit at Ballie Ballerson, learn old-fashioned shuffleboard at the achingly hipster London Shuffle Club, enjoy the neon wonders of 9 separate golf courses at Junkyard Golf Club, or become an inmate for the evening and dodge the warden at the prison-themed speakeasy, Alcotraz. All located in and around Brick Lane.
The final Shoreditch area is the infinitely sophisticated Old Street, where the East London Tech City lot hit the bars after a hard day’s work. A must see is the beautiful rooftop bar, Golden Bee, with exquisite views of the city. Dress to impress here, as anyone in trainers is likely to be turned away. Enjoy a circus theme at Cirque bar, Brazilian music and dancing at Floripa, or open mic and comedy at The Cornershop Bar. If you want to dance the night away, a hop and a skip from Old Street is Cargo nightclub, converted out of a disused railway yard, or Barrio, a Mexican themed cantina and club, where you can enjoy live Mexican music, and take a breath of fresh air in their colourful garden when you need a break from the heat!
Originally famous for rock and punk music venues, Camden has diversified over the years and, although these classic venues still stand, offering live music nightly, the area now has something for everyone. Your first stop, after jumping off the tube at Camden Town, has the be the lock. Wander down Camden High Street and you’ll see the old market appear on the left. Lining the banks of the canal are a whole host of different bars and pubs. Lockside, with their rooftop terrace, is a must-see. Across the lock, sit outside and people watch from The Ice Wharf, or enjoy your sunshine with some sake and a side of salmon sashimi at Sushi Salsa next door.
Wander through the old stables underneath the market to find Gabeto, offering tastes of salsa and bachata music, and even Latin bingo! Head down to Simmons Bar for their bottomless prosecco, or one of their terribly British cocktail teapots. To keep the British theme going, visit Spread Eagle, established in 1858, one of the many beautifully restored Victorian bars in the city. If you’re a lover of craft beer, we would highly recommend a visit to Brewdog, serving the beer of our neighbours in the north, bonny Scotland.
The Underworld is undeniably one of the best live alternative rock music venues in London, retaining the grit and flavour of Camden’s early days. The Dev is the place to be for heavy metal, and Electric Ballroom and KOKO for a great mix of various music genres. Camden is packed full of traditional British pubs with regular live gigs, from the iconic The World’s End, to The Lock Tavern offering pie and mash to accompany your pint and favourite rock or indie band. Camden was Amy Winehouse’s favourite place to be, and she frequented many of these bars when she lived in the area. If you’re a fan, make sure to visit the sculpture dedicated to her by the people of Camden, located within the market.
If you’re looking for American style soul music, The Blues Kitchen is a fantastic Cajun-themed venue, with a wide selection of cocktails and blues musicians to rival New Orleans. Just down the road is Porky’s BBQ, whose Tennessee tunes are just as slow as their famous Memphis barbeque.
Camden is a great area to wander without a plan. Bustling and vibrant seven days a week, just soaking up the atmosphere as you wander along the canal or enjoy a pub crawl with pals along Camden High Street, you’ll be sure to have a fantastic time, day or night, as you explore on of the oldest established entertainment areas in London. Everything is located within walking distance of the tube station, and be sure to have your camera ready, as the 3D sculptures above the tattoo shops and punk stores on your way to the watering holes really are a unique sight to behold!
In the heart of London’s contemporary cultural scene, Southbank is the place to visit for the National Theatre, BFI Film Festival, and a whole host of events at the Southbank Centre, so it’s no wonder much of the nightlife here reflects these themes. Chances are, if you’re in the area, you’re enjoying some of London’s world-renowned theatre or one of the world class arts venues. The aptly named, The Understudy, located within the National Theatre, is a fantastic choice to enjoy a pre or post-show tipple with riverside seating. Skylon, located within the Royal Festival Hall, boasts an airy modern European 1950s design, with floor to ceiling river views. The Queen Elizabeth Hall Rooftop Garden, on the top floor of the Southbank Centre, is a fantastic setting to enjoy a drink atop one of London’s famous brutalist structures.
Southbank is so named, as it runs along the south bank of the River Thames, so you’ll be pretty much guaranteed a river view from anywhere you fancy stopping by. The Lyaness, with their famous marble bar, is located in the Sea Containers hotel (designed to resemble a 1920s cruise liner) and offers stunning rooftop views from their terrace. Another must-see rooftop venue is the 12th Knot wine bar, with its bright, verdant décor and an open-plan layout which puts the panoramic views at centre stage. This place is definitely one to visit for old fashioned London glamour.
