Things To Do After Dark in London: An expert guide
London is full opportunities once the sun has set...
When you think of a city that never seems to sleep, a drunken, hedonistic casino player in Vegas comes to mind - or an image of a kooky Berghain raver, who is looking slightly worse for wear, swims into view. London, remarkably, is not always first on the ‘up all night’ list. People think of London as a city of stiff-upper-lippers who daren’t venture outside one’s home after 6 pm – but not everyone is as well behaved as Theresa May.
London is, in fact, a city of night owls, as the wealth of activities the capital has to offer only get better when the sun goes down. Whether its fancy dress cocktail parties in the city’s most prestigious museums or wandering through back alleys in search of Jack the Ripper, London promises an adventurous snooze-free evening. Whether you’re a party animal looking to dance from sunset until sunrise, or you are an instragramming foodie searching for the next vegan hotspot, we have it all here. Enjoy.
The Culture Vulture
As one of the world’s most prolific culture capitals, London has more museums that you can possibly count. It seems an impossible task to try and visit even all the most famous ones in one day. London, however, recognizes that there are barely enough hours in the day already, and solves this problem by leaving its museums and gallery doors wide open until late into the night.
With a whole spectrum of ‘museum lates’ popping up it is now possible to squeeze in every ounce of culture that the city has to offer - well after the sun has set. The Victoria and Albert (V&A), the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the British Museum and the Royal Academy are just a few of the many institutes offering not only late night entry but also a series of special events. There will be guest speakers, lectures, night tours, art performances and even parties in venues which have traditionally been associated with daytime tourism.
Visit their official websites to get a break down of what is going on over the next few months. Our top suggestions are: The Science Museum, which will be hosting a series of late night events from April through to July with themes ranging from Robots, Sex and the Casualties of War. Secondly, ‘Friday Lates’ at the V&A, which describes itself as the ‘Original contemporary late night event’, will expose audiences to the many sides of contemporary visual culture and design. It aims to do this by showcasing emerging artists and designers through live performance, film, installation, debate, DJs and late-night exhibition openings.
Our last tip would be to book tickets for one of the RA’s late night events. These usually follow the theme of their latest big exhibition, which they then use for inspiration in order to create an epic party. This month (22nd April) the theme is the American Dream. Expect prohibition era cocktails, Hollywood glamour and lots of blokes in Steinbeck era outfits.
For those that find the idea of trudging around another museum absolutely horrific but like the idea of being horrified, then have no fear, we have it all mapped out. London, as we all know, has a somewhat murky past when you look beyond the grand palaces and glitzy West End.
"Discovery Tours is guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. "
Thankfully no longer a dangerous place for those who wish to stroll after dark, it was however once home to the world’s most famous killer. Jack the Ripper - obviously. There are stacks of companies that offer to take you back in time and recreate the Ripper murder cases. The guides are freakishly knowledgeable on the subject and will set your skin crawling as they guide you around London in slightly embarrassing Victorian costumes. Discovery Tours is guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
However, if old Jack doesn’t do it for you then try out one of the many ghost tours. The same company will take you through graveyards, alleyways, old churches and murder sites, entertaining you with dark tales of the city’s violent and paranormal past. Be prepared for more dodgy costumes, guides with bizarre anecdotes and some genuinely creepy stories.
‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ Cliche? Yes. Element of truth? Certainly. If you’re even remotely interested in the party scene, you would be fool not to think of London as an area of special importance. Like all areas of life London has it all, from the dank and dirty to the A-list celebrity hotspots.
"XOYO, Fabric and The Pickle Factory host the greatest names in the industry pretty much all year round."
With musicians and DJs flocking from every corner of the globe to perform in Shoreditch and other creative districts, London is the place to be for throwing shapes into the early hours. XOYO, Fabric and The Pickle Factory host the greatest names in the industry pretty much all year round. However Printworks is only open for a limited amount of time. From January through to April, this 3,000 capacity venue gives Berghain a run for its money. Originally the enormous post-industrial complex housed the printing facilities for The Daily Mail, but now it has been reborn as a laser filled, electro-loving sweatbox, catering for those gunning for a serious dance.
