From production-heavy pop shows at The O2 to rough-and-ready rock gigs at Brixton’s The Windmill, and iconic jazz clubs to opulent concert halls, London is a city filled with many different music venues. Here are some of the best, where you’ll often find gigs by the world’s biggest rock, pop, hip hop, electronica, indie, dance and soul stars.
London’s best music venues
Built in the 1920s as a cinema at a cost of £250,000, Brixton Academy is London's most credible major rock venue. Although it's echoey when half-full, the 5,000-capacity space is popular because the raked standing area gives good sightlines. Pop acts such as Goldfrapp occasionally feature, but programming favours metal, indie and alt-rock. As one of the capital's largest non-stadium venues, Brixton Academy played its part in rock history – it hosted the Sex Pistols reunion gigs in September 2007, Leftfield broke the venue's decibel record in 1996 bringing showers of dust and plaster down around them, and The Smiths played their last ever gig here in December 1986. Want more?Brixton Academy: 10 classic gigs
Built in 1901 as the display hall for the German company Bechstein Pianos, the Wigmore Hall was seized as enemy property in WWI and sold at auction for a fraction of its value. These days, boasting perfect acoustics, art nouveau decor and an excellent basement restaurant, the 'Wiggy' is one of the world's top chamber music venues and currently hosts around 400 events a year. Programming leans on the classical and Romantic periods. The Monday lunchtime recitals, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, are excellent value, as are the Sunday morning coffee concerts. Musical luminaries who have performed at the Wigmore Hall include Sergey Prokofiev, Shura Cherkassky, Paul Hindemith, Andrés Segovia, Benjamin Britten and Francis Poulenc. Tours of the auditorium, with its famous Art Nouveau mural, and other parts of the building take place during the Open House London event in September.
Venue says Booking is now available for April to July concerts!
This former BBC theatre is far and away the best thing about Shepherd's Bush, holding 2,000 standing or 1,300 seated with decent sound everywhere (except the alcove behind the stalls bar). The Empire's gig roll puts many bigger contenders to shame: David Bowie, Kylie Minogue, Erasure, Elton John, Smashing Pumpkins and The Rolling Stones have all played here, though the most widely reported event took place on March 10 2003, when Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines caused uproar by declaring on stage that she was 'ashamed the President of the United States [George W Bush] is from Texas'.
A hugely welcome addition to London's music and nightlife ecosystem, this newish two-roomed venue has a fantastic arched main room, replete with exposed brick work. The bar room also doubles as a second room for club nights – and on the right night can feel like an absolute riot.
Located right next door to Camden Town tube station, the Ballroom is still dining out on its (admittedly impressive) history, hosting as it has gigs by the likes of The Smiths, U2, The Clash, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Hüsker Dü. The immediate threat of closure to allow the rebuilding of the underground station has been lifted due to that proposal's initial rejection (although wrangling is ongoing) and this, coupled with a welcome major refit of the interior has revitalised the venue. Gigs run the stylistic gamut, while regular club nights on Friday and Saturday roll on until the small hours and the vast space is taken over by an indoor market/café at weekends.
Venue says Every Saturday @ EB: Electric Luv will be transforming the venue into an unrivalled clubbing experience 🌺 Tickets £8 via our website 💃
Launched in September 2018, this self-styled ‘multi-arts space for the 21st century’ is an ambitious restoration of the formerly derelict Savoy Cinema. Its slightly ungainly name is short for ‘Evolutionary Arts Hackney’, but so far the programming is trendy and accessible rather than too highfalutin. There are two atmospheric event spaces – the seated upstairs theatre, and downstairs concert hall which is standing only – and they’re already proving a popular stop-off for discerning artists. Indie heroes Lambchop and soul siren Andreya Triana played EartH in 2019, while pop queens Little Mix launched their latest album here in late 2018.
You can't miss Village Underground thanks to the four brightly coloured, graffiti-covered tube carriages, now artists' studios, perched on its roof. The recycled Jubilee line carriages, and accompanying shipping containers, accommodate a community of artists, writers, designers, filmmakers and musicians. Their renovated Victorian warehouse space hosts exhibitions, concerts theatre, live art and club nights. Plans are underway to turn one of the exterior walls, a spot already popular with local street artists, into a permanent exhibition site.
This aptly-named Camden landmark has decades of radical theatre and music history behind it: its round brick walls have been rocked by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors, and it staged theatre critic Kenneth Tynan's scandalous nude revue 'Oh Calcutta' in 1969. These days things are a little more sedate, but it still plays host to an eclectic range of big-name music acts from Imogen Heap to Gary Numan to The Darkness. Its high-ceilinged space is also a great place to see acrobats soar through the air as part of the venue's popular biannual Circusfest: the next edition is in May 2020. And Roundhouse has also become the centre of London's buzzing spoken word scene: it's got a programme which supports young Camden residents to get into slam poetry, which bears fruit in the venues' annual Last Word festival. Constructed in 1846 as a turntable shed for the London and Birmingham railway, the Roundhouse – a Grade II-listed building – has a long and illustrious history, including spells as a liquor warehouse and long periods of disuse. But it came into its own as a legendary music venue in the '60s/'70s, when it hosted radical happenings of every flavour. Work on the extensive overhaul/refurbishment began in 2004 and it reopened in 2006 as a modern arts and mixed-media performance space with strong community bias. The main room benefits from a high domed ceiling and Victorian metal 'ribs', and a flexible auditorium that can house seated audiences for theatr
Located underneath two railway arches behind Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, this intimate south-east London club has been booking top house and techno DJs and producers from around the world since 2005. They have one of London’s best soundsystems, and are involved in developing underused urban spaces around the capital for use as socially minded arts venues.