Looking for a good night out in London town? Truth is, you are spoilt for choice. To stop you getting lost in the sea of bars, clubs and venues in the capital, we’ve compiled a rundown of the 9 best london bars and hotspots to visit and make a night to remember!
1. Trailer Happiness
Marked by a yellow fish above an otherwise nondescript doorway on Portobello Road, time travel back into the groovy 70’s for an evening at Trailer Happiness’ subterranean tiki lounge, one of the best cocktail bars in London.
Adorned with hula girl memorabilia and other emblems of retro Polynesian kitsch, don’t be fooled by the bartender’s Aloha shirt – the staff here are true mixologists and specialize on putting inventive twists on rum classics. They’re also known to perform a fire show at times, blowing alcohol to the ceiling and setting it aflame while everybody cheers.
Quiet chatter in the early evening gradually transforms into a vibrant dance party as the night progresses and the DJ brings the funk classics.
Where: 177 Portobello Road, W11 2DY
Tel: +44 20 7041 9833
Nearest station: Notting Hill Gate
2. Kensington Roof Gardens
Cool bars in London? Try this sky-high joint. Above the streets of Kensington, this exclusive club is where the posh and polished come to see and be seen as they schmooze the night away. Amidst ladies modelling their latest designer dresses and blazer-clad gents, you’ll feel as though you’ve become a socialite for the night.
Adrenaline runs high as a live percussionist beats his drums in sync with the DJ’s club bangers, but you’ll likely find an excuse to take a breather in its namesake garden. With 500 plant species, Spanish fountains, and even flamingos, this club is part of Europe’s largest rooftop garden, which provides a swanky oasis for a cigarette break or a midnight chat.
Where: 99 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA
Tel: +44 20 7937 7994
Nearest station: Kensington High Street
Straddling a fine balance between ritzy and trippy, WOW factor prevails during your visit to sketch. You’ll bypass several mind-boggling tearooms that seem to conjure an Alice in Wonderland of the future, and pause upon entering an oversized white capsule resembling a UFO.
So what happens at this intergalactic party? Fashionable ladies and debonair gents of the London it-crowd mingle over electro jams and sip funky cocktails around a circular bar. This intimate space offers night owls a sophisticated alternative to the nightclubs nearby.
For a memorable photo opportunity, be sure to pay the bathroom a visit. No, really. The toilets are individually encapsulated in egg pods that appear to be borrowed from another universe’s art gallery. Just some of the reasons sketch is a must-visit for nightlife in London.
Where: 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG
Tel: +44 20 7659 4500
Nearest station: Oxford Circus
4. The Book Club
Shoreditch’s shabby-chic aura is captured well by The Book Club. On a side street splattered with art murals, its daytime cafe culture gives way to a mob of partygoers as the sun goes down.
Framed by whitewashed brick walls and anchored with table tennis, the main lounge is a social spot that’s amplified by a playlist from buzzy new bands. Bartenders blend right in with their stylishly informal clientele while serving cocktails with names sure to awaken your humour.
But if you’re looking to knock back a few rounds on a big night out, head downstairs to the basement party. Hip hop and house hits blast over a hyped crowd, so you can dance ‘til you sweat.
Where: 100-106 Leonard Street, EC2A 4RH
Tel: +44 20 7684 8618
Nearest station: Old Street
5. Union Chapel
Even the most committed atheist will experience an epiphany at this heavenly live music venue – a nonconformist church that’s eclectic and welcoming to all.
The setting, in an atmospheric Gothic chapel dominated by a glorious Victorian organ, is a quirky venue for in-the-know gigs. And the superb acoustics mean that whoever’s on – Roseanne Cash or Billy Bragg, world music bands or stand-up comedians – they all get the chance to shine.
All profits go to maintaining this beautiful historic building. Come, settle down on a wooden pew and enjoy your own spiritual awakening.
Where: Compton Terrace, N1 2UN
Tel: +44 20 7226 1686
Nearest station: Highbury and Islington
6. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
In an era where ”offbeat” and ”eccentric” have become de rigueur on London’s nightlife scene, this genuine old working men’s club beats its competitors hands down.
At once authentically unpretentious yet effortlessly cool, it’s an East London gem – a little rough around the edges and with bucket loads of tongue-in-cheek humour to soften its increasingly “hip” edge. There’s always something unusual on offer at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. Dance music, open mic, cabaret, gaming – you name it, they have it; and then some!
The gay nights are particularly popular, pulling punters from all over London for the best party in town.
Where: 42–44 Pollard Row, E2 6NB
Tel: +44 20 7739 7170
Nearest station: Bethnal Green
7. Happiness Forgets
This subterranean Hoxton bar was a trailblazer on London’s craft cocktails scene – and while younger pretenders come and go, Happiness Forgets looks set to stay.
The secret is not only in the drinks – strong, sophisticated concoctions, expertly mixed – but also in the atmosphere. The candlelit basement setting is classic shabby-cool, for sure, and the lack of signage gives it an exclusive air, but the vibe is smiley and relaxed. And despite being in the epicentre of East London’s “hipsterville”, this is definitely a no-poser zone.
“Great cocktails, no wallies”, as it says on its website. It’s the perfect mix, and don’t you dare forget it.
Where: 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU
Nearest station: Hoxton
8. The Bussey Building
There’s a lot of buzz around Peckham these days. From its foodie scene to its indie boutiques, this otherwise unassuming neighbourhood is giving East London a run for its money in the coolness stakes.
Nowhere epitomises the Peckham effect better than the Bussey Building. Based in a huge concrete block, this arts centre/warehouse-style club is the South London nightlife destination. Offering an impeccable selection of music of all stripes, it’s particularly strong in soul and funk, plus reggae, dancehall and hip hop. Wildly creative use is made of the rambling space, and in summer you can even dance on the rooftop terrace.
Kudos, too, for the vinyl and graphic novel store/café on site – oh, and did we mention the theatre, movies and comedy nights?
Where: 133 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
Tel: +44 20 7732 5275
Nearest station: Peckham Rye
9. Notting Hill Arts Club
Notting Hill, the shabby 1960s domain of bohemians, beatniks and dissolute rock stars, is a different creature today. A tad twee, perhaps – maybe even a little staid. And while Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, went too far in its saccharine fairy-tale rendition, it painted a picture of foppish fun that somehow stuck.
At the Notting Hill Arts Club you can return to the area’s edgier roots, and have a great time to boot. Hosting up-and-coming live bands, open mic and club nights in a steamy basement room, this electric arts centre feels genuinely creative and gratifyingly folksy. You’ll hear anything from Latin to grime, and you’ll dance till your feet are sore.
Those bohemians of yore would be proud.
Where: 21 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3JQ
Tel: +44 20 7460 4459
Nearest station: Notting Hill Gate