– Written by Victoria Philpott
Coming to London? You better pack your dancing shoes. At HostelBookers we love a night out on the town and London’s nightlife is the best. Here in the office there’s been some intense debate about the best club in the city, but we’re not ones to argue, so in no particular order, let me present our top 10 list…
1. Hardcore ravers at Ministry of Sound
One of London’s best-known nightclubs Ministry of Sound celebrates its 21st anniversary in 2012. Famous nights include Roger Sanchez’s Release Yourself, Defected in the House and Jongleurs. The club has 5 rooms, 4 bars, dance floors, DJ booths, 2 luxury VIP lounges and ‘an unrivalled audio visual specification’. Frequented by a young and crazy crowd – as well as the odd 90s cyber raver who just can’t let go – you’re looking at around £15 to get in, DJ dependent.
Little bit of history for you – for the first 3 years of Ministry of Sound they had no drinks licence. People still came in droves though, allowing them to have super strict door policies. Nowadays there’s plenty of booze, although you still have to be up to scratch to get past those power tripping bouncers.
Nearest tube: Elephant & Castle
2. For Brazilian beats go to Guanabara
If you like your London nightlife with some Brazilian spice, Guanabara in Holborn is your dancing ditch. It’s all in one huge room with tables set out in rows around the dancefloor and usually some crazed drummer hammering his skins in the centre. Everyone dances – no matter how good they are – and if you go on a Tuesday there’s a class for you to perfect your hip-shaking/bum wobbling moves.
Get there early and entrance is free. Happy hour runs from 5-7pm every day giving you 50% off all drinks. Take a tip from me – spend your precious pennies on the Capirinhas, they’re dee-lish. Few too many though, and HostelBookers accepts no responsibility for your actions…
If you’re after a tasty treat to line your stomach the classic Brazilian menu will sort you out, a 14oz rib-eye steak starts at £17.50. There are also some yummy sharing platters I couldn’t help eyeing up when I was meant to be concentrating on my Mojito at a recent birthday party. But let’s not dwell on that – eating’s cheating, remember?
Nearest tube: Holborn
3. Big-name DJs are at Fabric
Unnoticeable by day, but a shining beacon of Farringdon by night, Fabric nightclub plays temporary home to some of the biggest DJs in London. The MINUS DJs are regulars, as is Jamie Jones, Matthew Dear, Steve Bug and Horsemeat Disco. Saturday night showcases the underground while Friday’s are a cacophony of musical talent with hip hop, dubstep, electro and indie all enjoying a spin on the DJ decks.
London nightlife has never been the same since the Polysexual crew got on board for the Sunday WETYOURSELF night. If you just can’t say bye to the weekend, head to Fabric for some dancefloor hedonism from Miss Kittin, Ben Klock and Martinez among other talented DJ fantasticos.
In room one you’ll find a bodysonic dancefloor – areas of the floor are attached to 400 bass transducers meaning you can feel the bass pumping through you like a speaker.
Tickets start from £15, or roll up in your PJs from 3am for a bargainous £7. Don’t really wear your PJs though – you won’t get in.
Nearest tube: Farringdon
4. Rockers go to KOKO
One of the oldest venues on our top 10 list of London clubs, KOKO in Camden is housed in an ancient theatre – complete with stage, curtains, stalls and royal boxes. They’ve recently opened a cool smoking terrace if you need a breath of fresh air (err, you know what I mean).
During the week some of the hottest names in indie, electro and whatever the kids are into these days play the stage. When the weekend dawns its home to Club NME where lesser-known, specially-picked bands hoist up their guitars to entertain the crowd. Monthly club nights, namely Buttoned Down Disco (indie electro pop) and Guilty Pleasures (cheesy dress-up) always pull a huge crowd.
Prices vary depending on the band and the night, could be £5, could be £30. The club nights definitely attract a younger crowd while the bands’ audience depends on their followers. Because of the different levels it’s a great place for watching bands. It’s a cool club and definitely worth giving a shot. Although the doormen are vicious – behave.
Nearest tube: Mornington Crescent
5. Super trendies go to Corsica Studios
Champions of leftfield talent Corsica Studios is one of the coolest clubs in London. A quick look at the crowd tells you it’s where all the uber-trendy kids go – those on the cusp of just being too darn stylish for the ‘trendy Hoxton clubs’.
Undergound music and talent prevails here, supporting Corsica Studios’ reputation of musical discovery. The club is small compared to the dizzy heights of the likes of Ministry of Sound but around 500 lucky clubbers can pack into the two railway arches and the smoking terrace.
Corsica Studios is open till 6am, drinks are around £3.50 and entrance is a London nightclub bargain starting at around £5.
There are no long queues to get in and the intimate atmosphere means everyone is really friendly. It’s unpretentious with a fun arty vibe and has plenty of toilets which always makes me happy.
Nearest tube: Elephant and Castle
6. Mash-up music fans go to Proud
A stern favourite for Camdenites – at Proud skinny jeans and cool hair are a must. Understandably Proud is often mistaken for a gay club – owner Alex Proud is to blame for the mix up – but it’s a club where all sorts are embraced. Housed in the 200-year-old Grade II listed Horse Hospital in the Stables Market, the club is divided into three unique areas.
One room retains the old sectional stables where horses who were injured pulling the canal barges were left to recover. These are available for hire, and are all decked out with different furniture and styles. Some even have poles for dancing while others just a nice big old-fashioned sofa. The adjoining room is where the band plays and the next is now a restaurant or overflow seating area for the club. Outside you’ll find a smoking terrace that looks over Camden, complete with deck chairs and another bar so your mouth never need be dry.
