Culture, Cuisine and Clubbing: What to Do in London After Dark
Discover a different side to London once the sun sets
Move over New York, there's another City the Never Sleeps. London is not necessarily first to come to mind on the ‘up all night’ list, but we're not all stiff-upper-lippers who daren’t venture outside after 6 pm. London is, in fact, a city of night owls, as the wealth of activities the capital has to offer only gets better when the sun goes down. Whether you’re a party animal looking to dance from sunset until sunrise, or an avid foodie searcing for the next vegan hotspot, London after dark will not disappoint as we're about to find thanks to the expert team here at Plum Guide.
Museum lates for culture vultures
As one of the world’s most prolific culture capitals, London has more museums that you can possibly visit in a single trip, let alone a single day. Many of the capital's most famous museums and galleries come close to solving this problem by leaving their 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 institutions offering not only late night entry but also a series of special events. These feature guest speakers, lectures, night tours, art performances and even cocktail parties – the evening transformation of these venues, traditionally associated with the daytime, prove that London after dark truly is a world all its own. For just a short walk back home after your evening exhibition, stay near to the museums in one of our gorgeous homes in Kensington like (aptly named) Fine Art.
Spooky nights for thrill seekers
For those who prefer their evenings a little spookier, get ready. London, as we all know, has a somewhat murky past when you look beyond the grand palaces and glitzy West End.
Thankfully no longer a dangerous place for those who wish to stroll after dark, the East End once home to the world’s most famous killer: Jack the Ripper. 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 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 around London. The same company will take you through graveyards, alleyways, old churches and murder sites, entertaining (if that is the word) you with dark tales of the city’s violent and paranormal past. Be prepared for more costumes, guides with bizarre anecdotes and some genuinely creepy stories.
Club nights for party animals
The saying goes that "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" Cliche? Yes. Element of truth? Certainly. The party scene is another element of London after dark to warrant your attention (and dance moves).
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 Berlin's 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, you can find every sort of electronic genre, producing sounds that would have Frank Sinatra turning in his 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.
Culinary adventures for foodies
London is one of the gastronomic capitals of the world – everything from Michelin-starred European chefs to the best bangers and mash that money can buy can be found within the city limits. For an alternative after-hours foodie adventure, we recommend Pop Brixton.
Built in a series of shipping containers, Pop Brixton is home to local entrepreneurs selling everything from vintage clothing to savoury crêpes – helping make Brixton one of London's best shopping areas. An ideal after-dark desitnation, Pop Brixton hosts 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 contemporary versions of Indian classics. However, be careful not to become border-line addicts for the samphire pakoras – you've been warned. 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. Fancy staying nearby? You'll love our collection of stylish homes in Brixton like Monochrome Magic or The Perching Sparrow.
Stand up shows for comedy lovers
To see some of London's best comics at work, 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.
Romantic plans for date night
You've done the museums, been scared our of your wits on the ghost walk and feasted on delicious Indian dishes in Brixton. The only thing left to do is to end the night at one of London's 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 three for you to pick from.
Searching for the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town? Look for the Smeg fridge on the wall of a diner at 12-16 Artillery Lane, open it and find yourself in the ultimate prohibition-style date spot. Order the Hot Rusty Nail. Trust us. Evans and Peel Detective Agency(310c Earls Court Road) offers 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.
Some more after-dark ideas
Looking to experience London's quirkier side? You've already booked accommodation on one of London's houseboats like The Pilgrim and enjoyed some of the city's more alternative attractions – fear not, London after dark is just as offbeat. Enter GlowyMcGlow by BallieBallerson.
To put it simply, this is a ball pond featuring 250,000 LED lit balls for you to dive into. 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 (fitting for the occasion), while you frolic about in the glowing balls. There is also a conveniently placed bar flogging planet-themed drinks and other intriguing concoctions.
Looking for accommodation for your trip to London? Let our expert critics find you the perfect home away from home: whether that be in the chic Notting Hill neighbourhood or a home close to Buckingham Palace.