London by night is incredible and an experience not to be missed. After dark the city takes on a different feel. Commuters leave, tourist numbers drop, yet the streets come alive against a backdrop of captivating lights. Night time is definitely one of the best times to explore this vibrant capital city.
However, knowing how to enjoy London by night is tricky. What’s open? What can you see? How do you stay safe? Read on to discover our top 10 tips for experiencing London by night so that you have an enjoyable and memorable time.
How to do London by night
Tip 1: Know how to get around
London is a city which doesn’t sleep. That means that public transport in the capital runs 24/7 and is the most convenient way to get around. The Tube (underground) and buses are reliable and easy. Check out Transport for London for timetables as they do vary by time.
You can also use black cabs. These are the safest and most reliable taxi service in the capital. Spot a ‘taxi’ light on and hail one, or use an app such as FreeNow.
Tip 2: Stay IN London
If you want to make the most of night time in London then we highly recommend staying somewhere central which puts you in the heart of the action. The image above is the gorgeous Hope House in Westminster. While staying in a suburb can be lovely, and work well in many cases, if it is night time experiences you’re after then having your own base in the centre of the capital is easiest.
We also recommend having your own space. That way if you come back in the early hours you won’t disturb anyone or need to be up for housekeeping or a hotel breakfast slot. Serviced apartments work brilliantly for this.
Tip 3: Be safe
London, especially the centre, is considered to be very safe at night. It is sensible to stick to the most popular areas which is another good reason to stay in the centre. In these areas there is also a reasonably high police presence on the streets after dark. The city is also largely covered by CCTV which acts as a deterrent for opportunistic criminals.
Nonetheless, it’s important to know a few safety tips and tricks.
- Know where you are going by planning your journey and use a well-lit route.
- Keep valuables hidden and well-secured, only taking out what you need. Don’t use an ATM at night, or make sure you’re accompanied.
- Stick with others as much as possible.
- Hail a black cab if you feel worried or lost.
- Call 999 in an emergency.
Tip 4: Know what you want to do
Like during the day, at night in London there is so much to do that you’ll need a plan! Work out what you want to do to have the best night in London and you’ll then be able to sort out journeys, tickets, and more.
Some suggestions of great ways to see London by night:
- Laugh out loud at a comedy show e.g. Top Secret Comedy Club.
- Ride high on The London Eye; it’s a totally different experience at night.
- Visit a museum without kids and in a different way e.g. The Science Museum (last Wednesday of the month) or the V&A (on Fridays).
- Watch in awe at a West End Show.
- Enjoy a walking tour (including spooky ones like the Jack the Ripper Tour).
- Partake in some late night shopping.
- Experience London’s live music scene.
- Take a night bus tour.
Tip 5: Get tickets
There are lots of things you can do in London simply by turning up, but the reality is that for most things you’ll need to secure tickets in advance. Once you’ve decided what you want to do, book your tickets. If you’re looking for tickets last minute for West End theatre shows then check out the TKTS booth in Leicester Square (they also have some tickets available online).
Tip 6: Know where to eat
London has a richly diverse and fantastic food scene. And the good news is that there’s always somewhere open! However, generally speaking most restaurants serve evening meals between 6 pm and 11 pm.
Whatever you fancy, there will be something to suit. From picking up some street food in China Town or Covent Garden, through to enjoying a 360-degree view of London with dinner at The Sky Garden, there’s something for everyone.
Tip 7: Know where to drink
There’s also no shortage of watering holes in London too. Of course, the classic British pub exists on most streets and there is a raft of wine and cocktail bars.
Design My Night is a great site to check out for narrowing down your selection.
Tip 8: Know how best to see the lights and the sights
Experiencing London by night is often simply about getting the iconic views of London in a different way. Make sure you head to the right spots to see London in its best night time glory.
A stroll along the Southbank is particularly rewarding. Then walk across Westminster Bridge towards the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Tower Bridge also looks particularly majestic by night. Head to the Tate Modern and you’ll get iconic views across to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Tip 9: Spend time on the river
It wouldn’t be a complete night time experience if you don’t do something on the River Thames. Seeing the city at night from the river is a remarkable experience that you won’t forget.
A River Thames dinner and sightseeing cruise is a great way to do this. There are lots of different service providers. A more unique option is to take a Skuna boat – either enjoy a barbecue or a hot tub as you cruise along the river!
Tip 10: Enjoy some late night shopping
London is fantastic for late night shopping but you’ll need to know where to go. It’s worth knowing though because after dark many shoppers head home and you can enjoy an easier shopping excursion.
Oxford Street, London’s most iconic shopping street, has most stores open until 9 pm Mon-Sat, but occasionally the big stores like Selfridges have opening until 10 pm. Covent Garden has late night opening until 9 pm on some days. Regent’s Street sees most stores shut at 8 pm, but again late night events happen. Westfield London (West location), which is an enormous shopping complex with over 300 shops, is open until 10 pm.
Enjoy your night
You’ll soon discover that London by night opens a whole new way of experiencing the capital ensuring you’ll want to come back time and time again.