In London, there is every sort of electronic genre, producing sounds that would have Frank Sinatra turning in grave. Funk, house, grime, dub, drum and bass… the list goes on really. Simply go onto any of the club websites or Resident Advisor to find out the latest event news. Expect big prices for the biggest names. No self respecting party animal would dare visit London without passing through at least one set of these hallowed musical doors.
London is one of the gastronomic capitals of the world and hosts an immeasurable amount of places to dine. Everything from Michelin star European chefs to the best bangers and mash that money can buy can be found within the city limits. Yet we thought we would try and be a tad more original and suggest an alternative after hour foodie activity. Pop Brixton is just that - alternative.
"The venue has communal eating areas, greenhouses and hosts many live events including performance art and music."
Built into a series of shipping containers is a whole bunch of local businesses and entrepreneurs selling everything from vintage clothing to savoury crepes. It is home to several bars selling decently priced booze and over 14 restaurants and food stalls. The variety is huge and the tastes are mindblowing. Kricket is constantly voted the hottest thing around, with British seasonal ingredients and refined versions of Indians classics. However, be careful not to become boarder-line addicts for the samphire pakoras. The venue has communal eating areas, greenhouses and hosts many live events including performance art and music. The cuisine may be from around the world but the atmosphere is very much a local and wholly communal one.
With the rise of social media websites and video sharing platforms it seems that we are spoilt for choice with 24/7 streaming of funny videos and clips. Yet if you want to take a break from the “hilarious” cat videos and endless memes and see some real comics at work, then head down to The Comedy Store. Situated on Oxendon Street in the centre of the West End, this really is the centre of all things funny. Settle down with a pint and something to eat and be prepared to laugh the night away at some of Britain's wittiest acts. And if for some mad reason you don’t quite “get” the British wit, then not to worry, there are plenty of international names and even the occasional American.
The Comedy Store by Let-me-wake-up
"You are at the mercy of the comedian who will be sure to call you out for whatever dodgy outfit you’ve got on."
There is more than just stand up; many of the shows will see the audience getting involved. However, be warned, you are at the mercy of the comedian who will be sure to call you out for whatever dodgy outfit you’ve got on. This is a seriously underrated venue and with something going on most nights of the week there is no reason not to give it a go.
The Secret Romantics
You've done the museums, bypassed the ghost walk and feasted on delicious Indian dishes in Brixton. How do you seal the deal on this date? It has to be cool and preferably private but where does this mythical place exist? The answer is everywhere. London is now the number one for secret bars and speakeasies. By their very nature they are difficult to find and you certainly won't discover one by casually walking down the street or asking your Uber driver. They require research and preparation. We’ve done the hard part (thank us later) and secured the top 3 names for you to pick from.
"Look for the Smeg fridge on the wall of a diner, open it and find yourself in the ultimate prohibition style date spot."
In no particular order let’s start with The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town (12-16 Artillery Lane), we won't spoil it too much but look for the Smeg fridge on the wall of a diner, open it and find yourself in the ultimate prohibition style date spot. Order the Hot Rusty Nail. Trust.
Evans and Peel Detective Agency (310c Earls Court Road) is a similar sort of vibe but make sure you make an appointment and be prepared for secret entrances through bookcases and meetings with undercover detectives - as well as some delicious cocktails.
NightJar (129-131 City Road) is once again found on the other side of an unmarked door. Candlelight, low ceilings and desperately cool jazz all seep through the secrecy as you sit at the bar and order drinks from a specially dealt pack of cards.
After dark for the weird guy…
Now that we are coming towards the end of our list of suggestions, we would like to offer just one more after dark tip. There is always that one person who just isn't satisfied by the normal, the trendy or the educational. Let us then present to you GlowyMcGlow by BallieBallerson.
GlowyMcGlow by BallieBallerson
To put it simply this is an adult orientated playpen featuring 250,000 LED lit balls for you to dive into and, well, play. There is DJ spinning funk music and blaring UV lights. You can buy single tickets or get really serious and purchase the VIP experience, which allows you to enjoy a sophisticated glass of Prosecco, while you frolic about in the glowing balls. There is also a conveniently placed bar flogging planet themed drinks and other strange concoctions. It is as weird as it sounds but if you want something extremely different - after the sun has set - then this is the place to be.