Finding a venue is the first big step in organising a party, but it can be a logistical nightmare at the best of times – and even more so when it comes to Christmas time in London. Don’t stress, though: here to help is our handy list of some of London’s most memorable, unknown and unusual venues, to suit a wide range of budgets and capacity requirements.
Also check out our guide to London’s best party venues.
Venue says: Half term is here. We are open daily from noon for bowling, and for half term our Diner will be serving Ray's Pizza all day long.
The 1950s Americana-themed Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes come complete with reclaimed furniture, a sleek retro bar and a shabby-chic diner that all stand up gallantly to the far more sterile chain, All Star Lanes. East End kids can be found hanging out in this central venue, but don’t let that put you off. Pop in to practice your swing in one of their eight bowling lanes, nibble on some tasty ‘Lane Snacks’ (burgers, fries, grilled chicken), sip a speciality beer, have a boogie or play a little pool.Read more
Allegedly located on the very spot that the game was invented, Bounce is a ping-pong bar that serves up a night of competitive fun in an edgy industrial-chic space. The restaurant, safely out of reach of wayward ping-pong balls, is raised on a platform overlooking the drama unfolding on the 16 tables below. A selection of antipasti and pizzas (straight from the wood-burning oven) provides players with ample sustenance.Read more
This is probably the closest you’ll get to a proper speakeasy in London. You have to book in advance (by email) for a two-hour slot at this tiny candlelit space beneath a juice bar in Covent Garden (there's also a second branch opening in Camden in late Septemner). The concept is ‘Bring Your Own Cocktail’ – or rather, bring your own bottle of spirits, and the bartender will create bespoke cocktails for you from his old-fashioned drinks trolley. It costs £20 per person.
Private hire for BYOC Covent Garden is £500 for three hours, £650 for four hours and £800 for five hours.
As bar after bar opens using the rather tired ‘Brooklyn Prohibition’ template, Experimental Cocktail Club seems ever more original – it’s hard to find, sure, perhaps more so than any other ‘speakeasy’ in London, but inside remains opulent and elegantly aloof to trends. It’s arranged over three floors of an old Chinatown townhouse, flatteringly lit and expensively decorated. Booking isn’t essential (half of the capacity is kept back for walk-ins), but it is recommended and worth the hassle (email booking only, between noon and 5pm).Read more
This not-for profit members' club is a grand old Grade 1 listed house slap bang in the middle of Soho. It nails a nice line between distinguished and arty, and the beautiful interior never feels formal or stuffy. Music and arts figures like Andrew Weatherall, Jarvis Cocker and Gilles Peterson have strong ties with the club, so you might well catch one of them performing there if you're lucky, but if not, just enjoy the upmarket food and drink, or simply lounge around and soak up the atmosphere.Read more
Lucky indeed are those who manage to find this underground drinking den. It’s hidden away in the basement of an unassuming Fitzrovia backstreet, and the only apparent indicator is a set of fairy lights. Strung around the building’s bannister, they lead drinkers down into the underbelly of a speakeasy-themed cocktail bar. Drinkers can hide away in intimate arched alcoves, and veil their secret consumption behind red velvet curtains.Read more
We’ve long been fans of Purl, one of London’s first speakeasy-type bars and begetter of both VOC and the Worship Street Whistling Shop. It’s become extremely popular, which means that booking is advisable – though walk-ins will be seated if there’s space. The layout of the bar, over a number of smallish spaces in a vaulted basement, gives the opportunity for genuine seclusion if that’s what you’re looking for. And if you’re interested in cutting-edge cocktail making, you’re also in luck. Novel methods and unusual ingredients are used in many of their unique drinks.Read more
The decor at Townhouse embodies a ‘more is more’ philosophy. Every square inch of surface area is occupied by something lovely, as if a couple of eccentric collectors moved from a country manse and felt compelled to fit all their possessions into two rooms. The result: one of the most beautiful bars in London, and certainly the most unusual-looking. We’d come here for that alone, but the cocktail list is of fittingly high quality – not surprising, since it was devised by Tony Conigliaro (of 69 Colebrooke Row).Read more
The name sounds pretty creepy, right? But while there is a certain subtle Addams Family-do-Hoxton air to The Dead Dolls Club, the vibe of this classy restaurant and bar is definitely more cool than creepy. The aesthetic comes from the artfully created marker pen drawings that cover most of the walls of the former textile factory, giving a kooky-yet-upmarket DIY feel, which is balanced by the ornate, vintage-style furniture inside.Read more
The people, vessels, trade and wildlife of the capital’s canals are explored in the London Canal Museum. The museum is housed in a former nineteenth-century ice warehouse, used by Carlo Gatti for his ice cream, and includes an exhibit on the little-known trade in ice imported from Norway and once stored in two huge wells beneath the museum.
