In most cities, you’re either a nightclub person or you’re not. There’s a pretty staunch divide between those willing to wait in line for a bouncer to usher them into a dark basement, and those content with beer chats at ground level. And we can’t blame the Los Angeles natives who don’t want to put up with huge covers or finagling their way onto a guestlist. London nightclubs, however, are a very special species: from Mayfair to Hackney, there’s something for everyone, and they often exist in conjunction with galleries or restaurants, record labels or — in the case of one of our favourites — yarn shops. We might be biased, but London clubs are some of the most vibrant and diverse in the world, and whether you want to dance til sunrise or mingle with borderline-aristocracy, you’ll be able to find something to make your night off a dream. And while some spots can be pricey, London’s massive, interconnected village structure mean that somewhere our there is a £4 drink with your name on it, even if you have to venture far afield. So put on your dancing shoes and leave snacks in the cupboard — after a night out in London you’ll be sleeping through brunch.
Photo courtesy of XOYO
XOYO remains unrivaled for London’s most forward-thinking, talent-focused musical lineups, and their policy of substance over style has paid off. Fridays and Saturdays at XOYO are packed to the brim, with every raver and tune hound vying for valuable floorspace. Mike Skinner, Jackmaster and Simian Mobile Disco all make the XOYO stage a second home, and they’ve welcomed acts from across the pond like Das Racist and their upstairs gallery features a selection of works from young artists internationally. XOYO is that rare type of venue where you can lose your mind and sweat like there’s no tomorrow, or simply bop your head to your favorite band.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: XOYO’s live line-up is always beautifully curated, and the venue is intimate enough to get up close and personal with your favorite groups and DJs
Arianna’s expert tip: Leave at least ten minutes before closing — when the lights come up the human congestion begins, and you might be stuck in that basement for a while.
The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club has been around since before Bethnal Green was cool. From its well-worn carpets to its atmosphere of a late 70’s town hall, it wears its history on its sleeve and has made no effort to glam up its exteriors, even amid the competition in nearby ultra-hip Shoreditch. And that’s because it doesn’t have to: inside its doors are some of the most eclectic ragers you’ll find east of Old Street. One night might celebrate “inharmonious aural antics”, the night before a tribute to 60s girl groups. French electro nights, “camptastic rave-ups”, and cabaret fests mean that you’ll never have the same night twice at BGWMC, and you’ll want to bookmark their events page.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Possibly no other club in London strives so hard for originality and freaky fun.
Arianna’s expert tip: Make sure you know where you’re going — the venue is well off the beaten track. Bethnal Green tube is your best bet.
It may come as a shock to anyone familiar with Drink Shop & Do’s ground level — cutesy crafting shop and glam-kitsch tearoom — but the King’s Cross hotspot also plays host to some of the most raucous Friday and Saturday nights you’ll find in N1. Unlike the bright, airy, make-believe tea party atmosphere upstairs, Drink Shop & Do’s basement is a cove of moody lighting and very grown-up cocktails. Grab a rose and lychee martini (Brokers gin, lychee liqueur, rose, Peychaud’s bitters, Turkish delight) for £9 and hit the floor when they start on the old school funk and cheesy 90’s pop.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Drink Shop & Do is such a novel concoction of high-brow twee and good old fashioned clubbing that you’re bound to have an unforgettable night.
Arianna’s expert tip: Don’t be put off by the sign — while more grown-up than its upstairs counterparts, the “Adult & Erotica” sign is just for show.
We probably don’t have to tell you what fabric is. More institution than nightclub, Fabric has been opening its doors to ravers and drum-and-bass enthusiasts, EDM pixies and grime goblins since it opened its doors in 1999, at the height of London’s house and breakbeat renaissance. It’s synonymous with the kind of London club scene that goes hand-in-hand with the gritty London glam that brought about its now infamous summer festival scene, and it draws a truly diverse crowd. While it may not remain as cutting-edge as Corsica Studios or Miranda, it brings together the most loyal followers of techno and all its sub-genres. Get there early and check its listings for tickets.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: There isn’t a native Londoner alive who hasn’t heard of Fabric, and you’ll never earn your club cred without a visit.
Arianna’s expert tip: Check out all its rooms! Though mostly techno/electro/drum-and-bass oriented, hip-hop and jungle can be found in its nooks.
Sleek, elegant, and old-school, Cuckoo Club is a shining example of glamorous London nightclubs done right. It’s the after-party spot for West End designers (Carmen Dell’Orefice, the world’s oldest working model and first ever supermodel, has graced the premises during London Fashion Week) and Mayfair sophisticates. Depending on the night, you could be dancing on tables (the Ibiza DJ set frequents the decks most months), or politely sip Belvedere. Though a member’s club, you’ll be able to snag a spot on the guest list with a little advance notice, so grab some friends and practice your seat-dancing — you’ll be there til the sun comes up over Regent Street.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: It’s the more civilized of the Mayfair club cache, perfect to let loose while still maintaining your dignity.
