The Best Venues in London

Making a list of the best venues in London is no small feat, but it’s a challenge we’ve risen to. Presenting our run-down of the capital’s most thrilling environments for enjoying live music…

London is much loved as one of the world’s top cities for live music, generating up to £1bn for the UK economy back in 2016. The research, published by IQ Magazine from data compiled by concert website Songkick, showed how the city hosted the most live gigs in Europe and had the third highest number in the world, only behind the likes of New York and Los Angeles.

From jazz and soul to rock and roll and UK grime, global stars and emerging indie outfits and more, the capital’s reputation as a hub for live performance has a long history. This resonates through a dizzyingly diverse range of genres, sonic styles and of course venues, both big and small.

Over the last 18 months, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the global music industry. However, with live music now open and demand spiralling for gigs and festivals, London’s reputation is continuing where it left off, thanks to its stellar network of venues.

Here, we explore some of the spaces that have helped the city become a leading player on the world’s live music stage…

Best London Venue 1: The O2 Arena

best venues in London - the o2

Image from

Originally developed as the much-maligned Millennium Dome to mark the celebrations heralding the new decade, the O2 Arena as we now know it opened its doors in 2007.

Located near Greenwich and with a capacity of more than 20,000, the venue is one of the biggest in the UK and has played host to a wide variety of musical icons since its inception.

The late, great Prince lorded over a 21-night residency back in 2007 at the newly opened arena, playing in the round to a cumulative audience of hundreds of thousands of fans.

After nearly 30 years, rock titans Led Zeppelin used the O2 as the location for their reunion gig in 2007. Their tribute show to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun saw more than 20 million people applying for tickets to the show.

Since then, the venue has been a must-stop for big artists passing through the city from pop stars such as the Spice Girls to hip-hop legends Kanye West and Jay-Z performing as Watch the Throne.

Best Venue 2: The 100 Club

london's best venues - the 100 club

Image from – photo credit: Gobinder Jhitta

Located on Oxford Street in the bustling heart of central London, the 100 Club is one of the city’s most legendary live music spaces. First known as the Feldman Jazz Club in 1942, its walls have felt almost every conceivable musical style and genre reverberate between them.

From the blues of BB King and sixties guitars of The Kinks to the punk squall of the Sex Pistols and the Clash to the first ever Northern Soul all nighters in the eighties, it’s been a vital venue in Britain’s musical evolution, and undoubtedly one of the best venues in London.

Some of the stories surrounding the 100 Club are the stuff of musical legend. Supposedly, the current stage is the same one put in place in 1964 by the then-owner, Roger Horton. Oasis played a six song set in 1994 when they cost a mere £250 to book while the Gallagher brothers’ hero, Paul McCartney, played an intimate gig at the venue to help save it from developers.

Best London Venue 3: The Windmill

Is the windmill one of london's best venues

Image from

Iconic London venues don’t come much rawer than the Windmill in Brixton, yet few have been as influential in kickstarting the careers of so many of the capital’s best new bands.

Ostensibly a rather unassuming boozer with a flat-roof slumped opposite a windmill, the venue was originally a bar before the clientele of musicians, sound engineers and promoters who regularly drank there began arranging gigs during the nineties.

The informal setting has proved to be a hit with emerging artists and a rite of passage for many who have gone to become stars.

The list of artists to perform includes everyone from Art Brut, Biffy Clyro, The Black Lips, Bloc Party, The Cribs, Daniel Johnston, Example, Florence & The Machine, Frank Turner, Frightened Rabbit, F*ck Buttons, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Guillemots, Hard-Fi, Hot Chip, The Horrors and many more…

Best Venue 4: Ronnie Scott’s

Image from

Ronnie Scott’s is revered as one of the oldest jazz clubs in the world, having been welcoming music fans to its sophisticated surroundings since it set up shop in 1959.

From its early days when it counted the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Count Basie and Miles Davis as performers, the club continues to present the biggest names in jazz including Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson and Kurt Elling. These headline stars all shun the larger capacity concert halls in favour of the smaller, more welcoming environs of the club.

Intimacy is what makes the venue so special with music legend Prince using it for one of his Hit and Run gigs in 2014. Jimi Hendrix’s last public performance was at Ronnie Scott’s, taking place in 1970.

