Whatever your genre of choice, London is home to many exceptional music venues. We’ve rounded up eight of the very best…
Words Rachel Worth
London is one of the greatest cities in the world when it comes to live music. The Capital’s many venues and spaces form an integral part of its cultural heritage. Nothing beats the euphoria of seeing your favourite artist perform live: the sounds, the crowd and the atmosphere. If you’re seeking a new sonic stomping ground, read on…
Corsica Studios, Elephant and Castle
Get a taste of Berlin nightlife at this low-key, open-til-very-late gem. Loved for its intimate atmosphere, Corsica Studios boasts one of London’s best sound systems. It is also an independent arts association that sets up creative spaces around London. Comprising two spaces, there is an area for revelling and a smaller studio next door. When night falls, decibels rise and energy soars. Find this unpretentious treasure beneath two railway arches, round the back of Elephant and Castle’s shopping centre.
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Soho
This Soho superstar opened its doors in 1959 and has been shining bright ever since. With the likes of Miles Davis and Nina Simone having graced its stage, Ronnie Scott’s is unsurprisingly one of the world’s most respected Jazz clubs. Despite this, the basement club has retained a snug ‘speakeasy’ feel. Take to the ever-buzzing late bar and savour New Orleans circa 1920. And, if all the swinging and toe-tapping happens to spark your appetite, a great selection of food is also served here.
The Union Chapel, Islington
When it is not playing host to an impressive mix of musical acts, The Union Chapel is a working church and drop-in centre for the homeless. This not-for-profit venue’s gothic interior becomes truly divine when the stage lights up and fans take to the pews. Former musical deities who have performed here include Ray Davies, Patti Smith and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.
The Village Underground, Shoreditch
This is one Shoreditch venue you should not overlook, though you would be hard-pressed not to given its striking appearance. Nestled amongst vibrant graffiti and recycled Jubilee Line carriages, The Village Underground is the East London music fanatic’s nirvana. Opening in 2006 in a renovated warehouse, its mission was to provide an affordable hub for struggling creatives. Now playing host to an eclectic array of genres in its 1,000 capacity, it is one of the Capital’s most unique hotspots.
Formerly a theatre known as ‘Camden Palace’, this North London haunt is one of the city’s most cherished venues. Former performers include rock royalty The Rolling Stones and queen of pop Madonna, who debuted her first UK performance here. For letting your hair down to your favourite acts, KOKO is pretty much perfect: big, brash and beautiful. It is also home to Europe’s biggest disco ball.
The Jazz Cafe, Camden
Also flying the flag for Camden is The Jazz Cafe, an intimate space dedicated to jazz, soul and electro. Legends Amy Winehouse, Roy Ayers and Faithless have all headed spellbinding shows here. The Jazz Cafe consists of two levels, including an upstairs mezzanine restaurant with a fabulous view. Open until 3am at weekends, the vibe is at once relaxed and invigorating.
Cafe OTO, Dalston
Cafe by day and gig venue by night, Cafe OTO has earned its reputation as one of East London’s best spaces for music of the avant-garde ilk. With simple bare walls and no discernible stage, this venue lets the music speak for itself. Offering an eclectic menu of acts seven nights a week, it is the place to be if you fancy chasing your Americano with a splash of Art Rock.
Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush
Built in 1904, Bush Hall has a colourful history. Once a dance hall, a soup kitchen and bingo hall, it is now dedicated to offering a varied music programme. As you step inside the venue, the pared-down exterior gives way to a small but perfectly-formed space with Edwardian plasterwork and colossal chandeliers. The sound quality isn’t affected by the ornate interior, with the likes of Adele having recently performed secret shows here. The slight wedding reception feel only adds to its charm; it is the perfect space to trip the light fantastic to your favourite tunes.