The UK capital is brimming with musical history and has long been the bastion of the UK music scene. From Legendary concert halls to super cool clubs, the city is awash with spectacular and iconic venues – most of which have borne witness to staggeringly influential musical moments. Read on to discover London’s musical history and find out more about the best live music venues in London!
Before we start… We regularly put on live music at Clink78 in London and ClinkNOORD in Amsterdam. Although we can’t promise the big names found in stadiums we do put on our fair share of awesome gigs and DJ events. We are always on the lookout for musicians to play in our hostels so if you fancy playing a gig in exchange for a free stay then check out our ClinkCREATIVE program.
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London’s Best Main Stream Live Music Venues
The Camden Round House
Where? Chalk Farm Rd, Camden Town, London NW1 8EH
Why go? For an epic venue with a super cool musical history
Kicking off our list of top Live music venues in London is the legendary Camden Roundhouse – one of the worlds most incredible and unique live music venues. The Camden Roundhouse started out its life as a railway turntable, way back in the 1800’s! Talk about old-school. Since then the grade II listed building has gained fame and notoriety whilst becoming a mainstay of London’s live music scene. Over the years the venue has housed hundreds of famous artists and monumental musical performances from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, the Arctic Monkeys and Amy Winehouse.
Top music moment: in 1976 The Romanes reportedly put on a stellar performance in front of hordes of Punk Rock devotees which included members of The Clash and The Dammed. The gig would later be described by Pete Shelly of the Buzzcocks as a musical moment that changed the face of music in the UK forever.
The Alexandra Palace
Where? Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
Why go? For awesome panoramic views of London and a truly spectacular live music venue
Second on our list of top live music venues in London is the iconic Alexandra Palace or Ally Pally for the regulars. Formerly a Victorian recreation centre known as the People’s Palace, the historic building now serves as an entertainment and sports venue, housing everything from wrestling and street food expo’s to live music and antique fairs! Frequented by some of the worlds most renowned performers including Jay – Z, Kings of Leon and The Stone Roses, the palace has become a regular for big names visiting the capital. As well as an impressive list of past performances the venue also boasts a 10 thousand standing capacity, making it London’s largest standing capacity venue. Complete with panoramic views of the city and beautifully kept grounds – there really isn’t anywhere else quite like it.
Top musical moment: in July 2017 after more than ten years of playing together, Indie heavy hitters The Maccabees, performed for the very last time at Ally Pally, bringing to an end their dominance of the UK indie music scene – much disappointment of their many fans.
The Royal Albert Hall
Where? Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP
Why go? For epic world-renowned acoustics in an awe-inspiring setting
Next on our list is The Royal Albert Hall – one of the UK’s most treasured and distinctive live music venues. Over the years, many of the world’s most popular and acclaimed artists have taken to the Royal Albert Hall’s prestigious stage, including the likes of Iggy Pop, the Beatles and more recently Adele. Since opening in 1871 this beloved venue has also played host to some of the most notable events in British culture, including the Proms – which has been held at the hall every year since 1941! Although the grand hall usually hosts more classical and theatrical performances, rather than pop gigs, it makes it onto our list of top live music venues because of its astonishing acoustics and stunning appearance. You will be hard pressed to find a more breathtaking and historical music venue -live music or not the venue is well worth a visit!
Top musical moment: in 1963 the Beatles finished off their Albert Hall set with a performance of Mack the Knife alongside music legends Del Shannon, The Springfields and Matt Monro. The show later became part of the Beatles legend because it was following this performance that Paul McCartney first met future fiancée Jane Asher.
The O2 Arena
Where? Peninsula Square, North Greenwich, London SE10 0DX
Why go? To see epic performances from the worlds most renowned musicians
Last but not least on our list of mainstream live music venues is The O2 Arena. Unlike other venues featured on this list, this modern concert hall doesn’t have a long and intriguing history – although we are sure it will go down as one of the UK’s best ever live venues. Opened at the turn of the millennium, the O2 was purpose-built with the intention of housing live events and concerts, and boy did it deliver! Since its opening, the venue has housed a whole host of big names including Drake, Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne. Fortunately, what the building lacks in historical character it more than makes up for in acoustics, atmosphere and capacity. The venue boasts the title of the busiest music arena in the world and is the second largest seated venue in the UK. So if you love the euphoric atmosphere of a large crowd, this is the venue for you!
Top Musical Moment: in 2019 during Drake’s Assassination Vacation Tour the O2 temporarily changed its name to the O3 in honor of the Canadian rapper’s single ‘God’s Plan’, which spent nine weeks at number one last year where Drake raps: “And you know me/Turn The O2 into The O3.”
