While most of our great metropolis shuts down by midnight, you can still play late at an increasing number of places, if you know where to look. Here's our pick of the capital's best late-night drinking dens, arranged by type. We've also written a list of our favourite late-night and 24 hour restaurants (they have booze too).
The Dolphin is the kind of place that is too cool to be a destination pub, but is instead somewhere you just 'end up' that night when you go for a few quiet ones and then wake up the next day with a tattoo of Danny Dyer on your left buttock. They also have one of the best Twitter accounts going.
The Dolphin, 165 Mare St, E8 3RH
Monday-Thursday 5pm-2.30am, Friday & Saturday 5pm-4.30am, Sunday 5pm-2am
This Kingsland Road gay pub is a showcase for the cream of London's alternative entertainment scene. In their own words, "THE GLORY will nurture and create a juggernaut of gender-upending, forward-thinking, debonair-raising counterculture to remember."
The Glory, 281 Kingsland Road, E2 8AS
Monday-Thursday 5pm-midnight, Friday-Saturday 5pm-2am, Sunday 1-11pm
This south east London pub boasts local and regional real ales, craft beers and a hearty Sunday lunch. For night owls, The Tiger opens past midnight five nights a week, with DJs every Friday and Saturday.
The Tiger, 18 Camberwell Green, SE5 7AA
Monday 4pm-11pm, Tuesday-Wednesday 4pm-1am, Thursday 4pm-2am, Friday 4pm-3.30am, Saturday noon-3.30am, Sunday noon-11pm
The Horse and Groom is half traditional pub, half disco. Best of both worlds.
The Horse and Groom, 28 Curtain Road, EC2A 3NZ
Friday 11.30pm-4am, Saturday 6pm-4am
This Brixton institution still sits proud on a corner on Coldharbour Lane and it's still going strong with a varied mix of live music over three floors. It's loud, rowdy and always a lot of fun.
The Dogstar, 389 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LQ
Thursday 4pm-2am, Friday 4pm-4am & Saturday midday-4am
Relaxed atmosphere, frequent live music nights, good beer selection and decent prices. The Bedford Tavern is the sort of place you can sit for hours with friends, chewing the fat with decent beer after decent beer.
The Bedford Tavern, 160 Seven Sisters Road, Islington, N7 7PT
Monday-Wednesday 4pm-midnight, Thursday 4pm-1am, Friday 4pm-2am, Saturday 2pm-2am, Sunday noon-11pm
A real locals pub and friendly all-rounder in Dalston. Shacklewell Arms is an entirely unpretentious venue which benefits from live music nearly every night of the week (although late night Friday and Saturday is reserved for DJs and dancing).
Shacklewell Arms, 71 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EB
Monday-Thursday 5pm-midnight, Friday 5pm-3am, Saturday 4pm-3am, Sunday 4pm-midnight
Late Night Bars
The Bar with No Name ('69 Colebrooke row')
This Angel haunt was recently listed as the #27 best cocktail bar in the world, and boasts its own (offsite) lab to conjure up reductions, syrups and infusions. 'The Bar with No Name' is home to world renowned molecular mixologist Tony Conigliaro, who not only curates a menu comprising twisted classic and original cocktails, such as the Prairie Oyster, but also hosts classes. The vibe is one of an intimate, vintage 1920s jazz-age hangout, 'intimate' being your signal to ensure you have a reservation.
69 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AA
Sunday to Wednesday 5pm–midnight, Thursday 5pm–1am, Friday & Saturday 5pm-2am
Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown
Behind an unassuming chipped green door on Chinatown, Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown (ECC, as the kids say) lives on the upper floors of a sophisticated three-storey townhouse, where blacked out windows, spiralling staircases, plush midnight blue sofas and multi-mirrored surfaces – from the ceilings to the table tops — add touches of retro-glamour. A bar with an ever-changing selection of cocktails, it’s regularly packed so booking is strongly recommended. If you’re betting on walking in, be aware they operate a door policy so pull your best 'I'm sober' face and keep your group small.
Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown, 13a Gerrard St, Chinatown, London W1D 5PS
Monday–Saturday 6pm–2am, Sunday 6pm–midnight
Considered the original London 'speakeasy' basement bar, this slice of style next to Old Street roundabout offers a sultry, wood-panel and brick interior and innovative concoctions with ornate garnishes unseen anywhere else in the capital. Going for a drink here isn't just grabbing a quick cosmo — it's an experience, so take the time to work through the menu and its exotic, often complex, contents. Live music plays throughout most of the week, so plan your visit according to preference. As you’d expect from a venue that is a regular high-achiever on the 50 world’s Best Bars list, booking is absolutely essential.
The Nightjar, 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB
Sunday–Wednesday 6pm–1am, Thursday 6pm–2am, Friday and Saturday 6pm–3am
Worship Street Whistling Shop
Inspired by Victorian drinking culture in London, this low-lit, underground den has an extensive selection of gin, in keeping with the infamous craze for a drop of mother's ruin. The second bar on our list to feature an in-house lab, other quirks that work include two private spaces, one a cocktail emporium and the other an 18th century Dram Shop — a rentable honesty bar to drink as much as you
can want from vintage bottles. No doubt a bargain Elysium for many, and a socially awkward, surreal Kafkaesque nightmare for others.
Worship Street Whistling Shop, 63 Worship St, EC2A 2DU
Monday-Tuesday 5pm-midnight , Wednesday–Thursday 5pm-1am, Friday-Saturday 5pm–2am
This below street level bar is designed as an abandoned tube station, so order your drink and sit in a train carriage, admire the TfL style tiles, and be prepared to show off the fact that you know every one of the London landmarks used in the tube moquette designs.
Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, W1B 5PW
Monday-Wednesday 4pm-2am, Friday-Saturday 3pm-3am, Sunday 3pm-2am
A real workhorse of a bar that just keeps on being brilliant while avoiding becoming too popular. Every time we visit this place we leave with big smiles on our faces, since it's impossible not to have a blast. Be sure to prepare your eyeballs for a lot of black clothing and throwing of horns.
Crobar, 17 Manette Street, W1D 4AS.
Okay so we're going a bit old school with this one, but don't forget, The Hippodrome Casino has a whopping six bars inside, and The Heliot is 24 hour. We recommend you watch the gambling from the comfort of the bar. It makes for entertaining people watching.
The Hippodrome, Leicester Square, WC2H 7AN
One of London's best 24 hour restaurants also has an excellent bar. The problem is, a lot of people have gotten wind of their fantastic cocktails and so you'll have to fight for a place. We still dream about the hay smoked negroni.
Duck and Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Chinatown dim sum parlour and multi-storey cocktail bar Opium has an impressive selection of Asian-inspired signature cocktails, and garnishes with flair. Sociable types should head to the 'Bartender's Table', where conversations with strangers and chats with the staff are inevitable — think of it as hanging out in your friend's kitchen. In fact, the drinks menu varies depending on which level, nook or cranny you find yourself sat in: Tea Parlour, Greenhouse, top floor or the hidden den. A good excuse to explore.
Opium, 15-16 Gerrard St, W1D 6JA
Monday–Tuesday 5pm–midnight, Wednesday 5pm–1am, Thursday 5pm–2am, Friday–Saturday 5pm–3am, Sunday 2pm–10.30pm
The Pink Chihuahua @ El Camion
If you're up for a dance, Mexican vibes and a damn good time, head to The Pink Chihuahua ('Dick's Bar'), quite possibly the friendliest bar in Soho, with warm welcomes and staff with a talent for remembering names and favourite drinks. So it's kind of like Cheers, only with kicking Tequila-based cocktails. The late, great Dick Bradsell — inventor of the Bramble and Espresso Martini — used to work here. While everyone is welcome, it's heaving over the weekend, when it becomes pretty much a members-only affair.
Membership: Swing by for some food early in the week, ask the staff and they'll sign you up.
The Pink Chihuahua, El Camion, 25-27 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0RR
The Big Red describes itself as a "downtown dive bar", and there's little to argue with there. An American-themed rock'n'roll bar, it is dingy and unpretentious with cheap booze, friendly regulars and sticky floors. Music is central here, with a juke box churning out rock and metal anthems plus live music several times a week.
