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

Top 5: Museums about London

Top 5: Museums about London

We’re all big fans of London here, and it’s safe to assume you are too. What a city – one of the finest in the world –…

BRICKLIVE 2017

BRICKLIVE 2017

Get ready for the return of the fantastic BRICKLIVE this summer - on tour for 2017!

“Burlesque is supposed to be a comment on modern society”. An interview with Tempest Rose.

“Burlesque is supposed to be a comment on modern society”. An interview with Tempest Rose.

Tempest Rose is an international Burlesque artist, and a leading figure in the industry. As well as being a performer, Tempest also produces work that…

Adult Learning Summer Courses at the British Library

Adult Learning Summer Courses at the British Library

The best of the British Library explored in a new season of Adult Learning courses.

This Week May 29 - June 4

This Week May 29 - June 4

Woah baby, have we got a doozy of a round-up for you this week. You can tell it’s summer, because every event is tinged with optimism…

The Best Music in London this June

The Best Music in London this June

With a sudden swoop, summer has landed in London. A sea of bare legs occupies every green space in the capital and Londoners have switched…

This Week June 19-25

This Week June 19-25

The big news this week is the start of the 2017 Greenwich and Docklands International Festival – three weekends of outdoor performance and theatre from international…

A Guide to London Tree Week 2017

A Guide to London Tree Week 2017

It's London Tree Week! As if you didn’t already know. From May 27 till June 4 there are tons of tree-related activities taking places in London’s…

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost

A pop-rock score enlivens Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy at Hackney Empire this June.

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan is a collection of concept sketches, background designs and paintings from four of Japanese cinema’s most iconic movies: Ghost in the…

Most popular

Win a 3 Course Dinner, Cocktail & River Cruise For 2 People

London Day Out - Win a 3 Course Dinner, Cocktail & River Cruise For 2 People

See a different side of London with an exciting and unlimited cruise down the Thames, followed by a delightful meal.
Win four tickets to a Dustin Hoffman screening plus cocktails!

BFI - Win four tickets to a Dustin Hoffman screening plus cocktails!

Your chance to win four tickets to a Dustin Hoffman film screening, with two cocktails, throughout June/July.
Win Dinner for 2 and Entry to Gilded Interiors

Wallace Collection - Win Dinner for 2 and Entry to Gilded Interiors

We're giving away dinner for two in the beautiful Wallace Collection Restaurant, with entry to their Gilded Interiors exhibition
Win Cream Cakes and Cocktails for Two!

Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour - Win Cream Cakes and Cocktails for Two!

Indulge yourself at this sumptuous London spot perfect for gin lovers.
Win two weekend passes to a celebration of Japanese culture

HYPER JAPAN - Win two weekend passes to a celebration of Japanese culture

Tobacco Dock hosts a weekend of food, music, performance and more
Win a copy of the artist’s new book Arctic Light!

David Bellamy - Win a copy of the artist’s new book Arctic Light!

David Bellamy's new book documents his travels round the Arctic though watercolour
Win two tickets to see courtroom drama Terror

Lyric Hammersmith - Win two tickets to see courtroom drama Terror

A new courtroom drama puts the audience in the jury.
BRICKLIVE 2017

BRICKLIVE 2017

Get ready for the return of the fantastic BRICKLIVE this summer - on tour for 2017!
Win Tickets a Fringe Comedy Show

The Pleasance - Win Tickets a Fringe Comedy Show

Catch Nina Conti, Tim Key, Jayde Adams, Geins Family Giftshop, Adam Riches & more great comedy at The Pleasance this summer.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!