101 things to do in London: nights out

Sample some of London’s best evening entertainment for a night to remember

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Listen to glorious live music, catch some comedy, watch the latest film release or simply spend some quality time in the pub. Hit the town for a blast that’ll leave you buzzing on the night bus home.

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Find great ways to spend an evening in London

Venture beyond the West End for fringe at the Finborough

Maintaining the freedom of fringe arts in an intimate space above a pub, the award-winning Finborough Theatre company still manages to compete with theatreland’s bigger players for quality. The focus is on new writing or neglected plays from the nineteenth and twentieth century that would rarely been seen elsewhere, and productions regularly transfer to the West End.

  1. 118, Finborough Road, SW10 9ED
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See an all-singing, all-dancing musical

In London’s West End there’s an insatiable appetite for Broadway transfers like ‘The Book of Mormon’, but there’s homegrown success, too: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Les Miserables’, the RSC’s ‘Matilda the Musical’ and Richard Eyre’s acclaimed ‘The Pajama Game’ are among the recent hits. Last-minute tickets from the Leicester Square ticket booth are usually your best bet for a bargain.

  1. Various West End venues
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Have a laugh for free at Theatre Royal Stratford East

A great way to see upcoming talents, Comic Mondays is held in the bar at Theatre Royal Stratford East and is London’s longest running free comedy night. Sessions start at 8pm, with a full bill of stand-ups on a mission to make you smile. And if one of the comics doesn’t tickle your funny bone, you’ll still have cash in your pocket to buy a drink.


  1. Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford, E15 1BN
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See a gig in the House of St Barnabas’ magical chapel

A former hostel, the House of St Barnabas continues its charitable work helping vulnerable people get into meaningful employment. Its club in Soho remains part of its social enterprise, with an art space including talks, live sessions from upcoming talent, and DJ nights supported by clubbing legends like Gilles Peterson.


  1. 1 Greek St, W1D
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See a world-class classical concert

Hear the London Symphony Orchestra at LSO St Luke’s and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, enjoy blockbuster concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and chamber music in Wigmore Hall. From the Barbican to the Southbank Centre there are festivals and concerts starring international musicians and conductors all year round, plus free lunchtime recitals every week at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

  1. Various London venues
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See the best dance in town

From modern movement to traditional dance to classical ballet, Sadler’s Wells presents a dazzling array of dance productions each year. Along with the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House and the English National Ballet at the Coliseum, it leaves us spoilt for choice. But don’t forget other venues like the Roundhouse, too, for stunning international shows that often blend dance with forms like circus and theatre.

  1. Various London venues
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Pop into a pop-up

Restaurants, boutiques, theatres, markets – whether it’s a question of short attention span or high London rents, the pop-up experience has proved a huge hit. For pop-up fashion stores head to Boxpark in Shoreditch, for food head to Street Feast and for shows sign up for newsletters from Secret Cinema and Gingerline.


  1. Various London venues
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Dance till dawn at Fabric

Do the good-time boys and girls who flock to this nightclub have homes to go to? We may never know, because the music (garage, house, techno) plays from 11pm into the night – until 7am on Saturday morning and 8am on Sunday morning. The good news for employers is that it closes at a far more sensible 5.30am on Monday mornings.


  1. 77a Charterhouse St, EC1M 3HN
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See a movie under the stars

London’s outdoor cinema season usually runs from late spring to September, with more screens popping up every summer. Among your choices are the Rooftop Film Club in four urban locations across town, Luna Cinema, which tends to present evening screenings in pretty parks and squares, and Dalston Roof Park where you pay £5 membership and can see films for free.


  1. Various London venues
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Spend the evening in a world famous jazz club

When saxophonist Ronnie Scott opened a basement jazz club in Soho in 1959, he created a space where musicians could play in an intimate setting rather than big concert halls. From Miles Davis and Count Basie to Nina Simone, all the legends played at Ronnie’s. It moved to its present home on Frith Street decades ago and remains a must on any great jazz musician’s tour itinerary.