London’s Best Small Live Music Venues
If indie and alternative music are your favourites, then London’s indie circuit will certainly not disappoint. From edgy underground clubs and boozy bars to old fashioned pubs – the UK capital is a hotbed of intimate venues that regularly host undiscovered musical talent. Just like the majority of London’s larger concert venues, most of the city’s smaller venues are steeped in history. It’s actually pretty hard to find any London venue that has not played host to a rock or pop legend. So if you’re that person that likes boasting about discovering a band before they went ‘mainstream’, or you prefer more a more authentic live music experience, head to one of these venues below.
Where? 96-98 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9JB
Why go? For a taste of London finest alternative and indie offerings
First on our list of small live music venues is the much-loved Lexington, also referred to as the ‘Lex’ for those in the know. Just a few minutes walk from Angel tube station this pub is oozing with character and is a staple of London’s indie circuit. This Gem of a venue strikes a balance between grungy pub and intimate venue. Complete with vintage American style decor, sticky floors and a wide selection of whiskey, this venue is about as rock and roll as it gets. The venue’s crowd is usually comprised of hipsters, cool kids and indie music fanatics hoping to catch a glimpse of the next big thing.
Top musical moment: in 2015 Arctic Monkey’s frontman Alex Turner took to the stage in the form of a cameo appearance during a Mini Masion’s set, he was watching the band from a corner of the pub with the Gorillaz guitarist Jeff Wooton. You never know who you might meet in London’s indie circuit!
The Shackwell Arms
Where? 71 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EB
Next on our list of underground venues is The Shackwell arms – the go-to venue for American artists attempting to enter the UK’s indie music scene. Although the venue has a down-at-heel appearance, this is soon forgotten once the drinks start flowing and the bands start playing. Although more geared towards guitar-based bands the venue boasts an eclectic live music programme, offering everything from indie and garage rock bands, through to psychedelic rock and synth pop performances. The unsuspecting venue has also played an integral role in propelling indie bands to stardom – Jamie xx, the Horrors, and Savages have all performed here once upon a time.
Top musical moment: Mark Ronson, Andrew Garfield and SBTRKT have all paid visits to the Shackwell arms, so not only does the venue offer the chance to watch the next big thing, but you might also get a chance to have a pint with some big names too!
Visiting London with a group of friends? Speak to our dedicated groups team today who can help you to plan your stay!
The Windmill Brixton
Where? 22 Blenheim Gardens, London SW2 5BZ, UK
Why go? For a rough and ready indie music experience
With an unglamorous exterior, a reputation for championing new music and a capacity of just 150 people – the Windmill Brixton is the ultimate indie underground music venue. The owners of this grassroots venue are proud music lovers and refreshingly passionate about up and coming bands, so there is no shortage of new and untouched music spewing out of this venue. They are first and foremost a venue that loves good quality live music and good vibes!
Top Musical moments: Florence from Florence and the Machine graced the Windmill with her presence before going on to becoming one of the UK’s best-loved festival bands.
Are you a musician and fancy playing in our very own ClashBAR? Check out our ClinkCREATIVE stay and play program for more info
The Dublin Castle
Where? 94 Parkway, London NW1 7AN,
Why go? To soak up years of rock and pop history!
Next up is a venue that has stood the test of time. Frequented by music fanatics and stars alike, The Dublin Castle is one of London’s most adored independent live music venues. Across the capital, it is well known that gigs at this independent venue are serious business. From Amy Winehouse and the Libertines to Noal Gallagher and Bob Geldoff, The Dublin Castle is no stranger to pop and rock legends. It is also only a short tube or bus journey away from Clink78!
The Water Rats
Where? 328 Grays Inn Rd, Kings Cross, London WC1X 8BZ
Why go? A conveniently located live music venue
Last but not least on our list of small live music venues is the legendary Water Rats. Originally built in 1517 the venue has definitely seen its fair share of historical music moments. Most notably, in 1962 American singer-songwriter and all-round music legend Bob Dylan brought his iconic guitar playing and vocal grumblings to The Water Rat’s stage… and the rest is history. In keeping with the times, the venue now also offers a wide range of food and drinks, so if your looking for a venue that has it all, The Water Rats is the live venue for you.
Top Musical Moment: in 1994 Mancunian mega stars Oasis played their first ever London gig at the Water Rats. Less than a year later their hit single ‘Some might say’ went on to pinch the top spot in the UK pop charts.
So there you have it, Clink’s top live music venues in London. But it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the city are literally hundreds of pubs and clubs that will, from time to time dabble in live music events, so get out there and start exploring. If you stumble across a hidden gem that’s worth shouting about please let us know! We’re always on the lookout for new and exciting places to check out!