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The majority of pubs close at 11pm, though recent statute reforms allow premises to apply for 24 hour licensing. Some pubs have stuck to 11pm closing but chain pubs, bars (close between 12:30 and 1:30am weekdays, 1-3am weekends) and clubs (most close at 4am, some open until 7 or 8am) generally stay open later.
All around the city you’ll find traditional pubs with bizarre-sounding names like “The Dog and Duck”. Some may actually be chain pubs, mass marketed to get tourists in who want an “authentic” British pub experience and it can be hard to tell the difference from the outside. Although the tourist areas like Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly and The Strand are clogged with a variety of pubs, it doesn’t hurt to get off-the-beaten path in order to find your true British pub experience.
For those looking for the trendy up-market bars for the rich and famous you should consider heading either to South Kensington to Collections or Walton street where you will see all the Chelsea crowds or take a trip into the West End and visit bars such as The Sanderson Hotel, Cocoon, Moose or a drink in Nobu on Berkely Square. Be advised that to be in mixed groups and be looking glamorous and prepared to spend £13-20 a drink. When inside, you will witness why London is the best city in the world for Cocktails! A hidden gem, located a short walk away from Old Street Station, Nightjar is one of London's cocktail bars you should not miss. Guided by a menu organized in chronological order, you will have the opportunity to relive all the history of the cocktail concept.
Insider tip: For the achingly hip, Shoreditch is the place to see and be seen. This area has become more and more popular over the years due to an influx of artists living in the area (although as real estate prices go up, the poor starving artists are being pushed out) and is generally still less expensive than places like Soho. There’s a wide variety of clubs and bars in the area, so take your pick.
In the Clapham area, the scene is filled with young professional types often just left University and around the Angel tube station you’ll find plenty of “townie” type pubs.
Don’t think about it too much when choosing a place or your head will start spinning. Go in, order a pint and if it’s not your scene, well, that’s why bar-hopping was invented!
Finding the right club for your big night out is not very hard as long as you know what you’re looking for, whether it be drum-n-bass, techno, hip hop, house, or jazz. Every neighbourhood has a slightly different vibe but this should help get you started. Clubs in London range from the very VIP. to the jeans-and-sweatshirt kinds of places where the attitude is minimum. While some clubs are strictly all about one kind of music, at others you’ll find that every night of the week will be devoted to a different theme, so again, check with the local bible, Time Out, before hitting the clubs.
If celeb spotting is your main goal, then get dressed in your best and try to get into Project or Cirque Du Soir in Soho or ,one of London’s most exclusive clubs. Soho is also where you will find many of London’s top gay clubs. If you are looking for a venue where you with a choice of a cocktail bar and lounge as well as an exclusive night club Amika located on South Molton Street Mayfair is very much recommended. A-Listers like Justin Bieber, Rhianna, P Diddy, Jennifer Lopez, Jeremy Pivens, Rita Ora, Naomi Campbell, Prince Harry....in fact the list is endless, so many have come to this venue.
London is one of the major destinations in the world for Jetsetters with exquisite Member clubs which can be very difficult to get in and find unless your dressed for the camera's, in the know and on a guest list of some sort. To help your chances of entry it's advisable to order bottle service at a table with your friends which all carry minimum spends. These clubs are super exclusive and all are over 21 and are strict on mixed groups of girls to guys. Right now the best exclusive VIP Clubs in London are arguably Amika, Maddox, Cuckoo,DSTRKT,Libertine, Boujis Project & Cirque Du Soir. Often the most popular method to book your name on the door is through the popular GListsite where you stand in good stead to witness one of these spectacular clubs. If you are 18 to 20 Mason House and Jalouse are recommended.
A veritable institution in the club scene, the famous Ministry of Sound in South London celebrates its 14th birthday this year, so fans of house should plan to take in a night of music here.
Leicester Square is home to some of the most tourist-oriented clubs, as a result of it's central location and proximity to the famous sites of Piccadilly Circus. These bars and clubs can be overpriced: the price of a bottle of beer can approach £5! If you want to sample the nightlife there, and keep the prices reasonable, there are an array of different organised pub crawls around that area that run every night.
Covent Garden is also generally crowded with tourists, although the scene is slightly less ridiculous than in Leicester Square. The best way to enjoy this area is to grab a drink at the Piazza, enjoy some people watching and then head out to Soho or another hip spot or dancing.
As mentioned in the Bars section, Shoreditch attracts a very hip, arty clientele and here you’ll find a fantastic club scene with places like Cargo, Catch and Medicine Bar.
Clubbing in London can get expensive but if you get there early, you can at least save some dough on the cover charges since it’s usually cheaper before 10 or 11 pm. Sure, you won’t be fashionably late, but that’s better than paying an obscene cover charge at the door.
Many of the London clubs offer a guest list service and if you have access to the internet and know when and where you want to go, it is advisable to e-mail the guest list as it sometimes saves you having to queue and is cheaper than paying at the door.
Several places in London are well known for their music quality (eg, jazz aficionados would look no further than the famed Ronnie Scott’s in Soho, while rock lovers would probably consider the Hammersmith Apollo and Classical lovers the Royal Albert Hall). However, what makes London unique is the huge number of venues that organise concerts on a daily or weekly basis. Have a look at a website like Timeout to decide where to go. The easiest way to find tickets to the best live music shows while you are in London is through apps like DICE that doesn't charge any booking fees. Music is generally good quality, and many concerts are free.
When travelling back to your hotel in London at night remember to check that your minicab is licensed - they should have a sticker on their back window with their PCO number. Never get into a cab if you are not sure if it is licensed. only black cabs can be 'called' in the street. Other minicabs need to be hired (usually on the phone) so a good rule of thumb is "if the driver asks if you need a minicab", be suspicious. Many venues however have licensed minicabs stationing at the main entrance, just ask in the venue for more info. A useful phone number to keep is CABWISE: Text HOME to 60835 to get the numbers of one taxi and two licensed minicab firms, in the area you are texting from.
Black cabs can be hard to come by late at night but the night buses run mainly from Trafalgar square for the same price as during the day. They run all night usually at half hour intervals but some are more frequent. Check with Transport for London before you travel for details of night buses.
Other websites including general London information are:
TimeOut London - Very good guide on London's social events
DICE - Great gigs (Adele, Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar) with no annoying booking fees!