The museum's event space has a capacity of 200 and is available for hire until 11pm, or until 1am on Fri, Sat, or bank holiday Sun. A smaller space with a capacity of 20 is also available. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.Read more
Tucked away at the wrong end of Chelsea, this intimate jazz club is a badly kept secret. Catering to a diverse crowd of serious jazz types and partygoers in search of late-night nibbles and sounds, the 606 Club has been part of London's musical landscape since 1976. One of the busiest jazz clubs in Europe it has live music seven nights a week. The 606 Club's stage is almost exclusively limited to British jazz musicians, which might sound like a recipe for commercial suicide, but the longevity of this 150-capacity club speaks volumes.Read more
This friendly boozer is a great place to check out comedy (particularly at the regular Banana Cabaret Comedy Club) and music (folk, blues and rock, from both new acts and rising talents) or just kick back and enjoy a few pints.
Hire fees from £50 for a room for a day to £100 minimum spend for a ballroom holding 200 people. A range of rooms are available, including three function rooms holding 80 people, two rooms holding 25 people, one room holding 175 people and one room holding 250 people. Extended late licensing hours are available. Contact Scott Illman for more details: email@example.comRead more
The artistically inclined may take a liking to this Battersea bar overlooking Ransome's Dock, where visitors are invited to scribble and doodle to their heart's content all over the place. Beers and wines are reasonably priced at £2.50 and £10 respectively. The people behind it all hope to run the bar at least throughout the summer; though, landlord permitting, they may be able continue to operate indefinitely.Read more
Located roughly around half way between The O2 and the Thames Barrier, Greenwich Yacht Club stands above the river on stilts. The largely glass building is large enough to cater for all kinds of meetings and dinners and even has its own moorings, what with it being a yacht club and all.
Four spaces are available to hire: The River Rooms (capacity 250), The Clubhouse (150), The Committee Room (30) and the Boat Yard with a marquee provided (500). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7952 2410.Read more
Tucked away down a residential street, Simon Drake's House of Magic lies in wait. It looks like a disused pub, and it is in a sense, but inside, it's a veritable lair of magic. Simon Drake – star of Channel 4's 'The Secret Cabaret' – has decked the place out in red velvet curtains, mismatched wallpaper and mood lighting. Creepy props sit among decadent furnishings, where you can sit and get your fortune told, try out the 'whispering chair' and tour the Haunted Cellar, as well as, of course, witnessing Drake's 45-minute 'Magical Extravaganza'.
The House of Magic has a capacity of 150. Contact email@example.com or 0207 735 4777.Read more
A beautiful 1930s green and yellow Dutch barge moored between Lambeth and Vauxhall bridge. It's a modest space – only room for 150 max – and most of the time their events are free, so entrance is on a first-come-first-served basis. Visitors here can enjoy a social drink, a gig or hire it out for a personal party.
With a capacity of 150 (including 80 on deck), the Tamesis costs between free and £100 Mon-Thu, with a minimum spend applicable, or £195 Fri and Sat (minimum 80 people). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 582 1066.Read more
A new bar-restaurant offering all-day dining, a lengthy cocktail list and decor inspired by an old-fashioned gymnasium. Food is described as 'a contemporary take on comfort food', with typical dishes including crispy spam fritter and piccalilli, and liver, bubble and squeak croquettes and onion gravy. Breakfast and brunch menus are promised too. The restaurant's name and the leather aprons worn by staff are a nod to the area's past as the location of many of London's tanneries.Read more
Hard to spot but impressive once you find it, this converted tram shed incorporates a cavernous, chandelier-lit main bar and a smaller mezzanine, filled with decorative quirks and televisions for football viewing. Don’t expect a too laddish crowd, though: the offbeat tone is set by a pair of winkle-pickers displayed under glass as you walk in, while Lionel Ritchie beams a Lionel Ritchie smile from an album cover mounted on the back bar.
Tooting Tram & Social can cater for parties of 140 to 440 people. Contact email@example.com or 0208 767 0278.Read more
Venue says: Cocktail specials for £6 from 5pm until 8pm daily. Live music. DJs Friday and Saturday. Cocktail garden. Call 020 7247 7717.
This slick little bar at the unfashionable end of Brick Lane hosts club nights, live acoustic music, comedy, film screenings and variety events.
Four spaces are available to hire: the whole venue (capacity 160), the lounge bar (90-100), the basement (80) and the beer garden (40). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 247 7717.Read more
A popular laidback, lived-in basement bar that originally helped Hoxton earn its hip title. In intervening years little has changed down in the basement, which remains plain and comfortable. It's kitted out with low-level furniture and a small bar stocks bottled beers, classic cocktails and champagne, while upstairs is a modern Brit menu for the hungry (their sharing platters are worth a punt). Disco-ing down is common on the weekends, TBC really specialise in unique and unusual nights out.Read more
Split over two floors, Life is a bit of an 'all-under-one-roof' kind of place, with a restaurant on the ground floor and a bar in the basement. You can have a Japanese dinner here, grab a drink (plenty of Japanese liquers – sake, sochu, plum wine) or bust a move. The motto of Life, is 'enjoy life'.
