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9 ways to explore London after dark (that don’t just involve boozing)

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Things To Do Editors

As the Natural History Museum launches its new exhibition ‘Life in the Dark’, we peer at the best events for nocturnal Londoners 

1. Visit a fish market at 4am

Just think about the juicy bacon butties you’ll be able to make after a visit to the meaty Smithfield Market when you’re hauling your bod out of bed at an ungodly hour for a London Smoke & Cure guided tour. Once you’ve completed your meat mission you’ll hit up Billingsgate for a fresh fish fix. Smithfield and Billingsgate Market visit, £60. Tours take place every Tuesday, 4am-6.30am. Book

2. Sleep among the Spitfires at the Royal Air Force Museum

Before you crash out underneath a Short Sunderland MR.5, slip into the cockpits of other aircraft, catch flight-themed movies, make your own eye mask or win big at the RAF Museum’s midnight pub quiz. Adults-only sleepover Night Flight may be landing during summer but it’s super cool below those wings. Arm yourself with slippers, a hot-water bottle and ample cups of tea while you’re busy making Airfix models. RAF Museum London. Tube: Colindale. Sat Jul 14, from 7pm. £120.

3. Shop in a Victorian music hall

With its sweeping fairy lights and floor-to ceiling red velvet curtains, the Victorian-era Wilton’s Music Hall has a habit of upstaging its visitors. But that’s all about to change with the help of a Late Night Vintage Shopping Fair in the main auditorium. Get yourself a feather dress and pose against the twisted columns like you’re Ginger goddamn Rogers. Wilton’s Music Hall. Tube: Aldgate East. Thu Jul 12, 4.30pm-9.30pm. £3 entry, £2 students.

Hugh Clark

4. Hunt for bats in Hyde Park

Not all bats are out to suck your blood, guys. Some just want to hang out in Hyde Park and wing around when dusk falls. And some people just want to join them. If that’s you, head along to this nighttime  Bat Walk where you’ll be able to scout out soprano pipistrelles and noctules using bat detectors that allow unsophisticated human ears to hear echolocation calls. Italian Gardens Pump House, Hyde Park. Tube: Lancaster Gate. Aug 2, 8.45pm-10.15pm. £10, book well in advance


5. Kayak to Crate Brewery

Hop into a kayak as night falls and cruise from Limehouse to Crate Brewery taking in houseboats, warehouses and wildlife along the waterway with Secret Adventures. No canoeing experience? No problem. You’ll be fully initiated into the ways of the watercraft before you head off on the 6km route in search of beer. Canoe Shed, Limehouse Basin. Limehouse Overground. Various dates but best availability Aug 1 onwards. £45


6. Settle in for a mini movie marathon

The Prince Charles Cinema is having a bite-size version of its movie all-nighters with the blood-curdling ‘Friday the 13th’ Marathon, Parts I-IV. There are 12 instalments of this Jason slasher franchise, and there aren’t enough hours in the night to show them all. You might have a baker’s dozen’s worth of nightmares, but the PCC is a lot safer than a cabin in Camp Crystal Lake. Prince Charles Cinema. Tube: Leicester Square. Fri Jul 13, 6.30pm-around 1.30am. £17.50.

Nick Turpin

7. See London’s nightlife captured in one place

Peer into the sunken eyes of tired bus commuters, meet freestyling grime stars and feel the potent energy of Fabric – all without leaving the Museum of London. Its current exhibition ‘London Nights’ encompasses 100 years of photographers documenting the capital under the cover of darkness, and you can see it after closing at this Friday’s museum late. Then go out into the city, and let life imitate art. Museum of London. Tube: Barbican. Open until 9.30pm on Fri Jul 13 and every Friday until Nov 10. £10-£11, £8-£8.80 concs. 

Lewis Ronald

8. Admire erotic art in the park

Have a cup of tea and think about leaving the house for Park Nights, a dusky evening of ‘art encounters’ held in  the Serpentine Pavilion. (The new design has its own paddling pool!)  Split over eight weekends, the nights are a mix of art exhibition and experimental performance. First up is the erotic, feminist and proud yonic art of Dorothy Iannone, accompanied by stories of unconditional love and lovers. Serpentine Pavilion. Tube: South Kensington. Fri Jul 13, 8pm-9.30pm. £5, book in advance.

9. Wander around the Natural History Museum at night

Upcoming show ‘Life in the Dark’ follows deep sea fish, moles, moths and crocodiles and aims to find out what they get up to in the shadows. You’ll be able to creep through the ecosystem of the Hintze Hall after nightfall at the next Natural History Museum Late. Visit pop-up science stations, have a few drinks beneath a whale skeleton and watch footage from the depths of the ocean. It’ll be like ‘Blue Planet’, only this show is live. Natural History Museum. Tube: South Kensington. Jul 27, 6pm-10pm. Free entry. Exhibition £11.50, £7.50 concs.

Only stay up past 9pm for food? Get a serotonin hit at these late-night ice-cream spots

Looking for more? Here are 11 London haunts that are worth staying up for  

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