London Best Nights Out for Culture and Cocktails
I love going to bed early, which is why London is the perfect place for me to live. Brits start their evenings early: Get off work, have some drinks, have some dinner, maybe more drinks, and then hop on the Tube and merrily ride home by 10 or 11 p.m.
If you like to add a splash of culture to your boozing, you’ll find plenty of options from theatre to live music to late-night museums. Here’s a list of some of my favorite places to go out at night. Subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast to hear all of my London recommendations. (subscribe here for free).
The Ned. Housed in a former bank that was completed in 1939, The Ned is like a luxuriously grand food hall, but all the eateries are actual restaurants and there’s often live music playing in the centre. I love getting pizza and wine at the bar at Cecconi’s. The Ned is also a hotel, spa, and members club.
The Piano Works. Even though I’m a morning person, I’ll have the occasional wild night out, usually for someone’s birthday, and The Piano Works is great for this. It used to be a piano bar, but now you’ll find a live band that plays requests from everyone. And we all choose the cheesiest, most poppy songs from the 1970s-now. The ones with lyrics that we all know by heart and can belt them out as we dance around with a drink in our hand. It feels proper Bridget Jones in there. A fab night out. But get there early — I mean really early, like 7:30/8 p.m. If not, you will queue for hours.
The Harrison. This pub near King’s Cross runs a tiny hotel (only four rooms) upstairs, and hosts gigs down in the basement, which is also tiny. I love coming to the folk nights, which happen every other Wednesday. This is the type of place where you look around and think, “I’m so lucky to be here listening to these melodic voices. How is it possible that, in this city of millions, not everyone has found their way here?”
Flat Iron Square. Every Friday night, they have food, booze, dancing, and other revelry. Return on Saturday or Sunday for the vintage/designer market.
Theatre and museums
National Portrait Gallery. This is my favorite museum because I’m old fashioned and like to see faces in paintings. And, they turn this museum into a little party on Friday night with drinks, films, tours, and more. Most of the other major museums have late nights, too, on various days.
Sadler’s Wells. Even if you couldn’t care less about professional dance, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy a show at Sadler’s Wells. Dancers come from around the world to perform ballet, hip hop, and other styles to thrilling music and mesmerizing stage and lighting design. They have a few theatres, so look at your ticket before you go and make sure you head to the right one. In September 2019, they will perform Fame the Musical!!
Soho Theatre. You’ll find the same elaborate musicals on London’s West End as you do on Broadway, and the same TKTS booth for discount tickets. However, if you’re looking for something more intimate, economical, and, in my mind, interesting, go to Soho Theatre. They have plays, comedy, cabaret, and more, plus drinks and food downstairs. One of my favorite place to go for drinks is on the same street, an upscale townhouse, appropriately called Dean Street Townhouse.
St Martin-in-the-Fields. In this historic, centuries-old church, you can listen to classical music by candlelight, or enjoy jazz at The Café in the Crypt, which is exactly what it sounds like. St. Martin-in-the-Fields is a church active in social justice and the community, feeding the homeless and helping asylum seekers.
Dinerama. Since 2012, Street Feast has transformed London’s “food landscape by taking underused and neglected spaces in London and turning them into vibrant street food arenas.” If you find yourself in Shoreditch, head to Dinerama to eat and sample the German Sex Dungeon (I’ll let you figure out what that is). Open 5 p.m. to late Wednesday through Saturday.
The Shard. I feel like I’ve seen my fair share of great views, so it’s not the type of thing that usually excites me. I have the capability of looking up and seeing everything, after all. But views from the Shard, one of London’s few skyscrapers, will make you feel like royalty looking out onto your kingdom. You’ll see England’s history laid out before you, from St. Paul’s Cathedral to the Tower of London. Avoid the fee of going to the top by stoping on floor 31 and getting a drink at Aqua Shard.
If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.