London is a wonderful place to just wander and stumble into any bar you come across. Pubs seem to just spill out on the sidewalk, and it’s really easy to fine a good time just walking down the street. Many of my favorite nights (and more than a few Friday afternoons, when my team took a ‘London lunch’) were spent in bars I completely just happened upon.
One I can speak highly of (but is in one of the most touristy areas imaginable – Soho/Theater District) is The Coach and Horse. My friends and I wandered in after a show, and found an energetic crowd singing the hits accompanied by a piano. Hearing my American accent, the bartender asked where I was from. “New York” I admitted (being the easiest answer at the time – I’d never pretend to be a life-long New Yorker). “OI WE HAVE A NEW YORKER” he yelled at the pianist. A minute later, a packed bar in London was belting “New York, New York.” It’s one of my favorite London memories.
My favorite bars/clubs in London are mostly in two areas: Chelsea, and Camden Town. These two areas are a bit touristy, depending on where you go, but also have pockets of hidden gems!
Chelsea: Chelsea is one of the wealthiest areas of London, and the nightlife here has that feel to it. In New York language, I would say it’s most parallel to going out in Meatpacking. Girls in dresses and heels, guys in slacks and button downs, even a suit jacket if the weather’s cool enough.
Most of the nightlife in Chelsea is off of one street: King’s Road. Conveniently also on the same street: a Pizza Express. My friend Cena and I would get dinner and share a bottle of wine at Pizza Express, carb-load before going out at two popular spots on King’s Road: Raffles and 151 Club.
Camden Town: Camden Town is a bit more casual. Relative to New York, I would equate it to an East Village feel. Jeans and a fun top with booties is more the trend for girls; guys would be comfortable in jeans and a t shirt.
There are multiple bar crawls you can buy a wrist band to – usually these are HUGE groups that wander some of the highlights of Camden together (and maybe get a free drink at some of the bars). I did one when I studied abroad, with some friends that were visiting, and it ended up being a cool way to see Camden’s highlights, but it was a bit touristy.
My favorites in Camden:
Proud Camden: this is an old horse hospital, that has been converted into a bar space (with the stalls made into VIP rooms). There are 5 bars spread out throughout Proud, which means shorter lines
Koko: this is an old theater (think balconies and ornate ceiling and curtains) that has been converted into a five story club. The orchestra is a dance pit, and the live music here is pretty good! If you’re not into dancing, the mezzanine and balcony also have their own bar spaces
An important end of the night staple in London: Kabab. Either on a sandwich, or in a platter – it’s always amazing and delicious… The London equivalent to Dollar Slice Pizza!
Important to note: The Tube doesn’t run 24/7, so have a plan to get home (either cab or Uber/Gett is my suggestion if you’re just visiting, although the busses run 24 hours).