London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles. To make the most of the city's tremendous cultural offerings (performing arts, museums, exhibitions, clubs, eateries and numerous others), visitors will do well to pick up a copy of a cultural magazine like Time Out London (available at most corner shops and newsagents) which gives detailed information and critiques on what's around town including show times and current attractions. The website also has major shows listed. There is also a Time Out iPhone/iPod app available although the print version tends to be more detailed.
London is one of the best cities in the world for concerts, spanning from new musical trends to well known bands. Between huge concert facilities and small pubs, there are hundreds of venues that organise and promote live music every week. Many concerts, especially in smaller or less known places are free, so there is plenty of choice even for tourists on a budget.
London has long been a launchpad for alternative movements, from the mods of the 60s, punks of the 70s, new romantics of the 80s, the Britpop scene of the 90s and in recent years the indie rock movement spearheaded by The Libertines and their ilk. It has one of the world's most lively live music scenes: any band heading a British, European or World tour will play London, not to mention the local talent. London's music scene is incredibly diverse, covering all genres of music from electro-jazz to death-metal, and all sizes of bands, from the U2s and Rolling Stones of the world to one man bands who disband after their first gig. This diversity is reflected in prices. As a rough guide: £20+ for 'top 40' bands in arena sized venues, £10+ for established bands in mid sized venues, £6+ for up and coming bands and clubnights in smaller venues, £5- for upstarting bands in bars and pubs.
London has hundreds of venues spread out over the city and the best way to know what's going on where is to browse online ticket agencies, music magazine's gig directories and bands' myspaces . However, there are a few areas which have higher concentrations of pubs and venues than others. Kilburn is situated in North West London. It's long been known as an Irish area, and though their numbers have somewhat declined any visit to a local pub will show their influence remains today. Kilburn's important venue is The Good Ship. Due to its inclusive policies and fair payment system, The Good Ship is a favorite place for young aspiring bands to try to get a foot off the ground. Good for those who would like to see bands "before they were big", who appreciate £5 entrance fees, good beer and friendly staff.
One of the easiest to use and most comprehensive listings websites is "LondonEars" .
The West End, especially the areas concentrated around Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket, is one of the world's premier destinations for theatre, including musical theatre. Covent Garden has the only Actor sponsored school in the city called the Actors Centre which also gave way to the London Acting Network, a London acting community support group. In the centre of Leicester Square there is an official half-price TKTS booth. For up-to-date listings see the weekly magazine Time Out or check the official London theatreland site . The South Bank is another area well known for world class theatre, and is home to both the National Theatre and the Globe Theatre, the latter of which is London's only thatched building and an attraction in itself. Each Globe performance has over 700 £5 tickets. London's theatre scene outside of these two main districts is known as "the Fringe". Several of the larger and more established fringe theatres are an excellent way to see top quality productions of plays that may well transfer to the West End, but at lower than West End prices. The most significant of these are:
The Royal CourtThis theatre specialises in new writing, and recent productions that have transferred to great acclaim include 'Enron' by Lucy Prebble and 'Jerusalem' by Jez Butterworth, which had long runs in both the West End and on Broadway. The Menier Chocolate FactoryThis small theatre adjacent to Borough Market has done spectacularly well with revivals of musicals, including 'Sunday in the park with George' and 'A Little Night Music' both by Stephen Sondheim and which had runs in both the West End and Broadway.
Other things to do
Changing the GuardBuckingham Palace SW1A 1AAHours: Buckingham Palace: alternate days 11:30 (except daily May-Jul). Horse Guards Arch: M-Sa 11:00, Su 10:00The 45 min ceremony which occurs every morning outside Buckingham palace often features Guards regiments with bearskins and red tunics together with military bands. All these soldiers are fighting troops and there will be times when other regiments mount the guard at Buckingham Palace while units are deployed on active service overseas. In Whitehall, cavalry of the Household division on horseback and foot make the formal changeover between the previous guards on duty and the new guards at Horse Guards Parade. The Household division has guarded the royal family since 1660 and continue to do so today.
Take a walk through London's Royal Parks
. A good walk would start at Paddington station, and head through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park (passing Buckingham Palace) and St James Park before crossing Trafalgar Square and the River Thames to the South Bank
and Waterloo Station. At a strolling pace this walk would take half a day, with plenty of places to stop, sit, drink, eat en route. A good pictorial description of this walk can be found online at Trips By Trains Royal Parks Walk .
Watch a filmAs well as the world-famous blockbuster cinemas in the West End, London has a large number of superb art house cinemas. In the summer months, there are often outdoor screenings at various venues, such as Somerset House and in some of the large parks.
Watch footballTake in a home match of one of the city's 15+ professional football clubs for a true experience of a lifetime as you see the passion of the "World's Game" in its mother country. London will have six clubs in the top Premier League in the upcoming 201213 seasonArsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers (QPR), Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United. A level down, in the Football League Championship, finds Crystal Palace, and Millwall. Six other clubs are in lower levels of the professional league systemBrentford, Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient in Football League One; and AFC Wimbledon, Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge in Football League Two. Many of the bigger clubs will require booking in advance, sometimes many months ahead, but smaller clubs allow you to simply turn up on match day and pay at the gate. You will be able to find a ticket to a quality football match on any Saturday during the season. WimbledonWimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious. Naturally it is a regular feature on the Tennis calendar. London goes "tennis crazy" for two weeks when the competition commences in late June and early July. One of the greatest traditions is to eat Strawberries and Cream with sugar.
Open House London WeekendExplore many of the city's most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend - usually held on the third weekend of September. During this single weekend, several hundred buildings which are not normally open to the public are opened up. See website for details of buildings opening in any given year - some buildings have to be pre-booked in advance - book early for the popular ones! Winter skating.
London has a number of outdoor ice rinks that open in the winter months. Considered by some to be somewhat overpriced and overcrowded, they nonetheless have multiplied in recent years, easing congestion and increasing competition. Most charge from £10-12 (adults) for an hour on the ice, including skate hire. See the district articles for the City of London
, East End
and Leicester Square
In summer (and also in winter, for the more dedicated) there is also a thriving roller skating (on inline and traditional "quad" skates) scene in London, catering to many disciplines including street hockey, freestyle slalom, dance, general recreational skating (including three weekly marshalled group street skates) and speed skating. This mostly centres around Hyde Park (on the Serpentine Road) and Kensington Gardens (by the Albert Memorial). See the district articles for Mayfair-Marylebone
and South West London
ToursIf you don't feel like splashing out on one of the commercial bus tours, you can make your own bus tour by buying an Oyster card and spending some time riding around London on the top deck of standard London buses. Of course you don't get the open air or the commentary, but the views are very similar. You will likely get lost but that is half the fun; if it worries you go for a commercial tour.
Spitalfields Markets65 Brushfield St London E1 6AAVisit the thriving old Spitalfields markets which were the original London fruit markets. They have a daily market selling amazing vintage odds and ends and new fresh clothes! Visit 66/68 Bell Lane nearby to see a wealthy merchants house, rumor has it John Lennon once played on the roof of this building with Yoko Ono.
For a guided tour of London check out The Literary London Walking Tour - an interesting, informative and funny walk through London and its literary hotspots of the past and present. Meet local writers and poets and listen to them perform their works (£15 per person - FREE for all June and July 2012).
Insider London deliver a range of unique alternative London walking tours. Tours include London Street Art, London Underground, Sustainable Architecture, Death and Debauchery and bespoke tours.