London has a reputation as a bustling city of power, passion and prestige, and accordingly there is no shortage of options for your entertainment needs. Whether it be live music, clubbing, theatre, comedy, or eating out with a good bottle of red, there’s a venue, night, and occasion for all.
When you’ve got your bearings, it’s time to pick up a copy of TNT to find out what’s going on. In the meantime, here’s our guide to the biggest, best and most essential things to see, do and be a part of.
London’s live music scene is the talk of the town – and beyond. With a host of venues catering for the small intimate gigs as well as the ground-shaking arena epics, there’s accommodation for even the planet’s biggest stars. The newly refurbished Wembley Stadium is the natural stop for the world’s biggest acts, with Muse, Metallica and Foo Fighters having unleashed their live shows here in recent years.
The nearby Wembley Arena is host to popular telly shows such as the perennial X Factor, in addition to comedians and bands – Flight of the Conchords performed a sell-out show here not two years ago.
The O2 Arena, formerly ‘the Dome’ has, in the space of five years, quickly cemented itself as one of the world’s most popular venues in the country.
An ‘intimate large venue’ if you will, it hosts a variety of shows, comedians and gigs ranging from TV show Strictly Come Dancing’s live tour and stand-up comedian Lee Evans to rock legends Led Zeppelin.
As well as catering for the big guns, there are all manner of smaller scale venues across the city. The famous 100 Club (the100club.co.uk) in Oxford Street is a small venue that has seen the likes of the Sex Pistols and, more recently, Oasis, and was supported by none other than Paul McCartney when threatened with closure. King’s Cross’ The Scala (scala-london.co.uk) is an intimate venue par excellence, getting you up close and personal with the performers, and north London’s Highbury Garage is a regular stop for indie and rock’s finest.
Brixton Academy is world famous; the former theatre and cinema having been the setting for live albums by the likes of Motorhead and Franz Ferdinand, and a regular stop for alternative bands, pop acts as well as comedians.
The rejuvenated Roundhouse in Camden is an arts and music venue steeped in history, so too the Hammersmith Apollo which is a fave for top-selling artists and comedians alike and is host for the comedy show Live At The Apollo.
For those missing the sounds of home, don’t worry as plenty of bands and comedians from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa tour their shows over here.
Remember to check the pages of TNT for listings. There’s nothing like supporting homegrown talent overseas, and a special, one-off thrill can be found seeing bands from home abroad.
Most bands’ official websites have links to booking, or reminders when tickets go on sale. Sites such as Ticketweb or SeeTickets offer weekly newsletter letting you know who’s playing when and where so you don‘t miss out.
If you’ve missed the initial sale then there are a number of sites where you can buy or sell tickets for gigs and shows too, such as seatwave.com and viagogo.com. The price might be steep, but sometimes there’s no price on seeing your favourite band.
Electro, techno, house, trance, R&B, garage – whatever you’re after, there’s sounds to suit with clubs ready to challenge even the most energetic of clubbers.
Ministry of Sound in Southwark, south London, is one of the clubbing scene’s mainstay attractions. With five rooms, four bars, four dancefloors, and four DJ booths, there is plenty to keep you going to the small hours.
Fabric in Farringdon is a top ten regular in ‘Best Club in the World’ polls in the press, and it lives up to its billing. It has three rooms including a ‘bodysonic’ dancefloor’ which pulses bass through your feet.
Electric Brixton, formerly The Fridge, is a new, young upstart on the club scene and well worth checking out. In the summer, EGG near King’s Cross and Dex Club in Brixton (dexclub.co.uk) both boast balcony terraces so you can check out the tunes in glorious sunshine.
Classical, opera & dance
All tastes are catered for in London, so if you fancy taking it down a notch for some classical accompaniment or perhaps an outing for the opera, look no further. Wigmore Hall, in Marylebone, is one of the world’s top chamber music halls, and boasts a fine restaurant to boot.
The Barbican Centre, opened in 1982, has a deceptive appearance. From the outside it’s a concrete beast, but the architecture disguises the poly-purpose arts complex which hosts exhibitions, theatre, dance and performance.
The Royal Opera House is one the world’s foremost venues for watching the fat lady sing, and encourages those seeking their debut opera experience.
This eight-week classical music festival is world famous. Founded more than a hundred years ago, it consists of some 70 concerts held in the Royal Albert Hall, as well as a series of chamber concerts at Cadogan Hall and Proms In The Park events to coincide with the final night.
The Last Night Of The Proms is a sight to behold. Decked out with Union Jacks as far as the eye can see, it takes British national pride to its zenith, with Land Of Hope And Glory and Rule Britannia! mainstays of the event.
If there’s one thing the Brits have, it’s a sense of humour – come on, they’ve needed it – which is played out through the city’s wealth of comedy venues. Boasting living-room-known names, up-and-coming talent and fresh faces, there are laughs for all, and for all tastes.
Jongleurs is a nation-wide branch of comedy stores, which sells comedy as a packaged night out, including food and post-laughs music.
The Comedy Store is a long-serving club that has been instrumental in the growth of alternative comedy, shepherding many young talents to success.
Fat Tuesday at the Compass is a smaller affair, but the laughs just as big; Live at the Chapel scores points for its foul-mouthed behaviour in a church, an unlikely setting for an evening of comedy that includes a tea-serving kiosk (very British) and live music too; and the Soho Theatre is famed for its intimate presentation of established acts.
London’s West End has it all. There are the mainstream musicals such as the long-running We Will Rock You, Billy Elliot andChicago, and Green Day’s American Idiot is set to open at the end of the year.
Then there are the more high-brow options with any number of new plays and performances opening on a weekly basis.
It has also become somewhat fashionable for big name actors and actresses – from the UK and the States – to take a spell treading the boards in the limelight, recent guests to the London stage including David Schwimmer, Christian Slater and Ethan Hawke.
The theatre experience is not complete without dinner beforehand, an interval bevvie and then perhaps a follow up afterwards, you know, to discuss the show you’ve just seen. A handy place to check what’s rocking the West End can be found at
For those seeking an injection of the artistic, they need look no further than London’s many non-commercial theatres which, frequently though government funding, offer a diverse range of productions and performances where the emphasis is less on the populist.
For those more interested in the silver screen, London has a plenty of cinemas.
The Picturehouse chain, which has prized establishments in Clapham and Brixton, skews more towards independent releases, often throwing in film quizzes and themed seasons, with Curzon geared towards arthouse and Euro fare.
The Prince Charles in Leicester Square is a film fan’s fave with its line up of retro and contemporary cinema cool.
The BFI Southbank houses three screens that show a selection of mainstream, independent and prestige films, while often delving in to the archives.
It is also home to the BFI London Film Festival which runs in the autumn.