An Essential Guide for the Perfect Night Out
The perfect night out in London can take many, many forms. The city is just so huge, varied and sprawling. With so many different tastes to cater to, there’s no one definitive “London night out” – rather, there are London nights out.
Whether you’re staying in one of the top London hotels or in more modest accommodations, enjoying London’s nightlife is one thing you shouldn’t fail to do while here: you cannot truly experience this city until you see it after dark. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
Starting your night out at a pub is absolutely the best prelude to the good times. Whether you’re looking for a posh affair or an old-school dive, London has every kind of watering hole imaginable to cater to your tastes. The Sir Richard Steele (named after the co-founder of The Spectator) is located on genteel Haverstock Hill in Belsize Park: head here if you love your pub completely covered in knick-knacks and stuffed animals.
Alternatively, head to Whitechapel in the east end to visit Indo, a real gem set on the main drag, opposite a huge and ornate mosque, no less. Indo offers a comfortable, friendly, warm atmosphere, with live music and great wood-fired pizzas. If you want to save money, The Glasshouse Stores on Soho’s Brewer Street serves original John Snow lagers and ales at ridiculously low prices. And if you want a retro continental feel, head to Bradley’s Spanish Bar, just off Oxford Street in Fitzrovia. The place has not been decorated since 1963 and even has a jukebox full of 7-inch records.
Clubs in London are beyond diverse. It’s easy to judge where you’d like to go by your taste in music: if you want a cheesy, mainstream banger of a night, some sixties Bossa Nova rhythms, 1940s swing, hard house, punk rock or even folktronica, there’s something out there for you.
Fabric, of course, still hosts the largest electronic music nights in the city. It’s a rite of passage to see the big acts here, especially if you’re into dance. (Be warned though – the drinks are frightfully expensive.) On the other hand, you could visit the Boiler Room to see the cream of the crop in the dance music scene perform live.
East London’s club scene has grown impressively over the last decade, with many tiny basement clubs in Dalston and Hoxton playing everything from rockabilly to sixties garage rock and modern RnB.
There are plenty of gay clubs in Vauxhall, ranging from dance and electro at Fire, to fetish venues and punk rock, ska and indie at Duckie in the Vauxhall Tavern on Saturdays.
If pubbing and clubbing isn’t really your thing, don’t worry: there are plenty of bizarre and offbeat things that this beast of a city can offer you. Film lovers should avoid the big, expensive corporate cinemas in Leicester Square and visit the Prince Charles Cinema – Quentin Tarantino’s favourite British picture house – which is on Lisle Street amid the neon glow of Chinatown. They do all-night movie marathons of everything from the Aliens Trilogy to obscure silent movies, so make sure you get enough sleep beforehand. The BFI on the Southbank also offers some fascinating cinema in plush surrounds.
If the films on offer aren’t odd enough for you on your visit, sign up with the London Bat Group (yes, really), who will take you to Hyde Park to see Europe’s smallest bat species, as well as Britain’s largest.
If you’re hungry at any point and don’t fancy the usual McDonald’s fare, head east and pop into the Polo Bar at Liverpool Street, a 24-hour greasy spoon that has been lining stomachs for half a century.
London is so diverse in the pleasures it can offer, it is beyond the scope of this article to go exhaustively into its nightlife. Rest assured though – whatever your tastes or age, London definitely has something to offer you after dark. It’s just a matter of being in the know beforehand.