A few blocks from the river bank is Bar Elba, a rooftop cocktail bar in the heart of Waterloo, just a stone's throw away from the London Eye. Bottomless brunches, with a choice of prosecco or beer, are available every Saturday and Sunday, or enjoy a bottle of champagne alongside a retro film at their outdoor cinema, with exquisite views of the sun setting over the London skyline. Cosy up to a fireplace on chilly winter evenings at Hippo Inns, a classic British pub with a fun and colourful neon flare.
To get to Southwark, take the tube or overground to Waterloo or Southwark, or even across the water in Westminster, where you can take a wander around the famous Abbey before ambling across the bridge to make it south of the river, where you’ll find the best bars and eateries in the area. It’s relatively spaced apart, so plan your route in advance. From one end of Southbank to the other is quite a trek!
If you fancy sampling one of the longest running and world-famous dance and house nightclubs in the world, take the Northern Line from Waterloo one stop down to Elephant and Castle, where you’ll find the famous Ministry of Sound nightclub. World-renowned DJs and acts have been weekly staples here since the early 1990s, and tickets in advance are a must. Although the club boasts four separate rooms, The Box is a must-see for house music fans. With its triple-thick absorbing walls and several million watts of bass blasting, the room has won the IDMA World’s Best Sound System Award for four years in a row. A fantastic venue and an iconic staple of London.
One of the lesser-known areas for nightlife in London, the cozy area of Dalston is up and coming for quirky and unique bars, and is fast becoming a firm favourite area for university students living outside of Halls of Residence. Located in the trendy London borough of Hackney, busy little Dalston is home to plenty of weird and wonderful thrift stores, eateries, and basement clubs. At Farr’s Dalston, vintage radios, TVs, and telephones decorate the walls of this offbeat, shabby-chic real ale bar, with live DJs a regular fixture. Mustache Bar is the place to be for a unique poetry or cabaret experience, situated underground and dimly lit, it’s a moody space full of interesting people and performers.
Dalston has a great queer scene, on a much smaller scale than Soho. You’ll be sure to get to know the locals in one of the friendly and welcoming LGBTQ+ venues. The trendy and eclectic Dalston Superstore is an LGBTQ+ venue that hosts daily DJs and live music, as well as weekend drag brunches that will leave you in stitches. Another firm favourite is the glitzy basement Karaoke Hole, a queer venue for, you guessed it, karaoke! They also host drag nights most weekends if that takes your fancy. The Glory is another spot famous for their drag performances, but they also host an array of queer comedy and club nights.
Enjoy Mexican street food alongside a spicy craft cocktail in Viva Dalston, a rustic-chic space with a backyard patio, or retro jazz and soul vibe music in the tropical themed Ridley Road Market Bar. Untitled is modelled on Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory in New York, is covered in tin foil, and rotates local artwork on display. Their cocktails are not to be missed! The Duke of Wellington gives a modern twist to the old-fashioned Victorian bar, and hosts regular comedy nights and even a fortnightly film club if you fancy joining. Prince George is a huge favourite among the student population in the area, and Voodoo Ray’s is an absolute must for low-key pizza and beer late night hangouts.
The Frozen Cocktail Club does exactly what it says on the tin, offering an incredible range of slushy-inspired cocktails, carefully crafted by their in-house mixologist. The Haggerston is the perfect Sunday venue, with its exposed brick walls and wine bottle candle-holders, enjoy an easy glass of red while the live jazz plays. The Railway Tavern has been running since the 1800s, and is a must-visit for a pint and slice of vegan pizza, and the Hand of Glory celebrates pagan festivals and folkloric customs, while providing a huge range of ales and beers from UK independent brewers. Or if you fancy a cocktail, sample from their menu of infused seven deadly gins!
Each of the bars in Dalston are one-of-a-kind, and nowhere else in London will you find anything else quite like them. Where else can you find a tropical themed dive bar with £6 Ginger Mojitos other than at Ridley Road Market Bar? And Ruby’s was the first bar to serve cocktails out of milk bottles, a since fast-travelling trend across the city. You might also fancy visiting The Shacklewell Arms which is one of the best venues for live music gigs and club nights. Our final recommendation has to be Dalston Roof Park. Not only can you enjoy incredible views of London’s skyline, but all profits made from their quizzes, cocktail classes, and community-focused events are donated towards empowering young people and businesses in collaboration with Bootstrap Charity. A venue well worth supporting!