London after dark – the best things to do in London at night

London after dark – the best things to do in London at night

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Too many things to do in London and not enough days in your trip to fit them into?

Make sure you schedule some night time activities in your London itinerary.

London comes alive after dark and you don’t want to miss seeing the city lit up in all its twinkling glory.

Here are our favourite things to do in London at night.

We have also included safety tips and night transport information.

Our top 3 activities

  1. Book tickets to a West End show – click here for more info
  2. Stroll along the Southbank
  3. Night bus tour of London – click here for more info
 
 

 

Best night views of London

There’s something about a city at night that gets my spine tingling. I love the sparkling lights and night time reflections.

Some of my favourite night time activities in London include taking in the views of the city.

Go to these places at dusk and watch London as the sun sets and its pretty lights light up the sky.

London Eye

london eye at night

With views over the Houses of Parliament and down the Thames, the 30 minute rotation of the London Eye is simply breathtaking.

Time your ride perfectly for dusk and you will enjoy one of the most memorable experiences of your trip to London.

This site tells you when dusk falls in London. The last hour of rides will give you the full night time experiences – more info on opening times

Top tip – Book skip the line tickets for the London Eye so you don’t waste time waiting Click to prebook London Eye tickets

For a truly special occasion or even just because you’re in London you can even sip champagne as you take in the views.

Sky Garden

 

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One of London’s best free attractions, the Sky Garden offers sweeping views of the city from its 34th and 37th stories.

Known to Londoners as the walkie-talkie building due to its shape, the sky scraper soars over Leadenhall Street and looks to the south over the river.

You can see the London Eye lit up from there and many other famous landmarks along the Thames.

If you are hungry or like dinner with a view there are three restaurants on site. I like to enjoy a sip of champagne at the bar.

The Shard

best night shard view

Dining with a view is one of my favourite activities and you can’t beat the glamorous atmosphere at  The Shard  where you eat with the whole of London twinkling below your feet.

My favourite restaurants at the Shard are Aqua Shard and Hutong – both quite luxurious with incredible menus. You will need to book well in advance for all the restaurants in this iconic building.

Or, you can just take in the view.

The View from the Shard is open late all year round and has some of the best vistas in London.

You get some of the best views of the Tower of London from The Shard

 click for more info and ticket prices

Portrait Restaurant – National Portrait Gallery

View from Portrait restaurant

For views that are a little more out of Mary Poppins or Peter Pan, I love Portrait, the National Portrait Gallery’s rooftop restaurant.

Here you dine and look out across Trafalgar Square and over the rooftops of London to the Houses of Parliament – read my full review

London museums and galleries at night

tate modern at night

With so many London galleries and museums to explore, why not take advantage of late openings and visit them when they are not as crowded – after dark.

Many of these venues are open late on Thursdays, Fridays and even Saturdays – here’s a quick list for you to plan your time.

I always recommend checking their websites for special opening times during your visit.

Thursday late night openings

The National Portrait Gallery closes at 9pm | The Barbican Art Gallery is open until 10pm

Friday late night openings

The British Museum stays open until 8:30pm | the National Gallery – 9pm | National Portrait Gallery until 9pm

Tate Modern – 10pm | Royal Academy of Arts closes at 10pm | Victoria & Albert Museum shuts at 10pm

Saturday late night openings

Tate Modern is open until 10pm

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Catch a show at London’s West End theatres

London is home to some of the most beautiful theatres and longest running shows in the world.  From Cats, to Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, if a show is successful in London it is likely to tour the world.

Your trip to London would not be complete without experiencing a show in the West End.

And there’s something for every taste too.

Last year we saw 42nd Street and loved the gorgeous costumes and fast paced choreography. Those who like something a little more cheeky The Book of Mormon receives rave reviews.

If you are travelling as a family keep a look out for shows like The Lion King and Matilda. These shows have been running for years and are always popular.

