Nightlife in London
London has more culture than you can shake a stick at. While it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world to live and work, there are plenty of ways to enjoy its offerings without it costing the Earth.
Get yourself an Oyster card which gives you access to the good tube and bus system, but be aware that some tubes stop running relatively early in the night and while night buses keep running, taxis can be expensive. For more information on night tubes, check out here.
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Bars in London
Butlers Wharf, Shad Thames, London SE1 2NJ, +44 20 7378 1700
Shad Thames feels slightly out of the way but is still a smack-bang central area for romantic drinks by the Thames. Brown’s is a nice place to stop and have a drink or a bite to eat before heading central for a night out. All Bar One ($) is a slightly cheaper option and a chain – buzzing with good service and lots of riverside seating. Shad Thames is the old shipping merchant’s quarter of Bermondsey, and its narrow streets have played host to many a film crew trying to capture ‘quintessential London’.
Bluebird Chelsea ($$)
350 King’s Rd, +44 20 7559 1000
Bluebird Café is an opulent hotspot for a good cocktail and a bit of people-spotting before a night on the tiles. They also great brunches if you’re stuck for inspiration (and Eggs Royale) the morning after the night before.
The Southbank Center ($$)
Belvedere Rd, 0844 875 0073
This arts and cultural center has a lovely relaxed rooftop bar for summertime sundowners. Have a drink here before heading downstairs for a bit of culture – or to the nearby National Theatre’s many bars, including the craft beer pub, The Understudy. The whole stretch of the South Bank is full of upmarket-to-affordable chain eateries and a few stylish bars too.
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Clubs in London
287 King’s Rd, London, +44 20 7351 4964
The capital has something for everyone where dancing is concerned, from cheap-as-chips to eye-wateringly smart. Raffles on the King’s Road is a posh nightspot with a private members’ feel about it. Book a table with friends and indulge in a night of celeb-spotting and cocktail-sipping. Bunga Bunga ($$) in Battersea is (as its Berlusconi namesake suggests) a right royal raucous night out with zany décor and hugely entertaining bar staff. Full of hen and stag dos, but don’t let that put you off.
Fabric London ($$)
77A Charterhouse St, +44 20 7336 8898
Fabric is an electronica fiend’s mecca with a packed-out schedule hosting the world’s finest DJs across three rooms with separate sound systems. The Guardian says a Fabric night out is ‘unpredictable and utterly compelling.’ But don’t take take their word for it – see for yourself.
Koko Camden ($)
1a Camden High Street, 0870 432 5527
Formerly the Camden Palace, KoKo’s is another big name on the London club scene and caters to the indie alternative crowd with live music from world class acts and club nights almost every night of the week. For eighties power ballad lovers, head over to Ultimate Power ($) at the Electric Ballroom, also in Camden, for a night of strutting, air-guitaring abandon with like-minded revellers. Fancy dress positively encouraged.
Events in London
Notting Hill Carnival ($) is a long-standing fixture on the London, and takes place every bank holiday weekend in August. Head for Notting Hill Gate with your whistles and your beer money, and immerse yourself in the Caribbean spirit.
Summertime plays host to all sorts of outdoor music festivals, too – so look out for tickets for Hard Rock Calling ($$) and O2 Wireless ($$)festivals in Hyde Park.
Another lovely and more relaxed way to spend an evening is at the stunning Regents Park Open Air Theater ($-$$$) where you can picnic in the grounds or enjoy a civilized BBQ before taking your seat in the woody amphitheater for the performance.
Shows in London
The Lodge, Leicester Square, +020 7557 6700
London’s West End offers some of the world’s best theatre, music and ballet and there’s a host of options available to you every night of the week: offerings from The Royal Shakespeare Company and English National Ballet to long-standing productions like Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera, and The Lion King. For a bargain ticket, head to the TKTS ticket booth in Leicester Square for standby tickets any afternoon and see what they can offer you.
Ticketmaster is a great website for booking West End theatre in advance, and lastminute.com offers great theatre and dining packages.
If you’re between 16-25 years old or have a student card, sign up to the National Theatre’s Entry Pass for cheap tickets ($6.50) and contact individual theatres to see if they have student prices. These tickets usually sell out quickly, so set reminders in your diary!
If you fancy something more alternative check out our ULTIMATE Hipster Guide to London.