Music is varied but it’s usually DJs and bands along the lines of electro, dubstep and indie. Get in for free before 9 and you’re laughing all the way to bar – afterwards you’re looking at a lengthy queue and parting with around £10 depending on the night.
Nearest tube: Chalk Farm
7. Try something a bit different at Circus
It’s difficult to stand out in the crowded London nightlife marketplace but Circus in Covent Garden is using all the tricks of the big top to entice you. It’s a restaurant by evening and club by night. Look up and you’ll witness aerial artists contorting their limbs into all kinds of funky circus shapes for you to attempt to replicate on the dancefloor.
You’ll enter through an alleyway of kaleidoscopic mirrors to see cocktail and cabaret combine in central London – it’s a feast for the eyes. DJs play into the early morning while the antics of the fire-eating ballerinas is reflected in the mirror balls spattered everywhere. Check out the flamingo leg table legs too.
Glasses of wine start from £5, but why not save up your pocket money and go all out on a bowl of punch that serves 20 for (just!) £185? Each one contains a bottle of spirit and a bottle of wine. Or, there’s the luxury punch for £700. Hmmm tempting, but I’m not sure what the landlord will say when I tell him I spent all my rent money at the circus… or the boyfriend…
Nearest tube: Covent Garden
8. Meat market pop is at Infernos
If your music taste is strictly pop, you like to be ogled and you want to thrash out some dance moves with like-minded folk, why haven’t you heard of Infernos already? Self-professed as ‘London’s Greatest Disco’ Infernos has karaoke suites, traffic light parties, mirror balls aplenty and runway lights to guide your wobbly way.
At weekends it’s open until 3.30am and costs from free to £10 depending on when you get there. Infernos is legendary and the club fills up every week with young students, sports teams and ex-pats after a good time.
You can request a song via the Infernos website if you’ve got a particular favourite. And to give you an idea of the clientele, Infernos’ most requested tunes are… I’ll be Ready (the Baywatch theme tune), Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 .
Possibly the definitive Marmite club.
Nearest tube: Clapham Common or Clapham North
9. The best gay night is in Heaven
Resting just under Charing Cross Railway Station you’ll find renowned superclub Heaven – the biggest gay club in the city. Once a wine cellar the club has a long and interesting history. It’s main claim to fame is bringing gay clubbing into the mainstream. A long list of legends have performed there from Cher to the Eurythmics to the Pet Shop Boys and Aqua (genuinely gutted I missed that one).
It’s the only club in Westminster open until 6am, it’s one of the largest with all its chambers and tunnels and it’s now owned by the clubbing force behind celebrity magnet G-A-Y, another of London’s most successful gay clubs. The heat underground often leads to some naked torsos and a frisky feeling but the place is so big it’s easy to escape any unwanted attention.
If you’re after some pop and funky house music on a Monday delve under those railway arches to find Popcorn! – the busiest night of the week at Heaven and often drawing more of a straight crowd. On a Friday you can take part in Porn Idol, a men’s strip competition where you could win £100.
Nearest tubes: Charing Cross and Embankment
10. Cheesy fancy dress at Club de Fromage in the O2 Academy Islington
Wizards, sailors, superheroes and Where’s Wallys unite. If your fancy dress box is bulging at the seams and you just can’t walk past a stick-on moustache without buying it ‘just-in-case’ you’ll find your spiritual home at the Club de Fromage night in Angel. Anyone in fancy dress gets to jump the queue – although you will go in the fancy dress queue which could, in fact, be longer.
There’s no point being yourself here – the deeper your hide your identity the better. Every Saturday ‘London’s Favourite Fancy Dress Night’ spins rock and pop anthems from the last 50 years for hundreds of fun-hungry partygoers. Occasionally they’ll set the theme – Witches and Wizards and Sport Day anyone? – but generally anything goes and the madder the better.
Entrance is only £6.50 in advance and on the door it’s £8 before midnight, £10 after and just £6 all night for NUS. If you’re more devil horns at Halloween than full-on Frankenstein you can just go along in your everyday boring clothes – but we guarantee you’ll return nest time in full banana (or similar) costume, with maracas (or similar) to match.
Nearest tube: Angel
Where to sleep
After the obligatory end-of-the-night skanky kebab meat and chips you’ll be wanting a bed. There are plenty of cheap London youth hotels and hostels to choose from. The Generator Hostel is one of the best party hostels in London. It has 800 beds, a central location and a bar that’s open until 2am every night. You’ll get a free locker, a free breakfast and a free walking tour. As well as karaoke, DJs, quizzes, themed parties, movies, wi-fi, value dinners and pool competitions in the shared areas. With private rooms to 12-bed dorms you’ll find a bed to suit your budget. Dorms start from €25.42 pppn.
St, Christopher’s Inns are known for their lively atmosphere and fun guests. St Christopher’s in Camden is in between Camden Town and Mornington Crescent tubes – perfect for KOKO and Proud – and on Camden High Street where you’ll find loads of exciting places to wet your whistle pre-club. There’s a rock and roll band stand, a chill room in the basement and widescreen TVs for all the top sports events. Rooms are for 2-10 people and you can start off your evening in the Belushi’s downstairs where you’ll get discount on all food and drinks. Dorms start from €11.59.
Thanks to Marcus Vegas, RosaMaria_Nika, Mat from London, Goodnight London, Berto Garcia, simongreenuk and markhillary for the excellent images from Flickr! Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.