Arianna’s expert tip: Grab dinner on idyllic Heddon Street before your big night out.
The Ace Hotel houses foodie-lauded restaurant Hoi Polloi, communal workspaces hip enough to rival the i-D offices, and now edgy Miranda, situated in the hotel’s basement. It’s got the intimacy of a house party and the moody mystery of Dracula’s lair. But fear not, no attendees will be taking themselves all that seriously — nights include Cozy Boys (instruction on their Facebook page: “Dress to decompress”) and a gay hip-hop night whose name is too rude to publish. With so much packed into one building it’s easy to forget that The Ace in London is not yet two years old. A night out at Miranda will leave you with street cred to bring home with you and enough memories to get you through the hangover.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: For the Hackney crowd it is, quite simply, THE place to be.
Arianna’s expert tip: You can book the upstairs terrace bar for a private event before heading to the basement — perfect for a special occasion.
If swanky, dresscode-enforced nightclubs reminiscent of LA’s scene doesn’t seem like your thing, perhaps we can tempt you with a Tiki theme? Mahiki has been serving up Blue Hawaiians and Honolulu Honeys since opening its doors in 2005. The scene is Jet-Set and Sloanies (inhabitants of posh Sloane Square), frequently opening its doors to Sienna Miller, Lindsay Lohan, and members of the royal family. It’s where Kate Middleton went to rebound from Will with her girlfriends after their brief split in 2007, and it sits virtually nestled to the bosom of the megalithic Ritz Hotel. An night out at Mahiki will leave you feeling like an A-lister, but with piña coladas at £15 a pop (about $22) you might be living off C-list oat cakes for a while.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Sometimes you need to spend your nights doing some shameless celeb hunting.
Arianna’s expert tip: Plan for the dress code! If you get turned away the paparazzi will be there to capture every moment of it.
Dalston Superstore has more things going for it than you can count on two glittery, ink-stamped hands: cozy bar packed with east London’s young it-boys-and-girls, downstairs hyper-disco, and indulgent afternoon brunch spot. You could spend your days and nights in its cushioned seats and on its well-worn dance floor, and indeed some inhabitants of east London have spent the last five years doing exactly that. It draws the festival crowd with big-name DJ sets, the LGBT crowd with lineups like White Leather Viper Club and nights for “lesbians and their gay boyfriends”, and the peckish. (Go for the Emmental meatballs for £8. You’ll need the protein to dance.) Dalston has become one of the best-connected its of the east, so you’ll have no trouble catching a night bus — or early-morning-bus — on your way home.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Sometimes you just need to sweat out your demons and wake up with oodles of glitter on the duvet.
Arianna’s expert tip: On busy nights get there early (we’re talking 11:30pm) for elbow-room at the bar, before heading downstairs to the disco lair.
Maggie’s is an 80’s themed Chelsea bar and club named after former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, fully equipped with audio footage of her iconic speeches playing in the bathrooms, and neon splashed across the walls. It’s tacky, bizarre, and lighthearted — a much needed change of pace amid Chelsea’s Maserati-lined streets and Etonian watering holes. Though technically a members only club (you can apply for membership online) the club takes open bookings for VIP lists and private events, and offers up group batches of drinks like the A-Team Van (literally served in a plastic A-Team van, £80 and serves four) and the Wall Street martini (in a giant glass, £55 and serves three). With a little planning in advance, you and your friends could have the goofiest club night this side of the Thames. Tubular.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: See: laser show, disco theme, and all things Super Mario Bowl.
Arianna’s expert tip: If you’ve got it to burn, drop £645 on the Super Mario Bowl. The cauldron comes with it’s “very own theme tune and laser light show. You know it’s coming when you see a Super Mario FLYING over the crowd towards your table.”
One part music-snob secret-clubhouse, two party underground shrine to disco chaos, Corsica Studios is the venue you always dreamed of partying in. Though mainly of the techno, electro hip-hop persuasion, its legendary club night Baba Yaga’s Hut features everything from “Krautrock, 60’s psych and crime-jazz to baile-funk, progressive rock, blaxploitation soundtracks, no-wave disco, ghetto-tech and free noise”. And as it’s come of age (it opened its gates in 2005) Corsida Studios has begun providing more laid-back alternatives to its diverse attendees, including summer nights in its outdoor astroturf lounge just a short walk from both Borough Station and Elephant and Castle.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: It’s one of the few London clubs that has genuinely something for everyone.
Arianna’s expert tip: You can’t miss a Baba Yaga’s Hut night in London — check their listings!