One of the world’s most visited cities, with 19 million foreign visitors in 2016, London is vibrant and diverse.
Tourists flock London to visit the Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, but there’s nothing quite like the experience of hopping on a red double-decker bus and seeing some of the most recognizable sights in the world from its top deck.
London’s diversity means that there is something for everyone. Bustling Oxford Street and Regent Street attract shoppers from around the world. The many (free) museums and historic attractions are open to a record number of visitors. The architectural grandeur of West London amazes many, and the hip and creative East inspires London’s inhabitants and visitors.
London’s riverbanks, parks, secret spots, art, charming pubs, and a vivid nightlife are only some of the reasons why London is one of the world’s most visited and photographed cities.
Here’s what you can do in London at night:
1. Visit the Sky Garden
Sky Garden, at 20 Fenchurch Street, boasts two bars and two restaurants, located among three stories of exquisite public gardens, with 360-degree panoramic city views as a backdrop.
You can visit the Sky Garden for free. Book your free visit online between 10 am and 6 pm on weekdays, and 11 am and 9 pm on weekends. Each visitor is allotted an hour within the Sky Garden unless you book a meal at one of the restaurants, which naturally may take longer.
An hour suffices to walk around the garden and relax if you are not going to have a meal. However, for the ultimate night time experience, book a dinner at either of the two renowned restaurants and enjoy the London panorama.
Alternatively, you can grab a drink or a light snack, with many cocktails and sharing boards available.
Tickets are sought after, especially on weekends, so make sure to book in advance.
2. Visit a London museum
Many London museums and galleries have late openings with talks, performances, workshops, films, and more. In fact, after-hour events have become a regular thing at many of London’s top cultural attractions.
This is not only great for employed London residents who cannot make it to regular museum hours, but it’s also great for visitors who often don’t have enough time to visit all the famous London institutions.
Luckily, there’s a long list of attractions that open in the evening for a late night culture fix.
Here are some of them:
– The Barbican galleries are open until 10 pm every Thursday during exhibitions.
– Science Museum Lates are on the last Wednesday of every month (except December).
– V&A’s Friday Late is on the last Friday of every month (except May and December).
– Natural History Museum Lates are on the last Friday of every month.
– Late at Tate Britain is held bi-monthly on the first Friday of that month.
– British Museum Friday Lates are every Friday (except Good Friday).
– National Portrait Gallery is open from 6 pm to 9 pm every Thursday and Friday.
– Camden Arts Centre is open until 9 pm every Wednesday.
– The Royal Academy of Arts is open until 10 pm every Friday.
– Tate Modern exhibitions are open on Fridays and Saturdays until 10 pm.
3. Have a dinner on the Thames
London definitely doesn’t lack in restaurants, but sometimes it’s good to switch it up. Having a boat dinner is a great way to see London from a unique perspective.
Here are some of London’s best river cruises:
Bateaux offers a variety of different dining cruises along the Thames. There’s the lunch, afternoon tea and dinner cruise, and even a live jazz band playing all the classics. Cruises depart from Victoria Embankment.
– London Thames River Dinner Cruise
Take to the Thames for a 2.5-hour river dinner cruise past London’s waterfront sights, with live music included. Have a 4-course meal and pass top London attractions such as Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben.
The departure point for this tour is Westminster Pier at 7:45 pm. Highlights include an excellent cabaret show, a return sightseeing cruise from central London to the Thames Barrier, and a four-course meal.
Always arrive at least 15 minutes early. The boat will not wait for you. Make sure to check the dress code, in case your dinner is more formal.
4. See a West End theatre show
London is well-known for its theatres. The list of shows the West End has to offer is endless and choosing one can understandably be a daunting prospect.
However, with a little bit of research, you will discover that there is something for everyone: from Mamma Mia and Wicked to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Other famous ones include Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
It’s a misconception that a West End theatre experience has to cost a fortune. Multiple websites now offer tickets at discounted prices.
It’s advisable to book the tickets in advance after you decided whether you want to see a matinee or an evening show, but if you’re ready to be spontaneous and adventurous you can go to TKTS Booth at Leicester Square and try to score cheap tickets.
Check what seats you’re getting before buying the tickets. Sometimes the tickets are discounted because they have partially obstructed views.
A smart-casual attire is usually recommended.
5. Party ‘til the sun comes up in Shoreditch
If you’re into partying, Shoreditch is the place to be. Whether you opt for staying in one cool spot all night or going bar hopping, you won’t be disappointed.
Head for a dinner first in one of many restaurants in Shoreditch (Andina and Dishoom come highly recommended), and then hit the dancefloor.
Floripa, XOYO, The Lighthouse, Barrio Shoreditch, Cargo, The Hoxton Pony, Concrete and The Queen of Hoxton.
Visit the Boxpark, an interesting collection of converted shipping containers that self-identifies as a pop-up mall. A concoction of bars, shops, and street food venues, it’s a great place to grab a drink in if you’d like to go someplace more casual.
6. Take in the view from The Shard or The London Eye
For a one-of-a-kind opportunity of a unique aerial view, hop on the London Eye and witness the breathtaking view of London from up above.
Sunset is by far the best time to ride The London Eye. You can book the tickets in advance, but some visitors actually recommend not to, since if you’re unlucky with the weather you still have to go (or lose the money you paid for the ticket by going another time when the weather is nicer).
Throughout the ride, you’ll have a view of the River Thames, Big Ben, and Parliament, and as the pod continues to rise, you’ll see the Buckingham Palace.
When you load onto your London Eye pod, the best place to stand to get good pictures is at the front, furthest away from the loading entrance, and run for it!
The Shard has recently introduced a Day & Night Ticket, for those who worry that they’re missing the daytime view if they visit at night. For only an additional £10 per person on top of General Admission, you can see London shine in the daytime and then return to see the city sparkle at night!
At night, London lights up and has a real wow factor. Some buildings, such as the Tower Bridge and the London Eye, have special lighting effects that can only be seen at night.
7. Have a night-time walk
There is a lot to explore on foot in London, so a night-time walk is not to be missed.
Whether you choose to go on a tour like Jack The Ripper Ghost Tour or the London Food Tour, or just walk on your own, there’s no shortage of things to do.
Here are some cool walks to do:
– Walk right next to the River Thames from Borough Market to the London Eye.
– Walk along the London canals in the Little Venice. Do the “Jubilee Greenway” from Camden to Little Venice.
– If you’d like to venture out the city center, visit the Richmond Park, Greenwich Park, or Hampstead Heath.
– For a busier walk, choose Soho and Chinatown and get lost in the bustling streets.
– For some shopping, head to Oxford Circus and Regent Street, and make sure to visit Carnaby Street for something a little bit different.
Updated: June 5, 2018