London is home to one of the greatest live music scenes in the world. From vast venues attracting the world’s leading artists to intimate spaces and open mic nights every night all over the city, there will always be something to satisfy your live music cravings whatever style you’re into. Of course, the biggest and most in-demand shows tend to sell out in advance, meaning if you want to catch one of them on your trip to London you’ll have to do your homework. But on many nights, even at famous venues, it’s perfectly possible to turn up and pay on the door. You never know, you might just stumble across a new favourite band or artist, and at the very least you’ll get a taste of one of the most vibrant music cultures to be found anywhere in the world.
Alexandra Palace is finally reclaiming its status as one of the best and most iconic venues in London, with an ever-growing list of performers on the bill. Originally opened in 1873, this is a Victorian masterpiece which was designed to be north London’s equivalent to the Crystal Palace in the south, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Known affectionately to Londoners as ‘Ally Pally’, it’s a bit of a trek from central London, neighbouring the leafy, affluent neighbourhood of Muswell Hill; but it’s worth the journey. For decades, Ally Pally was a crumbling and largely forgotten event space, but is undergoing a booming revival. Despite not being in central London, Alexandra Palace is easily accessible from The Marble Arch by Montcalm London via the London Underground and British Rail: simply take the Central line from Marble Arch to Oxford Circus, the Victoria Line from Oxford Circus to Finsbury Park, and then a British Rail train from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace.
Scala is a former cinema in King’s Cross which hosts regular club nights and special arts, cinema and music events. Construction began before the First World War, during which the site was used to manufacture aircraft parts, and since then the venue has had a long and colourful history, including being the one and only venue in the United Kingdom to play host to legendary U.S. rockers Iggy & The Stooges, when they were in London recording their Raw Power album. Scala continues to play host to a great number of international artists and is a very evocative venue, with its imposing staircases, dark corners and mosaic-tiled floors ripe for exploration.
Another historic music venue is KOKO, located in Camden in north London. Formerly known as Camden Theatre, this building began life on Boxing Day in 1900, when it first opened to the paying public. Then one of the largest theatres in London outside the West End, the theatre became a cinema in 1913 and was renamed The Music Machine in 1977. By 2004, the venue was run down and in a state of disuse, but rose like a phoenix from the ashes to become KOKO, which continues to attract international stars and cult artists alike.