  1. 47 Frith St, W1D 4HT
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Cosy up to the fire in a quaint old pub

Nothing beats sitting by an open fire drinking a good pint in a charming old pub (reading Dickens while you toast your toes, optional). On a cobbled street on the lanes above Hampstead village, the Holly Bush is one of the perfect spots for just that. The menu is reliably gastropub, but the low-beamed bar and the eighteenth century interiors are pleasingly far from contemporary.


  1. 22 Holly Mount, NW3 6SG
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Have a riverside pint at the Crabtree

Unlike urban riverside drinking in central and east London spots, the stretch between Hammersmith and Putney Bridges affords far prettier views of the Thames. This popular example has a large wine list and a decent selection of ales to choose from before you head out for a table on the decking or, if you’re lucky, a seat under the willow tree.


  1. Rainville Road, W6 9HA
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Sip a craft beer straight from the source

Why not refresh yourself with a genuinely local brew? The Camden Town Brewery makes lagers and pale ales at its base underneath Kentish Town West station and its wares can be sampled in bars all over town. However, its own bar is worth a visit (open Thursday to Saturday), with nosh supplied by guest street food stalls. They also run brewery tours Thursday and Saturday.


  1. 55-59 Wilkin Street Mews, NW5 3NN
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Test your music knowledge at the Lexington’s pub quiz

We’re not talking about a glorified fruit machine asking chart trivia here, this live session every other Monday night is an interrogation in sound. Officially known as the Rough Trade Shop Pop Quiz, it’s a good night’s entertainment, with rounds featuring pictures, music exerpts and general pop questions. There are drinks and record tokens for prizes.


  1. 96-98, Pentonville Rd, N1 9JB
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Go for a late night Chinese at Four Seasons

This Chinatown institution bustles into the middle of the night as theatregoers and food lovers alike wait to sit down to rice with roast duck and crispy belly pork. With high demand for tables in peak hours, the experience feels more canteen than restaurant, but the extensive menu rarely disappoints.


  1. 23 Wardour Street, W1D 6PW
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Wave a Union Flag at the Proms

From mid-July to mid-September The Proms’ annual festival of classical music takes over the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park. For each concert there are about 1400 £5 standing tickets, but if you want to wave your flags at the famously rousing last night, apply by ballot online from mid-spring. Alternatively, for last-minute tickets on the day, join the queues on the Queen’s Steps.


  1. Various London venues
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Party your way round the Notting Hill Carnival

This celebration of West Indian culture and Europe’s biggest street party always takes place on August Bank Holiday. Sunday is family day, and on Monday the streets get especially crowded so arrive by tube then walk to Chepstow Road, Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Grove. Sound systems on the street and in the squares are a big draw, but some of best DJ sessions feature at the warm-ups and after parties.

  1. Various Notting Hill locations
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Drink spritz on the top of a car park

If there’s one thing London’s trendy set love more than an Aperol spritz (a blend of orangey aperitif, prosecco and soda water), it’s an unconventional party space. Open-air Peckham bar Frank’s Café has both (it’s located on top of a multi-storey car park), with sensational views across London to boot. As with all of the city’s rooftop bars, queues can become formidable when the sun’s out. They’re worth sticking out, though: Frank’s is a scene-leading bar that, for once, lives up to the hashtagged hyperbole.

  1. 10th floor, Peckham multi-storey car park, 95a Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
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See theatre Elizabethan-style with a groundling ticket to the Globe

Whether it was to bring the audience closer to the action or just because they hadn’t invented chairs yet, back in Shakespeare’s day theatregoers would spend performances on their feet. At the Globe theatre on the South Bank the tradition continues, with 700 standing tickets released for each performance. Not only do these tickets cost a very affordable £5, they also offer the best view of the show – assuming you’re not incredibly short, that is.

  1. 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT
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