My Favourite Music Venues in London

London has an awesome live music scene – some would say the best in the world. On any given night you can find open mic nights, intimate gigs and huge arena tours around the city.

If you’re visiting the Big Smoke any time soon check out some of my favourite music venues in London – it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the band on the date, just go along and soak up the atmosphere.

1. Brixton Academy, Brixton

Brixton Academy

It’s the slanted floor and top stalls that make Brixton Academy top my list. The floor slopes into the stage so even at the back you get an awesome view of the band across the audience. If you don’t fancy the craziness of the lower floor, you can go up in the stalls and look over the crowd. If you’re really a lazy bum sometimes they’re seated, depending on the act.

2. Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace

It was only recently that I managed to visit Alexandra Palace, and when I finally saw it I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long. It’s an incredible palace up on a hill, you can see out over the whole of London from it – from Wood Green over to Canary Wharf. Once inside I looked around and imagined the royal parties they used to have there. It’s often used as a festival venue so I’m definitely going to keep my eye on that one. They had a whole area sectioned off for chilling, eating and drinking and it’s worth taking up a few drinks to enjoy the skyline with, before your gig even starts.

3. Village Underground, Shoreditch

Village Underground

I went to see The XX here, supported by Esben and the Witch – it was an awesome gig. I’ve been to Village Underground a few times, mainly for club nights – it’s such a cool place with a great vibe. The exposed brick walls look cool, the slap dash bar, and the fact it’s under the railway arches in Shoreditch. A great venue for impressing your out of towner mates.

4. Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Shepherd’s Bush

Shepherds Bush Empire

Love it here. I think the name is just so legendary it feels exciting to be inside. Like most places it’s been taken over by a phone company – in this case O2, but it still tries to stay cool and unique. Shepherd’s Bush Empire is a great size and some pretty awesome acts play here so keep an eye on the listings to be in with a chance of seeing someone decent.

5. KoKo, Camden

Koko London

I love the atmosphere for the gigs at KoKo, there’s so much viewing space thanks to the theatre layout of the venue. There are four layers to KoKo so plenty of opportunity to get to the front. One of the best gigs I saw here was Wild Beasts, we’d got right to the front of the ground floor and the whole crowd was just mesmerised. Also went to see Annie Mac once, it was epic. Although, I was 26 at the time and felt very old compared to all the teeny boppers about.

Few other good ones I’ve enjoyed

  • Dublin Castle in Camden – pure grimy
  • Barfly in Camden – great atmosphere, and size
  • Black Heart in Camden – beers and sweaty
  • G.A.Y. Soho – so much fun
  • Wembley – there’s just something about it
  • HMV Forum, Kentish Town – few good viewing spots
  • Electric Academy, Brixton – friendly staff
  • Heaven, Charing Cross – dark and secretive
  • The Lexington, Angel – pure filth

Next on my list to try…

Union Chapel Islington

Union Chapel – set in an awesome church, almost went to see Perfume Genius here but had to go away for work at the last minute. Determined to check it out though…

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  1. by Arianwen on November 23, 2013  6:55 am Reply

    I am ashamed to admit that KoKo is the only one on that main list I've been to! I haven't even seen the inside of Brixton Academy despite living a few minutes down the road for about three years!! Wow!

  2. by Greg on November 26, 2013  12:38 am Reply

    I've been to most of these so going to assume you have a good taste in music! I agree about Brixton, seen so many gigs there and its a great venue, I love all the interior details around the stage, not sure if they're original but they look cool.

    Ally Pally has terrible acoustics but is such an amazing building (and view) it doesn't matter.

    I love Koko, just came back from watching Austra there tonight!

    One I like not on the list is The Shacklewell Arms, very intimate and just a general good vibe, at least the time I went anyway

  3. by Carol Ann Nicholls on January 22, 2014  4:46 pm Reply

    I saw Bob Dylan at the Brixton Academy in 2005. Excellent. I also enjoyed The Killers at The Hammersmith Apollo - nice intimate venue compared to O2 etc.

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