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Best London Nightlife

AOL PICK from our Editors

Lounge-lover, retro Goth, theatre-phile, S&M exhibitionist, rare-groove champion, metal-head or pop-tart, there will be something on in London that will tick your boxes. The London nightlife scene has had a rough few years over the decade, with many legendary venues closing down. Battered and bereft as it may be, however, it’s still one of Europe’s best places to party. So take in a show, or hear live music, or check out the different scenes going on all over the capital.

Globe Theatre

Neighborhood: South Bank

This is a faithful replica of Shakespeare’s Globe that once stood in this area by the Thames, and with its courtyard open to the elements, this is simply a remarkable place to see Shakespeare. It’s not just a heritage experience, but also a theatrical conceit that lends itself perfectly to productions of Shakespeare. Best yet, “groundlings” tickets cost only £5 (though you will have to stand). This act sounds like it could be painful, but it actually adds to the experience, as groundlings stand in the pit closest to the action and feel remarkably involved. 

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Notting Hill Arts Club

Neighborhood: Notting Hill

If you’ve pitched Notting Hill as full of boho bankers and West London chi-chi-ness, think again. The Notting Hill Arts Club is defiantly, enduringly interesting, a sweaty basement where you can hear all sorts of dirty beats. There’ll always be an atmosphere here, with a small but jumping dance floor and lots of fellow funksters to watch.

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O2 Academy Brixton

Neighborhood: Brixton

This is the best London nightclub for listening to live music, so it’s well worth the slight trek out on the Tube to catch a gig here. It’s a great 1920s theatre, and what makes it great is not only the acoustics, but the raised viewing platforms up from the stage. Everyone gets a good view, whether prepared to fight to the front or not. It’s big enough to feel awesome, but small enough to feel intimate. Scour the website for what’s coming up and book well in advance for big names.

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Neighborhood: Shoreditch

This venerable East London landmark shakes up a well-rounded cocktail of music, dance and food, with its Street Food Cafe. There’s an exciting lineup of live music featuring up-and-coming bands or nightly DJs getting everyone under the railway arches grooving, and it’s usually free to enter on Friday nights—a rarity in this part of town. Music policy usually stretches from hip hop to breakbeat and world. Chill out in the courtyard, have some barbecue on the terrace or get sweaty on the dance floor.

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Bethnal Green Working Men's Club

Neighborhood: Bethnal Green

A traditional old-school workingman’s club that dates from the 1950s, this place has its original vintage fittings and a decidedly mischievous streak. The Bethnal Green Working Men's Club was at the forefront of London’s burlesque boom and still regularly holds unusual and inventive club and entertainment nights, such as kitsch ‘60s nights, louche lounge, burlesque competitions, prison parties and literary cabaret, with plenty of live music. There is a dress code enforced, so make an effort to dress up and also note: The bar takes cash only, so head to the ATM beforehand.

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