Few cities in the world can match London when it comes to entertainment and nightlife. It overflows with history and tradition, with theatres and venues that measure their lifetimes in decades. From the grand old opera houses and theatres of the West End, to clubs and bars in the City's fashionable eastern quarter, and global sports events to cool pool halls, London oozes possibilities and excitement.
Despite all its visible history, London is very much alive and not a mausoleum -- away from the classical palaces of entertainment, you'll find a very different London. This one takes place in the basements and spaces that have been left behind, out of sight sometimes, but with a pulse that can be felt all over the city. Never standing still, in a state of constant flux, this is a London where clubs, bars, and even whole districts can drift in and out of fashion in bewilderingly quick time, heralding the next great adventure just around the corner. The Tube may not run all night, but thanks to relaxed licensing laws, a city that once closed down at 11pm now parties on well into the small hours.
Weekly publications such as Time Out carry full entertainment listings, including information on restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. You'll also find listings in all the daily newspapers, and the Guide distributed every Saturday inside the Guardian newspaper is an invaluable source of up-to-date information.
The quintessential British experience of dropping into the "local" for a pint of real ale or bitter is a great way to soak up the character of the different villages that form London. As bars and clubs have mushroomed over the past two decades, the pub may have lost some of its grip on the British psyche, but you'll still find yourself in the best place to catch the area's gossip or all the sports talk -- and, of course, enjoy the finest ales, stouts, ciders, and malt whiskies in the world. General opening hours are noon until 11pm, although recent changes to licensing laws mean that many pubs now stay open later -- and even in those that don't you're unlikely to be rushed from the premises. Insider's tip: Websites such as Beerinthevening.com and Fancyapint.com host user reviews of nearly every London pub.
Every night in hundreds of venues across London, you'll find live music being played, from international superstars to those making their first hesitant steps from their garages. The Guide, a supplement inside Saturday's Guardian, offers up-to-date listings covering everything from rock and pop through to jazz, folk, and blues. Online guides such as Spoonfed (www.spoonfed.com) are often a good place to find more leftfield events. Most small venues will allow you to purchase tickets on the night, but for larger and more popular events you may have to buy way in advance. Most venues have ticketing information on their own websites; failing that, check SEEtickets.com, WeGotTickets.com, or Ticketweb.co.uk.
"Duke of Uke" & the Rise of the Ukulele -- One of the curious phenomena of recent years has been the rise and rise of the humble ukulele. For years this relation of the banjo was the preserve of flat-capped comic George Formby. It has experienced an unlikely revival, and now the likes of Amanda Palmer and Noah and the Whale incorporate its distinctive plucked sound. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is also becoming a fixture at the U.K.'s major summer music festivals. If you want to get the uke habit, head for Duke of Uke, 22 Hanbury St. (tel. 020/7247-7924; www.dukeofuke.co.uk), to satisfy all your banjo and uke cravings, and to get advice and tips on playing.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.