Life has a capacity of 250. Contact email@example.com or 0208 767 0278.
There's a real buzz along the west bank of the Lea, with Hackney Wick's Yard theatre and numerous galleries supported by a growing number of café-restaurants. On a hot day, the spaces outside Crate Brewery and, south of the Hertford Union canal, the Counter Café are rarely underused. But we're taken with the 2014 newcomer Number 90, which is a higgledy-piggledy mix of gig space, bar and restaurant – with a cracking Lea-side terrace, where you can even lounge in a moored narrowboat, at least until that afternoon's alt-folk combo appears to perform from it.Read more
This industrial-ish space in Tower Hamlets is owned by the same team that run Oval Space. Sitting directly opposite that venue, TPF did indeed used to operate as a working pickle factory, but is now used primarily for one off parties and private events. It's a big space with plenty of room to create and decorate, allowing those with a vision for a party a blank canvas.Read more
This multi-purpose event space is home to studio spaces, a photography studio and a huge rooftop space with amazing panoramic views across London. The venue hosts a number of different events, including film screenings, workshops, talks, parties, gigs and some great club nights.
Licensed hire hours: Mon-Fri: 5pm-11pm (later hours available on request), Sat-Sun: 12pm-11pm (later hours available on request). ‘Wet hire’ is available for those who would like Rockwell House to help put together the event: £2,000 (Thu-Sun), £1,500 (Tue and Wed). Dry hire: available on application. Capacity is 200 including staff. Minimum spend at bar: £1,000. For more information (including details of security requirements, catering and deposits), email firstname.lastname@example.orgRead more
Attached to the long-standing Hackney Empire theatre, Stage 3 is a multi-functional bar restaurant and performance venue. It's an airy, slightly industrial but also comfortable space that lends itself well to a range of functions. These include its numerous pop-up food events that showcase food from around the globe, and the various live bands and DJs that stop by to play a set to the hip, relaxed crowd.Read more
A striking art deco building from the outside that doesn't let up once you're on the inside either – even the carpet has an art deco fan pattern running through it. This a stunning place to get married in (and many people do), but it's also just a fantastic, Grade II listed building that is used constantly for live music and sporting events, as well as parties.
The Grand Hall has a capacity of 3,050 (concert capacity), 1,800 (standing), 2,000 (theatre seating) or 780 (table seating). Contact email@example.com or phone 0207 790 9000.Read more
Walking down Graces Alley towards Wilton's Music Hall is a bit like stepping into another world – or rather back in time to the mid-19th century, when John Wilton opened his concert hall behind the Mahogany Bar pub. It's been recently refurbished and strengthened, but most of the period features are still in place, albeit faded. It remains a choice hang-out for the post-work crowd and regularly hosts theatre, concerts and variety acts.
Wilton's Music Hall has various rooms for hire. The main Auditorium has a capacity of 400, is available 10am-10pm (subject to availability) with a three-hour minimum hire, and costs £250 per hour plus a £500 deposit. Other spaces include the Study, the Green Room, the Library, the Cocktail Bar and the Mezzanine, each with a capacity of about £30 and hourly hire rates of £100-£250 – these are generally available until 11pm. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the same group as Purl and VOC, this cellar bar is decked out in what seems to be a speakeasy/Victorian mash-up (dark wood and lots of eccentric decorative touches). It makes much of its experimental techniques; if your curiosity is tickled by the sound of ‘enzymes, acids, proteins and hydrocolloids’, you’re all set. The list is mercifully short, and classics are well handled.Read more
The Amadeus Centre
This duck-egg blue, nineteenth-century former Welsh Presbyterian chapel may look odd next to a west London housing estate, but once inside it’s delightful, with a wood-panelled gallery, complete with its own pipe organ. It’s a dramatic setting that can be dressed up and themed – Caribbean, gothic and sci-fi have all been done here. You can also hire the Lower Hall – the former church crypt has a low ceiling and solid soundproofing, so live bands sound amazing here.
The Upper Hall has a capacity of 250 standing or 180 seated, while the Lower Hall holds 100 or 60-80. Contact email@example.com or 0207 286 1686.
Paradise makes decorative use of its name, taken from GK Chesterton’s poem ‘The Rolling English Road’, by filling its high-ceilinged interior with religious icons, angels, cherubs and flowery chandeliers, even extending the effect to two huge stone vases of flowers on the bar counter. With its banquet-sized dining hall, courtyard garden and roof terrace, Paradise does a roaring trade in private dining. The rest of the time the Paradise, whilst frequented by more DJs than you can throw a bootleg at, is more friendly boozer and restaurant than DJ bar.
Paradise is available to hire, with a capacity of 150 standing or 50 seating. Contact 0208 969 0098.Read more