Click here to buy theatre tickets

London’s Soho and Covent Garden at night

photo booth london at night

For several hundred years Soho has been the centre of London nightlife.

Though now the area is gentrified and home to fashionable restaurants, bars and clubs, this area was once home to music halls, grungey pubs and the heart of the red light district.

Soho also has a more recent colourful past as the place where rock and roll legends such as David Bowie and the Sex Pistols played and got their lucky breaks.

Venues such as The Marquee Club and Ronnie Scott’s have played a huge part in the British music scene. They have hosted bands from the Beatles to Oasis. So pay your respects to your rock heroes as you wander Soho.

Simply take a stroll around the streets of Soho and Covent Garden at night. It’s great for people watching and checking out the light installations. The light show above pays tribute to the area’s fashion legacy.

Make sure to stop by Covent Garden and Leicester Square where you always find some of the world’s most talented street performers.

And if you are interested in checking the local food scene, this Soho Food tour comes highly recommended – click for more info about the Soho food tour

London pubs and bars

London Pub #4

When you think of London, proper British pubs immediately spring to mind right?

Sadly pub culture is on the decline in favour of European style bars but there are still plenty to visit on your London trip.

Pubs to visit in London

 

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Cosy, warm pubs with patrons sipping their ale is one of those iconic experiences you must have when you visit London.

There are around 7,000 pubs in London and many of them have a long and fascinating past. These are the best establishments to visit in my opinion.

One of the oldest pubs in the city  is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Here you can drink in the same venue as Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson once did.

How British right? Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – you can’t make this up – isn’t it a fabulous name?

Another favourite near Borough Market and London Bridge is the George Inn – the last galleried inn in London. Dickens was here too and the pub was even mentioned in his book Little Dorritt.

This site has a great list of pubs by area in London so you can find one near where you are staying.

Or you could take a guided pub tour and find out the history behind the famous watering holes. Soho is a great area to do this thanks to the rich music history of the area. 

You can drink in the same watering holes as the Beatles and David Bowie and hear stories about how they rose to fame.

Click for more info about the Soho pubs tour

Pubs start to get busy around 5pm as the working day finishes. They stay open until 11pm.

If you are travelling as a family I’d probably avoid this activity after dark unless you find a pub that specifically welcomes children.

London bars

There are countless bars in London, from the divey to the downright swanky.

I choose bars that offer a more upscale experience and an ambience where you can talk. Here are a few picks for heading out on the town.

Some more suggestions here

If you like your bars noisy and crowded, head to Shoreditch or Camden where you find revellers spilling onto the streets.

Restaurants in London

From fine dining to cheap eats, there is something for everyone in London. I like to to have at least one special dinner out when I’m traveling and make a night of it.

Here are some favourite restaurants you should try from posh (and pricey) fine dining to fun restaurants showcasing international cuisine.

Note – you must book well in advance to secure a table at these popular restaurants. I recommend using the Open Table app to book many London restaurants online

Fine dining- £££

  • Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – celebrity experimental chef does classic British fare with a twist. Must try dish: meat fruit
  • Spring – elegant produce driven menu in stunning Somerset House – a former palace
  • Chiltern Firehouse – celebrity favourite with a delicious European style menu by chef André Balazs

Fun world food – ££

 

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  • Dishoom – posh Indian dishes and lovely cocktails
  • Barrafina – lovely Spanish tapas bar with great wine
  • NOPI – Yotam Ottolenghi’s fun middle eastern brasserie

On those nights when you just want to wander and soak up the atmosphere, try this list of quick and tasty eating venues in London


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Best night tours in London

If you’ve been following Untold Morsels for a while, you know that we are huge fans of taking tours on our travels.

 
 


 

London has some brilliant night tours that take you back in time, on a foodie journey of discovery or simply seeing the sights.

Here are some favourite London night tours:

Jack the Ripper ghost tour

Not for the faint of heart, this spooky tour takes you around the reported sites of the 19th century Whitechapel murders. It actually gave me the shivers!

