The Best Spots to See Live Music in London
Sample London's vibrant music scene with our guide to the best live music venues in the city.
For a truly rocking time in the British capital, you simply have to see some live music. There’s absolutely nothing like sipping a cold drink while the band plays on. Whether your poison is punk, country or something a little more smooth, the venerable venues of London will have something to suit your tastes. Here’s Plum Guide's expert guide to live music in London.
One of London’s best bars with the most delicious cocktails you’ll drink anywhere, the first challenge of Nightjar is actually finding the place. The dark, unmarked door is presumably meant to keep away those who aren’t serious about live music and libations (which of course, you are).
Nightjar is the speakeasy to end all speakeasies. A Shoreditch institution, it’s all dark wood, hidden corners and cosy candles. And of course, there’s live music every single evening from 9.30pm. Some of the best jazz acts in the city come here to serenade you as you sip inventively crafted cocktails. The menu celebrates underrated drinks dating back to the pre-Prohibition era, so you’ll probably find a new favourite drink. Once you’ve had one or two, you’ll be dancing in the aisles to some of the best live music in London.
Once you’ve tipped the musicians and found your way back to street level, you’re not going to want to have to stumble far to get to bed. This stylish pad on Shoreditch High Street is just a few minutes walk away from Nightjar, and the balcony with gorgeous views over London means you’ll be able to get some much-needed fresh air the morning after.
The Slaughtered Lamb
Don’t let the slightly macabre name put you off - this trendy pub in Clerkenwell is home to some of the best live music in London. The focus here is on folk and acoustic music, so if you’re a fan of tinkling guitar licks and soft voices you’ll feel right at home.
The marriage of a dark, atmospheric room with an excellent selection of both local and international craft beers makes this centrally-located pub a great destination for music lovers. The food at The Slaughtered Lamb is also well worth a look if you’re peckish.
We’d recommend arriving early to secure a good view of the stage, as intimacy is the name of the game here. As a venue known for nurturing up-and-coming talent, the act you see here might just make it big and you’ll be able to impress your friends with an anecdote about the time you saw so-and-so before they were famous.
For a chic apartment with floor to ceiling windows, this Clerkenwell base is close to The Slaughtered Lamb action and has two private terraces with a view of the city to take your morning coffee on.
Even if you’ve never been to a concert in your life, you’ve heard of Ronnie Scott’s. This legendary jazz club should be on every London itinerary. It's one of the last remnants of London’s original Soho, and the famous red interiors are just the same as they ever were. Opened in 1959, all of the greats have played here. Table service is the thing, and all patrons must adhere to the strict no-talking rule throughout performances, so no whispering in the back.
Upstairs is another bar with slightly looser regulations and a less serious atmosphere. You’ll find everything from R&B to jive in this bar, and the dancing gets wild in the early hours of the morning.
For accommodation that’s so near the centre of the action it basically is the action, this lavishly decorated flat puts you in prime position for a Soho night out. Think neon signs, red cushioned headboards and windows designed for people watching. You could even pop home for a snifter between sets if you’re so inclined.
This historic hotspot is still popular for a reason. Founded in 1929, Quaglino’s is a venerable member of the city’s entertainment scene and is the place to go when you want a reassuringly posh night on the town. This is the time to pull out your best gladrags and your grandmother’s jewellery - they famously used to keep a table reserved for Princess Margaret at all times, so you never know who you might bump into. In fact, it was the first restaurant ever visited by a reigning monarch when the Queen and Prince Philip went for supper in 1956.
The decor is rich and grand, with red curtains opening to reveal a grand stage filled with an electric variety of excellent musical acts. The bar is very well stocked, so order your favourite obscure spirit, relax into the well-cushioned chair and prepare to party into the night, as they have a DJ until 3am on the weekends. A night out here is worth any size of hangover. Don’t let younger yourself down by going home early.
This lavishly appointed apartment is the ideal spot to nod off to sleep after a night listening to live music in London. You’re also within spitting distance of The Wolseley for a reviving breakfast the next morning.
There you have it: the best spots to see live music in London. We didn't have quite enough room to list every single venue, though special mention has to go to the cultural offerings of London's Southbank – luckily we have a whole guide to Southbank here, so get stuck in. And if you're looking for somewhere to stay in London, you're on the right website. Check out Plum Guide's professionally-vetted bucket list homes for the best night's sleep you could ask for.