Music venues and theatres London

The best music venues and theatres in London

London is jam packed with culture, from tiny dive bar venues to stadia to palatial theatres. Here’s our pick of the bunch.

There are few places in the world which offer more musical and theatrical options than London, with gigs, concerts and performances to be found somewhere in the city 365 days a year. Those looking for live music in London are particularly spoilt for choice – often the only problem is finding that two of your favourite artists are playing at the same time. The O2 in Greenwich and Wembley Stadium in north-east London are two of the city’s largest and most famous venues, having played host to global megastars such as Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Michael Jackson over the years. Another enormous venue is the Roundhouse in Camden, a cavernous arena which has played host to acts as diverse as Nils Frahm and The Flaming Lips, while big name artists can also be found at Camden’s KOKO and south London’s O2 Academy Brixton, which has been putting on rock gigs since 1983.
Discover London’s hidden gems
However, while these massive arenas offer a great chance to see successful bands in their pomp, one of the best things about live music in London is the countless smaller venues across the city, which showcase talented artists of every genre from around the world. The Borderline is a great example, a Soho institution and a mainstay of the city’s live music scene, which has provided a platform for rock and indie acts for over 20 years, while another legendary venue nearby is the 100 Club on Oxford Street – live music has been played here regularly since 1942 and the club is home to the world longest running Northern Soul all-nighter. For something a bit different, the Union Chapel in trendy Islington is a working church which doubles as a gig venue as night, offering a unique experience where the audience sits on the pews while performers play near the altar – it’s a beautiful place for intimate acoustic concerts. The Royal Albert Hall is another particularly magnificent building, with the occasional film music galas performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra a particular highlight for movie fans.
From jazz to soul
Jazz-lovers should ensure they make the pilgrimage to Ronnie Scott’s, which was established in 1959 and oozes style and sophistication, while the 606 Club is a lesser-known jazz gem which can be found not far from the Kings Road in upmarket Chelsea. Swing and soul bands provide the entertainment at the Blues Kitchen in buzzing Shoreditch, a spot which also happens to offer very tasty food and cracking cocktails. Reggae and ska are often on the menu at Hootenanny in Brixton, while Camden’s Jazz Café showcases a variety of genres despite its name, including soul and r’n’b acts. Those who want to check out the next big thing at a properly authentic London gig venue would be wise to make their way to The Lexington in Angel, where up-and-coming indie bands ply their trade and there’s usually a cracking atmosphere. Many groups which went on to achieve great things, such as Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand, also performed early gigs at the Barfly in Camden, a rough and ready venue which champions rock and alternative upstarts.
World famous theatre
When it comes to theatre, London’s West End is famous around the globe, having been the original home of musicals which have gone on to become huge hits the world over, such as The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and The Lion King. Aside from the obvious big players in the London theatre game, other quality options include the Donmar Theatre in Covent Garden, a not-for-profit enterprise with an international reputation as one of the UK’s leading producing theatres, while more alternative and experimental performances are put on at the lesser-known Jackson’s Lane Theatre in north London’s Highgate.
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