What to do in London after dark?
November 22, 2007 3:16 AM   Subscribe

What should we do in London between 5 - 11 pm this Saturday? We're going for the day to see Seduced at the Barbican and then we'll wander around some charity shops near Victoria or Pimlico until they close. So daytime is easy, but after that, we're at a bit of a loss. Our train leaves around 11pm.

The main factor is lack of funds, as we're both studying rather than working at the moment. We'd probably prefer to grab a quick dinner and then do something else fun, rather than trying to waste a lot of time in a cheap restaurant.

So what can we do in the evening that's interesting and not too expensive? We're mid-thirties / early 40s and not interested in clubs or bars or that sort of thing. We like history /culture / random activities but nothing too strenuous as I'm still recovering from a bad cold. Any suggestions greatly appreciated!
posted by hazyjane to Travel & Transportation around London, England (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The Tate Modern is open until 10 p.m. on Saturdays.

If you have a Travelcard already, checking out the Platform for Art installations at various Tube stations is a good way to kill time in the evening. Might not be a good idea on Oyster Pre-pay, as if you stay in the Tube for hours you might get charged £8.
posted by grouse at 3:29 AM on November 22, 2007

One of the best things about London is the free museums. Endlessly entertaining and affordable. Definitely a life-saver for me when I was a student.

What museum to choose depends on your tastes.

Tate Modern (my personal favorite)
Imperial War Museum
National Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
Science Museum
Natural History Museum

All of these museums I know for a fact are free and each is worth a visit. All centrally located.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:31 AM on November 22, 2007

D'oh. My brain skipped the time restraint. Ignore my suggestion.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:33 AM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: You could take the tube down to Embankment, walk across the bridge and then turn left and walk away from the London Eye along the south bank.

There are always plenty of interesting things going on and you could always stop for a warm drink along the way. I often just walk up to the Tate Modern (stop to look around there, it is free) and then cross back over the river to St Paul's but you can go right up to the Tower of London.

The walk (without the Tate) should take you about an hour or so at a gentle pace. Throw in the Tate and you're looking at wasting a good 2 to 3 hours.

For cheap eats, my favourite is Tokyo Diner which is just off Chinatown but is actually Japanese. It does a great chicken katsu don. Nearest tube is Leicester Square.
posted by mr_silver at 3:34 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

mr-silver has it - I would have suggested the same walk. There are also several mobile vendors of chestnuts/hot stuff/collectables which will help too.

The view will be great at night as well, with the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye making extremely pleasant night time viewing. Wrap up warm though! It's risen a few degrees in temperature in London over the last couple of days, but it's still chilly by the river.

Finally, if it's chucking it down, the Trocadero centre in Picadilly Circus is free and covered, if not a little tacky. Covent Garden would be a more refined alternative, with plenty of covered bars and some street entertainment too.
posted by triv at 5:19 AM on November 22, 2007

Evening tours of London are a bit kitschy. But there they are.
posted by Martin E. at 5:20 AM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: How about a Walking Tour?

£6 each for an hour or so of entertainment, education and history - and you'll get to see bits of London you'd normally miss.

I did the Jack the Ripper walk a few years ago and it was great. Not nearly as cheesy as I was expecting!
posted by roomaroo at 5:22 AM on November 22, 2007

...of course it'll be crap if it's raining.
posted by roomaroo at 5:23 AM on November 22, 2007

Lots of indoor free entertainment on the south bank. See The Southbank Centre, National Theatre, British Film Institute Southbank. The Poetry Library is open til 8pm, and Sam Winston's show's on there. There's free jazz in the Royal Festival Hall Ballroom but I'm not sure til when. There's free music in the National Theatre foyer at 5.45pm. The Mediatheque at BFI is free, open til 8pm, and allows you to access the BFI's tv and film archive. As mentioned, Tate Modern is free (for the permanent collection) and open til 10pm.

If you're feeling tired, Borders at Oxford Circus or Charing Cross Road (both open til 11pm) makes an excellent library as there are comfy chairs and the best supply of magazines. Probably the cheapest cinema would be the Prince Charles on Leicester Square, but it's £4.50 each nowadays.
posted by boudicca at 5:45 AM on November 22, 2007

Ditto for romaroo, the London Walks series are excellent and not cheesy.
posted by grouse at 7:03 AM on November 22, 2007

The London Jazz Festival is on this weekend and you have a choice of seven free events this Saturday. Its also worth checking out londonfreelist.com which lists free events in London. Londonist has a map of London venues with free events.
posted by tallus at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2007

If you go along the South Bank, there's also the Klara Liden exhibition which is free, open until 10pm and will be good.
posted by tapeguy at 12:28 PM on November 22, 2007

Be aware that charity shops could close at 4, especially on a Saturday. You might also enjoy the Retromania clothes shops next to the Fara charity shop in Upper Tachbrook St, Pimlico.

I would just keep walking (with a few buses here and there) -- London's centre is very walkable. Leicester Square is worth a look in the evening -- street entertainers and people like lightning artists etc -- it is close to both the Trocadero Centre and the Charing Cross Road bookshops. A little further east again is the Stanford's map shop in Long Acre (a street) open until 8 -- not recommended if you really have no money to spare.

Have fun!
posted by Idcoytco at 4:07 PM on November 22, 2007

I third the walks


The Ripper one was written and is usually guided by the guy that wrote *the* book on Jack the Ripper...and the rest are of the same quality!

The museums are great and free, the V&A is my favorite.

Wandering around is fun too...I love getting lost in strange cities.

posted by legotech at 9:12 PM on November 22, 2007

The Ripper one was written and is usually guided by the guy that wrote *the* book on Jack the Ripper...and the rest are of the same quality!

Actually he only guides it a couple of nights a week. Last time I checked this was Sunday-Tuesday and Friday nights. Call to check.
posted by grouse at 11:46 PM on November 22, 2007

His name is Donald, BTW.
posted by grouse at 11:47 PM on November 22, 2007

My favourite evening-in-London things have already been said, so I'll second. First, the walk down the South Bank. The Thames is breathtakingly beautiful at night when everything's lit up, and there's plenty to see. It's a lovely walk from the Eye to London Bridge. Second, when you're tired, the Borders/Starbucks on Charing Cross Road. Foyles, opposite, is great for getting lost in if you like bookshops.
posted by corvine at 1:27 AM on November 23, 2007

Assuming you are using Eurostar, a couple of tips:
* the UK end is a bit more serious than the continental ends about arriving early and security checks -- though I can't imagine much problem at that hour
* if you do arrive back at the station too early, the backstreets area round King's Cross-St Pancras is not generally rated a pleasant place for a late evening stroll
posted by Idcoytco at 4:54 AM on November 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks a lot to everyone - we had an enjoyable evening following mr_silver's walk suggestion from Embankment. We liked the London Walks suggestion too but decided to be self-guided as we were tired and going slowly at that point!
posted by hazyjane at 5:24 AM on November 25, 2007

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