Here is London, giddy London. Is it home of the free or what?
August 23, 2005 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Inside, a question about nocturnal activities which will be best answered by Londoners, night-owls and lateral thinkers.

I've lived in London, England for many years and know it very well. I'm also subscribed to every London-related site I can find from London by London to Londonist to London Lost and Found to Flavourpill and Urban Junkies. I read the Guardian Guide and Time Out. In short, I think I'm pretty damn switched on for things to do.

But something always stumps me in this less-than-24-hour city, and that is: things to do after 11pm on a weekday. That's when most of the pubs shut and London begins to go to sleep. We don't boast the same number of late night cafés and bars as New York, where I've never had a problem servicing my night-owl tendencies.

So I'm reaching out to you, dear AskMeFi friends, for some unusual and interesting suggestions. Late night bars are kind of obvious, but feel free to suggest any. There are about four 24-hour cafés that I know of - any recommendations? Bus journeys? Late night walks? Strange shops or clubs? Good places to break into? In short, any kooky, memorable place - or even just a route to take - which might help instigate an adventure in London during the wee hours.

It doesn't have to be legal, sensible or free. The only rule is that it must be something I can do after 11pm on a weekday in London, preferably central London.
posted by skylar to Travel & Transportation around London, England (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Go buildering. That is, find buildings around London you can climb (the word is a play on bouldering, from rock climbers lingo).

I've done it, and it's really damn fun. Not just because climbing is fun, but because there is the extra thrill of having to be discrete. You kind of have to do it at night in a lot of places, to avoid arrest, which is why I suggest it.

I don't find it ethically all that wrong to climb someone's building (it doesn't hurt the building in any way), but it is illegal, I'm sure. That's why I've only done it a couple times. But man, it was fun. ("london buildering" even turns up hits on Google).
posted by teece at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2005

Discreet, even.
posted by matildaben at 12:29 PM on August 23, 2005

Try walking over the roof of Kings Cross station. Check this out carefully before you try because things may have changed. You'll need to be rather drunk, go to the end of the edge-platforms and you'll see a little doorway (on either side) with a spiral staircase. Run straight up onto the roof, you can then go right across over the arch and down the other side. A lot more fun than it sounds. Detours to St Pancras at roof level are possible and rewarding, it used to be possible to get right to the top of the clock, probably isn't now. Just don't get caught.

Hampstead Heath, behind Jack Straws Castle is a spooky Gay mystery theatre at night, full of bizzare architectural features and mischief going on in the bushes. Tacky, oh yes but it has the full-on feel of real adventure.

For a more pedestrian experience, Waterloo Bridge, at any time of night, is always wonderful, for a stroll, start at Charing Cross, walk down Hungerford Passage and take in the queue for Heaven, up and over the bridge and walk along the Embankment on the South side of the River, to Waterloo Bridge and then back down Fleet Street.

Safety? Well, God takes care of Fools and Drunks (and the USA).
posted by grahamwell at 3:16 PM on August 23, 2005

Response by poster: Genius. Like the King's Cross one a lot. And might give Hampstead Heath a try one night when alone and feeling unloved!!
posted by skylar at 3:57 PM on August 23, 2005

Well, if you go buildering, you should probably avoid Buckingham Palace. (But, if you do get a massage from Lizzy, please post the photos here!)
posted by Wet Spot at 7:40 PM on August 23, 2005

Lincoln's Inn/Greys Inn/Holborn/John Soames House area is creepy at night, and would be a good walk--maybe dig around for maps like these and wander? (it's cool in London that you can be on a busy street at night, turn a corner and all of a sudden it's totally empty and quiet)
posted by amberglow at 7:53 PM on August 23, 2005

The bagel shops at the top of Brick Lane are open 24 hours and can be intresting places to hang out in the early hours.
posted by juniorbonner at 8:27 PM on August 23, 2005

Or you could do some urban letterboxing
posted by juniorbonner at 8:29 PM on August 23, 2005

Or get a GPS thing and do some geocaching
posted by juniorbonner at 8:32 PM on August 23, 2005

Go to the wholesale markets: Meat in the city, veg in the East End, fish south of the river. They can be funny about photos:
posted by priorpark17 at 12:08 AM on August 24, 2005

Sorry, forgot Bermondsey Market in SE1. This is London's largest antique market and starts about 4am Friday morning. Bring a torch. In the past it had some kinda charter that allowed you to sell knicked stuff before sunrise. I don't think this still applies, but you don't see a lot a coppers at that time.

All these markets have fantastic cafes near, and at Smithfields the pubs are open.
posted by priorpark17 at 12:15 AM on August 24, 2005

Find a bunch of friends who can talk about anything and everythng for hours, then just go and loiter while you chat. Wander the streets like a mobile "Friends" style coffee-house conversation group. Find playgrounds, talk while climbing on them, etc.

When I lived in a less-than-24-hour city, (worse, the sleepy suburbs of such a city), good conversation with a fair group of friends (5-12 people) was actually better than being in a city that doesn't sleep so much, but with fewer friends to take advanatge of stuff still being open.

OTOH, it sounds like you moved recently, in whch case a group of friends could be in short supply. Go infiltrate someone else's group :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:44 AM on August 24, 2005

just don't loiter and chat outside my flat at 4am!!
posted by juniorbonner at 2:36 AM on August 24, 2005

Seconding the Smithfields pubs. They're quite a funny sight at 6am - half full of burly market labourers, half full of bug-eyed clubbers on their way home...
posted by blag at 4:45 AM on August 24, 2005

Thanks for those links at the top - I'm moving to London and found them very useful!
posted by k8t at 6:48 AM on September 18, 2005

« Older healthy habits   |   Thank You Gift for Russian CoWorkers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.