phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Top 5 Unusual Music Venues in London
Image Credit: Bush Hall, Photo Mark Surridge

Top 5 Unusual Music Venues in London

14 July 2016 Tom Faber

Wembley Stadium and the O2 may attract the biggest crowds, but those behemoths could never conjure the intimacy and atmosphere of some of London’s smaller and stranger venues. Join us for a rundown of the city’s most inspired music spaces, from land to river, from underground to soaring above the clouds.

Churches
 
A number of holy spaces around the capital have been lending hallowed atmospheres and ornate architecture to live music over the past few years. Best among them is surely Union Chapel, Islington’s gorgeous neo-Gothic church with its distinctive octagonal hall. It’s been named best London venue by several publications, and has hosted the likes of Ray Davies, Jeff Mangum and Laura Marling in recent years. If you’re into more experimental electronic fare, St John Sessions at St John’s, Hackney provides some of the best concerts in the country. The lighting is low, the acoustics crisp and the smoke abundant. Another top choice is the tiny, ornate chapel of St. Barnabas in Soho, which often welcomes intimate gigs and is championed by music guru Gilles Peterson.
 

Rooftop Bar, Bussey Building
 
 
Touch the Sky
 
While some may protest the new skyscrapers shooting up across the city, they sure do give London a distinctive skyline. It’s an event in itself to witness London from high above, but did you know you can listen to some top musical performances as the sun sets? Sky Garden is the space at the top of 20 Fenchurch St, known to most of us as the Walkie-Talkie. You can get drinks and top-notch food while enjoying one of their live music sessions which range from talented new singers to bombastic bands. If you’re looking for sky-high DJs, South London is the place to be. Peckham has two legendary rooftop venues, the breezy roof of Bussey Building and Frank’s café, the worst-kept secret found on level 10 of a multi-storey car park.
 

Union Chapel
 
Underground
 
Maybe vertigo prevents you from scaling the heights of London’s skyscrapers, but what about music deep under the city? The Thames Tunnel Shaft was the world’s most visited attraction when it opened in 1843. A huge underground chamber half the size of Shakespeare’s Globe, it was closed twenty years later and has only just reopened. The shaft is now part of the Brunel Museum, who regularly host dance and music events, including the enchanting Gallery Singers. If you don’t fancy descending that tricky stone staircase, Waterloo’s The Vaults can give you a taste of underground culture without actually descending – the darkness and its location in disused train tunnels give almost the same effect.
 

 The Golden Hinde, Aft Deck
 
On the river
 
If you find dry land too boring and predictable, our fair river offers plenty of exciting and different music spaces – as long as you don’t get seasick. Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon the Golden Hinde hosts regular gigs in a historical space, while the 1930’s Dutch barge Tamesis, moored near Vauxhall bridge, offer music performances to suit every taste. If you’re worried about a touch of nausea but still want to be on the water, the curious glass and metal structure of Greenwich Yacht Club occasionally hosts folk music and sea shanties atop its wooden stilts.
 

Kara-Lis Coverdale at St. John's Hackney. Photo Brian Whar.

Oldies
 
Some of the city’s most atmospheric music spaces are its oldest. Wilton’s Music Hall is London’s oldest performance venue, combining classical grandeur with a hint of crumbling glory. They run a stellar series of cultural events including film and theatre, but best are the musical performances where they excel in folk and classical music. The only other venue that could rival Wilton’s atmosphere is Bush Hall, a Victorian music space improbably positioned along a row of late-night takeaways in Shepherd’s Bush. It sports two bars and a lovely roof terrace, and has welcomed the likes of Kings of Leon, The Killers and Florence and the Machine to its intimate stage over the years.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Painted Hall Ceiling Tours

Painted Hall Ceiling Tours

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to Britain’s largest painted ceiling!

This Week June 26 - July 2

This Week June 26 - July 2

There’s a creative spark in the air this week, as several of London’s galleries and more unusual spaces throw open their doors and let the great…

The Best Music in London this July

The Best Music in London this July

Summer is here, and there’s nothing finer than soaking up that sun while listening to music. We’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide to soundtrack your July,…

Outdoor Sculpture Trail throughout London

Outdoor Sculpture Trail throughout London

David Breuer-Weil's new giant outdoor sculpture installations throughout London

Natwest T20 Blast at Lords Cricket Ground

Natwest T20 Blast at Lords Cricket Ground

A summer series of T20 Blast cricket matches at the Home of Cricket

Gala for Grenfell

Gala for Grenfell

Stars from across the world of dance come together to raise funds for the Grenfell Fire

Zip World London

Zip World London

Zip World London has taken over Archbishop’s Park in Lambeth for the summer. The very first of its kind in London, the 225m long zip line…

Indian Summer Late ft. PunjabTronix at the Horniman

Indian Summer Late ft. PunjabTronix at the Horniman

Cutting-edge live electronica combines with traditional Punjabi sounds in this audiovisual extravaganza at the Horniman.

Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Kingswood Camps - Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Make summer 2017 one to remember with a kids-only adventure holiday – worth £299 – at Kingswood Camps this August.

The African Salsa Orchestra make UK Debut!

The African Salsa Orchestra make UK Debut!

The African Salsa Orchestra embark on their debut UK tour this July - including a date at London's Jazz Cafe!

Most popular

Win a 3 Course Meal and Drinks

The Ivy Tower Bridge - Win a 3 Course Meal and Drinks

Your chance to enjoy a delicious meal out next to The Thames with the brand new Ivy Tower Bridge.
Win Outdoor Cinema Tickets plus Prosecco & Popcorn

Swords and Sandals - Win Outdoor Cinema Tickets plus Prosecco & Popcorn

Watch an epic season of Roman-inspired films on the site of London’s Roman Amphitheatre with Swords and Sandals Outdoor Cinema!
Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Kingswood Camps - Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Make summer 2017 one to remember with a kids-only adventure holiday – worth £299 – at Kingswood Camps this August.
Win two tickets to a evening of jazz at Rich Mix

Certain Blacks Festival: Harlem - Win two tickets to a evening of jazz at Rich Mix

Certain Blacks: Harlem present trumpeter Byron Wallen and his band Indigo
Win a NAMily annual membership to the new museum!

National Army Museum - Win a NAMily annual membership to the new museum!

The new National Army Museum is a family-friendly Museum looking at the history of the army.
Win a copy of the DVD and the book that inspired it

Viceroy's House - Win a copy of the DVD and the book that inspired it

The incredible true story of the final months of British rule in India
London’s Historic Charterhouse

London’s Historic Charterhouse

The Charterhouse in London has been living the nation’s history since 1348.
Three Months for Just £10!

National Art Pass - Three Months for Just £10!

We’ve teamed up with Art Fund to offer London Calling readers a special offer: a three-month National Art Pass for £10.
The African Salsa Orchestra make UK Debut!

The African Salsa Orchestra make UK Debut!

The African Salsa Orchestra embark on their debut UK tour this July - including a date at London's Jazz Cafe!
Win a pair of tickets to a screening of Howard’s End and a copy of the book.

BFI - Win a pair of tickets to a screening of Howard’s End and a copy of the book.

The Oscar-winning 1990s film has been re-released in stunning 4k format to mark it's 25th anniversary.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!