Victorian era London was a dark and grimy place full of characters like the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.

The identity of the Ripper is an ongoing mystery and on the tour you get to make up your own mind about his identity.

Click for Jack the Ripper tour info 

 

London food tour

middle eastern dumplings

Some of London’s best eating comes from its immigrant communities – Indians and Pakistanis in particular have made their mark on British cuisine.

Join a London food tour and taste dishes from all over the world. From Chinese dumplings to fragrant curries and salty jamon from Spain, this food tour of Soho is a fun way to explore London’s eclectic food scene and learn about the city’s culture along the way.

Click for London food tour info

Thames cruise with dinner

night river cruise london

The Thames River weaves its way through the city of London past iconic landmarks and historic sites.

What better way to enjoy the lights of London at night than on a Thames river cruise.

Spot St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament along with many other favourite Londons sights as you relax over a 5 course meal.

Landmarks like the London Eye have special light installations that look amazing from the river. Some tours take you as far as Greenwich.

Click for Thames dinner cruise info

More night tour options

Stroll along the South Bank

things to do in london at night

Walk right next to the River Thames from Borough Market to the London Eye.

Along the way you pass the Tate Modern, Globe Theatre Millennium Bridge and National Theatre. It’s an area buzzing with people, restaurants and seasonal activities.

On the other side of the river, landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Somerset House, and the modern buildings of the city are beautifully lit. This is one of the best places to take night photos of London.

If you head east along the South Bank, it’s a shorter walk taking in beautiful views of the Tower of London with The Shard soaring overhead.

The South Bank is one of my favourite places to visit in London at night.

Late night shopping in London

harrods at night

If you are in London to do some shopping, many Oxford Street stores open until 9pm every day except Sunday and even later on Thursdays. Store hours do vary though so check online to make sure they are open when you plan to go.

Selfridges keeps these hours but my favourite store – Liberty of London – closes at 8pm and 6pm on Sundays.

In Knightsbridge, Harrods opens until 9pm except on Sundays while Harvey Nichols shuts at 8pm.

For affordable fashion and vintage items, Spitalfields Market over in the east of London opens until 8pm most nights.

Is London safe at night?

underground london

For the most part, London is a very safe place to venture out at night, especially if you are sticking to the main tourist areas.

Due to recent events, London has considerable police presence on the streets. The city also has a huge number of CCTV cameras acting as a deterrent for criminal behaviour.

Having said that, it’s always advisable to take precautions when travelling in one of the biggest cities in the world.

Use these tips for staying safe in London after dark.

  1. Plan your journey – make sure you are aware of the best routes to get to and from your destination
  2. Stick to major roads and streets in well lit areas
  3. Keep valuables such as cameras, purses, phones, jewellery and wallets hidden and well secured
  4. Make sure you are accompanied when using an ATM – try to use them in daylight hours
  5. Avoid walking alone or using headphones
  6. Hail a black cab if you are lost – you can use the MyTaxi or Gett apps for licensed black cabs
  7. The emergency number in the UK is 999

Getting around London at night

night tube

Thanks to the night tube and night buses, public transport in central London runs 24 x 7 and is safe and convenient. Timetables vary so check the Transport for London website for latest information.

Since Uber lost their licence in London, I use black cabs at night if I am not near a tube station.

Download the MyTaxi or Gett apps to hail licensed black cabs.

What are your favourite things to do in London at night?

London after dark is as fun as in the day time.

My favourite thing to do in London at night is sip a cocktail at Aqua Shard high above the twinkling city lights and Tower of London.


Remember, darkness falls quickly in London during wintertime – as early as 4pm! – so it’s a good idea to plan some of these night time activities if you are visiting from November to March.