Best London Venue 5: Brixton Academy

brixton academy - one of the best venues in london

Image from

For any music lover living in South London, Brixton Academy is an essential spot for you to cut your teeth on live performance.

Originally opened as a cinema and theatre in 1929, it enjoyed more than 40 years in its first lifetime as the Astoria. It closed its doors and was almost demolished before planning permission fell through, leading to its opening as a music venue in 1981. Named the Fair Deal, it hosted gigs by the Clash and UB40 before closing a year later. Then local entrepreneur Simon Parkes bought the venue for a mere £1.

Since then, its blend of art deco design, state of the art sound and sloping floor have made it an essential destination for many of the best bands around. The xx, the Specials and Sex Pistols have all performed residencies there while the venue was also where Manchester indie legends The Smiths played what would be their final gig in 1986.

Best Venue 6: The Union Chapel


Image from – photo credit: Gobinder Jhitta

Union Chapel can be found near Highbury and Islington but is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Upper Street.

Built in the late 1800s, this chapel was originally a popular church before falling into decline after the Second World War. However, the local community came together to help save it and now it doubles as a working church as well as an excellent spot for live music.

It means that this venue is a unique one, with its very special sound and setting ensuring it is one of the most popular among the capital’s gig-going populace. Hosting more than 200 events per year, the space has attracted everyone from Elton John and Tori Amos to Bjork and Bat for Lashes wanting to take advantage of its numerous qualities. It’s up there with the very best venues in London.

Best London Venue 7: KOKO


Image from


Camden is one of the boroughs most closely associated with live music so it’s no surprise that it features many of the best venues in London.

Previously the Camden Palace, KOKO is one of the capital’s greatest spots for gigs, combining a unique heritage with brilliant sound that has made it a hit with everyone from the Rolling Stones to Stormzy and local star Amy Winehouse.

The venue’s doors have been shut since March 2019 as part of multi-million pound refurbishment. The impact of the pandemic and an unexpected fire in January of last year have been undeniable setbacks, although the venue is due to reopen in 2022.

Some £70m has been invested into the redevelopment, which has enabled a four-storey upwards extension of the Grade II-listed theatre. The work has also led to an expansion into two adjacent buildings: a former piano factory dating back to 1800, and the old nearby Hope and Anchor pub.

Best Venue 8: The Dublin Castle

Image from – Photo credit: Chris Dorney

The Dublin Castle is also located in Camden, but somewhat grimier, stickier and more beer-soaked than KOKO. Having been run by the same family for almost 30 years, the pub can accommodate up to 200 punters and usually hosts as many as four bands every night with DJs at the weekend and a legendary jukebox in the front bar.

It was originally opened to cater for Irish workmen employed on the nearby railway. However, it gradually became a music venue during the seventies thanks to landlord Alo Conlon. The likes of Madness, Travis, Blur and Amy Winehouse all cut their musical teeth here with Suggs and his motley crew enjoying their first gig at the pub. Winehouse was such a part of the boozer’s family, she even used to serve behind the bar when not performing or partying.

Best London Venue 9: EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney)

Image from
First opened in September 2018, this ‘multi-arts space for the 21st century’ is located at what used to be the Savoy Cinema in the middle of trendy Dalston.

It comes from the team behind Shoreditch’s Village Underground and sees three venues offered to East London’s music lovers, with the EartH Theatre the jewel in the venue’s crown. This atmospheric, seated space has seen the likes of Lambchop, Anna Meredith and Omar Souleyman all grace the venue with their presence.

An on-point booking policy for left-field artists is enhanced by an immersive soundsystem utilising the latest L-ISA technology. This means enhanced clarity, more natural sound, and comprehensive sound panorama.

Venue 10: O2 Shepherd’s Bush

Image from

O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire was originally opened in 1903 as a music hall with early performers supposedly including Charlie Chaplin. During the 1950s, it became the BBC Television Centre before becoming a music venue during the nineties.

In this latest guise, the venue can accommodate 2,000 gig-goers and has attracted some of the bigger stars to perform in a more intimate setting. The big names to take its stage including the likes of the Rolling Stones, Kylie Minogue, Public Image Limited and Elton John.

Alongside the performances, the venue is also notorious for Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines causing controversy when on stage by saying she was ‘ashamed the President of the United States [then George W Bush] is from Texas’.