London occupies a special place in the heart of music lovers. The city excels in every genre and style. In fact, London produces incredible local talent and attracts artists from all over the world. Concert venues in London are as fantastic as the music they host. There is a place for every taste and fancy. Giant stadiums, state-of-the-art concert halls, historic buildings, hidden pubs, and bare tiny stages dot the city. If you are into pop, rock, folk, hip-hop, techno, or classical music, you will always find something fascinating going on in the UK’s capital. The sheer amount of concert venues in London can be intimidating. Thus, we chose the most impressive ones, both in atmosphere and acoustics.
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The Royal Albert Hall
If you think the Royal Albert Hall looks impressive from the outside, wait till you get inside. No other than Queen Victoria herself inaugurated the majestic venue in 1871, 150 years ago. It was a success from day one. More than 390 shows take place in the Royal Albert Hall every year, making it one of London’s busiest venues. Its programme includes just about everything, from opera and ballet to award ceremonies and charity galas. There isn’t a single artist in the world who hasn’t dreamt of playing here. Some of the world’s biggest names have performed under its 20,000 sq feet glazed iron roof: Pink Floyd, The Killers, Adele, The Beatles, and a very long etc.
O2 Academy Brixton
The O2 Academy Brixton in southern London opened as a cinema in 1929. It was briefly a discotheque in 1972 and became one of London’s most famous concert venues in 1982. In fact, this impressive Grade II listed building won the prestigious New Music Express Best Venue award 12 times! The gorgeous Art Deco building was restored to its former glory in 1995. Today, with its 5,000 person capacity, it is one of the largest non-stadium venues in the city. The Smiths, The Clash, Iron Maiden, and Arcade Fire, amongst many others, played here. In 2000, nine million people watched Madonna’s concert live from the Brixton Academy. In addition, some of the world’s best musicians use it to record albums and tape videos.
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
Jazz lovers know this place. Ronnie Scott and Pete King opened this legendary club in 1959 in the basement of a building in central Soho. In 1965 the club moved to a bigger place nearby, although the old place still worked as a club for two additional years. Scott was the club’s host until his death in 1996. From then on, King ran the club until 2005, when he sold it. The biggest names in jazz have performed here over the years, including Nina Simone, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald. Jimi Hendrix played for the last time here in 1970. Ronnie Scott’s is not only one of the most iconic jazz venues in London but the entire world.
KOKO is a popular music venue in London’s Camden Town. The club is inside the former Camden Theatre that opened in 1900. From 1945 to 1972, the BBC used the theatre as a recording studio. The first Monty Python’s Flying Circus was taped here and reached cult status. After being neglected for years, the building reopened in 1977 as the Music Machine club. In 1982 it was renamed Camden Palace. Madonna played the city for the first time here in 1983. The Palace closed in 2004 and, following extensive renovations, reopened as KOKO. Today, it is one of the best live music venues in London. The Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, Coldplay, and Lady Gaga performed here.
No list of popular concert venues in London can be complete without Wembley Stadium. The largest stadium in the UK, and the second largest in Europe, is the biggest concert arena in London. The original stadium from 1923 was demolished in 2002 and replaced by a new one in 2007. Today, Wembley is a British icon adored by sports fanatics and music lovers. The list of concerts held in both the old and new buildings is endless. The legendary Live Aid concert from 1985, watched by 1.5 billion people around the world, took place in the old stadium. Michael Jackson performed 15 times in front of 1.1 million people. Today, the biggest names in the music industry play at Wembley.
The O2 Arena
The O2 Arena is the largest venue for indoor concerts in London, and the second largest in the UK after the Manchester Arena. The Arena opened in June 2007 inside the former Millennium Dome, the fantastic structure built to commemorate the turn of the third millennium. In fact, locals still call it The Dome. The O2 took 4 years to complete. The place was built to reduce echo and achieve perfect acoustics. The result is unbelievable and attracts the best performers in the world. Prince held 21 consecutive sold-out concerts here in August 2007. Artists that played The Dome include The Spice Girls, Kylie Minogue, Celine Dion, and the Pet Shop Boys. However, it is not only a temple of pop. The C2C Country Music Festival, the largest of its kind in Europe, takes place here. Today, the O2 Arena is the busiest music space in the world, with more tickets sold than New York’s Madison Square Arena.
The round brick building named Roundhouse is another landmark in Camden Town. The venue is inside a former railway engine repair shed from 1846. The building was abandoned in 1939 only to reopen in 1964 as a theatre called Centre 42. In the 60s and 70s, it was a popular venue for underground music. However, it was one more time abandoned from 1983 to 1992. Since then, it has never closed again. Some of the best live shows in London happen at the Roundhouse. We are talking about artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. Other than sought-after concerts, it also hosts poetry nights and the biannual Circusfest.
What could be cooler than a concert in a fully functioning church? One in a church that helps homeless people in crisis. Located inside a Neo-gothic church from 1877, the Union Chapel is one of the most unique venues in London. No wonder it keeps winning awards. The chapel faced demolition through the 1980s and the 1990s. Fortunately, several successful charity events saved it from oblivion. Since 1992, it hosts music, poetry, comedy, and film nights. Big names like Elton John, Beck, Amy Winehouse, and Tom Jones had their gigs here. The church is also home to one of the finest organs in the city.
Northern London has a historic concert hall like no other. The Alexandra Palace is a breathtaking Victorian building from 1975 in Haringey. Conceived as the People’s Palace, locals call it the Ally Pally. In the 19th century, the grounds included a concert hall, art galleries, a museum, a lecture hall, a library, and a theatre. The finest organ in Europe is still inside the Alexandra. During World War I, the Palace hosted refugees escaping war and then enemies. In 1936, the first public broadcasts by the BBC were made from the Alexandra Palace. The popular TV show The X-Factor was taped here in 2016.
The 100 Club
The 100 Club is an institution on Oxford Street, in the West End. The original one opened in 1942 as the Feldman Swing Club. Thus, it’s the oldest independent music venue in the world. The club took over Macks restaurant every Sunday. For quite some time, it was one of the few London music venues playing exclusively swing and jazz. The 100 Club as we know it today was born in the 60s to popular acclaim. In the 70s, the club became a mecca for punk rockers, with performances by bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. It later expanded into Reggae, African Jazz, and Indie.
The Electric Ballroom is another jewel of a music club in Camden Town. It opened as an Irish Ballroom in the 1930s. In 1978 it was renamed the Electric Ballroom. The building faced demolition at the beginning of the 21st century to make room for a nearby tube station. In the late 70s and early 80s, it was a roller disco. Every weekend through the 1990s and 2000s, a local market set up shop inside. Stand Up Central, a popular television comedy show, is held here. Musical guests include Madness, The Killers, U2, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Shepherd’s Bush Empire
This iconic concert venue in West London’s Shepherd’s Bush opened in 1903 as a music hall. In 1953, the BBC bought the building and converted it into a television studio called the BBC Television Theatre. The popular talk show Wogan was filmed here in 1985. The BBC left in 1991, and in 1994 it was renamed again as Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Since then, it has hosted countless concerts and dance nights. Pearl Jam debuted at the Empire, while Oasis celebrated its tenth anniversary. David Bowie and the Rolling Stones played here too.