The Big Red, 385 Holloway Road, N7 0RY
Tuesday 3pm-midnight, Wednesday-Thursday 3pm-1am, Friday 3pm-3am, Saturday 3pm-4am, Sunday 3pm-midnight
Live Music Bars
Sometimes, you just want to grab a beer, listen to something loud and rock out a little. This is where these guys come in:
Ain’t Nothin' but…
If the throngs that regularly clamour on Kingly Street are anything to go by, Londoners have got the Blues, big time. Parallel to the oft-congested Carnaby Street, this tiny English/US hybrid has been introducing city folk to straight blues, while exciting more knowledgeable fans for over 20 years. Electric atmosphere, reasonably priced drinks, dancers, and top acts (in some cases flown in from the States) keep pulling 'em in and spilling out the door.
Ain't Nothin' But..., 20 Kingly Street, Soho, W1B 5PZ
Monday-Thursday 5pm–1am, Friday 5pm–2am, Saturday 3pm–2am, Sunday 3pm-11.30pm
Alleycat Bar & Club
This Turkish bar turned live space is steeped in rock 'n' roll history, nested below the famed Regent Sound Studios, which played host to the likes of the Rolling Stones and The Kinks. A varied programme of events sees nights of blues, jazz, poetry readings, book and album launches. An easygoing and mellow subterranean hotspot, it serves classic and fuss-free cocktails, such as mojitos and sex on the beach.
Alley Cat Bar & Club, 4 Denmark Street, WC2H 8LP
Sunday–Wednesday 5pm–2am, Thursday–Saturday 5pm–3am
A family run venue steeped in music history. The Dublin Castle was where the band Madness began and has also seen the likes of Blur, Supergrass, Coldplay and The Killers perform. After 28 years in the business, they continue to see four live bands perform nightly and attract an eclectic clientele. Open past midnight every day of the week.
The Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway, Camden, NW1 7AN
Monday 1pm-2am, Tuesday noon-1am, Wednesday-Thursday 1pm-2am, Friday-Sunday noon-2am
If you’re not a member or just not up for an uber-late one, but want to stay out past midnight and chill out, here are a couple of our more refined favourites:
Rumpus Room @ Mondrian Hotel
While technically a hotel bar (more on those below), Rumpus Room stands as a bar in its own right with its own roof terrace, stylish decor and prime spot on London's South Bank. Deep lounge sofas and a classic British/American cocktail list make Rumpus Room the ideal lazy, late-night choice for sinking down into your seat and supping your tipple of choice. Although with live music on Wednesdays and DJs Thursday through to Saturday, you may be inspired to take to your feet once in a while.
Mondrian Hotel, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Tuesday-Wednesday 5pm-1am, Thursday-Saturday 5pm-2am
Le Salon Bar is an equally elegant and lesser known retreat, above much-feted Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Covent Garden. The winning combination of a veiled and heated terrace, in-house-created cocktails and expansive wine list will have you lounging around and knocking back the fizz until you take your leave.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, 13-15 West Street, WC2H 9NE
Monday-Saturday noon–1.30am, Sunday noon-10pm
Soho's most glamorous and OTT bar is back and it's bigger and better than before, having undergone a recent refurbishment. Their martini is consistently great, as is their gin and tonic and, to be honest, just about everything else they do. Be warned however that there is a dress code, which is 'elegant', and it is enforced.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper St. James Street, W1F 9DF
Thursday 5.30pm-1am, Friday-Saturday 6pm-1am
Romance with a faint whiff of affectation, Bloomsbury Club Bar is the ideal late-night stop-off for that date you've been trying to impress. Moodily lit with wall-to-wall book shelves, deep leather armchairs and a charming terrace decorated with twinkling lights - it feels pleasingly intimate, if a little ostentatious. Heck, their cocktails are even named after the intellectuals and artists who made up the Bloomsbury Set. But the staff are welcoming and they sure do whip up a mean Virginia Woolf.
16-22 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3NN
Monday-Saturday 6pm-1am, Sunday 6pm-midnight
The Last Word: Hotel Bars
With so many truly outstanding hotel bars in the capital, a concise list here is impossible, as we’re inclined to pop into anywhere that does a decent martini. Quite a few of them close at a conservative pre-witching hour. However, at a push to make recommendations we’d say a slow-sipping Hope Gimlet at Zetter Townhouse (1am) hits the spot, as does a Preservation Martini at the stunning Booking Office Bar inside St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (1am). Of course the Artesian (1.30am) at the Langham Hotel has to be mentioned too; it did win the title of 'World's Best Bar' for four consecutive years, after all.
By Janan Jay, Helen Graves and Ruth Hargreaves