Disclaimer – Untold Morsels assists our readers with carefully chosen product and services recommendations that help make travel easier and more fun. If you click through and make a purchase on many of these items we may earn a commission. All opinions are our own – please read our disclosure page for more information.

 

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The creator, writer and photographer behind Untold Morsels, Katy has been travelling and tasting the world since she was a teenager.

Now the proud mum of twins, she hopes they grow up to share her passions of great food, wine and travel. Favourite destination: Italy

London England: Best things to do in London at night. After dark London travel guide. Best London views at night | London pubs | London bars | London museums with late opening | London safety tips | London transport at night #london #cityguide #travel
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15 Comments

    • Katy
      Author
      28th January 2018 / 5:11 AM

      Oh Tanja – you must go see a show – it’s such a fantastic London experience

  1. 27th January 2018 / 10:32 AM

    We went up the Shard during the day and it was nice, but I think this time we will have to try during the evening! It’s soooo much prettier lit up!

    • Katy
      Author
      28th January 2018 / 5:12 AM

      The Shard at night is quite glam – I love it. Dress fancy and enjoy!

  2. 30th January 2018 / 10:45 AM

    Reading this makes me realise how little I have seen of London, despite living half an hour away from it for over 20 years?! Oops. Well, I’m going to resolve to get to know Sydney as well as I possibly can in the time I have here!

    My favourite place to go in London after dark is the whole Soho area between Oxford Street all the way down to Piccadilly Circus. That whole area is just a lot of fun (also you can get a sneaky ice cream on your way if you fancy it!)

    • Katy
      Author
      30th January 2018 / 11:52 PM

      Ah ha, yes, I am all for that sneaky ice cream. Wandering Soho is a night out in itself isnt it? Thanks for stopping by Rachel

  3. 1st February 2018 / 8:40 AM

    Wow, there are so many things to do in London at night when you write them down! I too love walking around London at night, particularly the river area around Westminster and the South Bank. I love your guide to night time viewing points, the London skyline is beautiful at night. #FarawayFiles

  4. 1st February 2018 / 11:35 AM

    Great ideas!
    Also, this made me miss London so much! I should really plan trip there soon. #FarawayFiles

  5. 1st February 2018 / 12:10 PM

    I LOVE walking along the southbank after dark. Those pretty blue lights in the trees! The George Inn is one of my favouries, too – you’re spot-on there! #FarawayFiles

  6. 1st February 2018 / 12:13 PM

    London looks so pretty at night! Wish I didn’t live as far away as I do now, means I don’t get to spend many evenings in London anymore… 🙁 #FarawayFiles

  7. 1st February 2018 / 3:34 PM

    London at night is fantastic and it starts wonderfully early in the winter too. You can see the fabulous Christmas lights from about 4pm in December. I’ve always loved Soho at night. I used to love going to Bar Italia after the pubs closed so sit out on the pavement with a coffee before heading into listen to jazz at Ronnie Scott’s. #farawayfiles

  8. 1st February 2018 / 7:15 PM

    So many wonderful ideas here and fabulous photos too! We took advantage of the evening hours during our visit, but didn’t get a chance to visit the Shard or the Sky Garden. The later of which was booked the entire time we were in town… next time I guess. #farawayfiles

  9. 2nd February 2018 / 3:32 AM

    So many fantastic things to do in London at night. The first time I saw Les Mis was in London, and will always be that quintessential London experience in my eyes. And a good pub. #farawayfiles

  10. 7th February 2018 / 1:31 AM

    Sigh…I love London so much and wish it were closer to me so I could visit more! All of these suggestions sound so great. I would love to see the view from the top of The Shard. I also love the look of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – and it was rebuilt in 1667?! How crazy. #farawayfiles

  11. Knowing what winter is like in Northern Europe, I love seeing fun things to do after dark descends. It’s awesome to know that a city doesn’t shut down after dark. Not that I EVER assumed London would be dead after dusk. HA! Great list. Love the lights and lovely options for every desire around London. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin