For the night-owls, the jet-lagged and the insomniac culture vultures out there, we’ve got a comprehensive list of ways in which to experience the cultural highlights London has to offer, in the lowlight of late night. We know you know about the bars, clubs and karaoke joints, so we’re giving you another way to expand your mind instead.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum after hours sessions brings immersive science events and expert-led talks to the late evening crowd. As of January you can once again start enjoying the monthly late opening hours (suspended for December) on the last Friday of the month, until 10pm. As well as the permanent and temporary exhibitions, there are discussions on timely themes, open-mic performances by up-and-coming musicians playing throughout the evening, as well as British farmers market food and drink in the pop-up restaurant.
Free entry, tickets needed for exhibitions and events.
On the last Wednesday of each month (except in December), adults take over the Science Museum for a night, with a chance to play around with more than 50 interactive exhibits until 10pm. The most visited science and technology museum in Europe, the Museum has over 15,000 displays, including world-famous items such as the Apollo 10 command capsule, plus you can discover how it feels to fly with the Red Arrows in the breathtaking 3D and 4D flight simulators. Experts will be showcasing some of the latest technology and talking about topics such as climate change, space exploration and forensic science.
Free entry, tickets needed for some events.
The British Museum stays open until 8.30pm every Friday, with lectures, debates, performances, film screenings, and late opening in the Court Restaurant. There are also free 20-minute spotlight tours to introduce selected areas of the collection (for example the Parthenon, Rosetta Stone and Death in Egypt), and on the second Friday of every month special BM/PM nights are held – adults only and booking essential.
TimeOut First Thursdays
On the first Thursday of every month, over 150 museums and galleries in East London stay open until 9pm and run free events, viewings, workshops and talks, collectively called First Thursdays. There’s a free guided Art Bus Tour as well as walking tours around some of the participating venues, hosted by leading curators, writers, academics and artists. There’s also a cafe/bar to keep you stand and watered throughout the evening, with many venues putting on their own drinks and canapés.
The Barbican galleries stay open until 10pm every Thursday, so London locals can join the tourists in enjoying the best the space has to offer, with a drink and a snack to boot. Special events, talks, exhibitions, workshops and a well-stocked bar will keep you entertained, plus every one or two months there’s a ‘Lates’ night across the whole of the Barbican, with interactive events and DJs. For cutting-edge theatre, art, film and music, this is your one-stop-late-night-shop.
Tate Modern exhibitions are open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and the Restaurant also stays open late for dinner, or you can unwind with a drink as you peruse the culture on offer. Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art from around the world is housed in the former Bankside Power Station alongside the Thames, with the staggering Turbine Hall running the length of the building. Take advantage of free art viewing by masters such as Cézanne, Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, Dalí, Pollock, Warhol and Bourgeois.
Free entry, special exhibits require tickets.
Camden Arts Centre
The Camden Arts Centre is open until 9pm every Wednesday, with free talks, film screenings, live performances, and late opening in the café and bookshop. The eye-catching building combines original Victorian gothic features with a contemporary urban design to enhance space and light. The new galleries feature installations, films and videos, light sensitive drawings and sculpture, with an emphasis on making art as well as displaying it.
Victoria & Albert Museum
Selected galleries at the V&A stay open until 10pm on Fridays, and on the last Friday of the month (except December) there are themed Friday Late events. These feature interactive activities, installations and exhibitions and are themed around the latest exhibitions. Visitors join DJs, installations and performance artists in talks, workshops and screenings with an intellectual edge. The elegant V&A Café, originally the world’s first museum restaurant, provides an appetising range of food and drink on the night.
National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery doors remain open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays for the Late Shift. Thursdays are for discussion and contemplation with talks, tours and philosophy salons, while Fridays feature artist-led drawing sessions, suitable for all abilities. Afterwards (or meanwhile) you can relax in the Late Shift Bar, Portrait Café or the stunning rooftop Portrait Restaurant, which provides its very own amazing views across the London skyline. Artists featured range from Holbein to Hockney, and the collection includes work across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography and video. Three time per year there are also guest-curated and themed evenings that dictate the programme for Late Shift Extra, featuring film screenings, workshops and performances.
Make sure not to sleep through this one – book you stay with us at Amba Hotel Charing Cross!