Seeing London at night means seeing the London skyline lit up, giving us a different perspective of the British capital. There are numerous buildings and key tourist spots in London that I recommend seeing illuminated at night, such as Big Ben, the London Eye, Saint Paul’s Cathedral or the famous Tower Bridge in London.
In addition to the tourist attractions, the skyscrapers that are added to the London Skyline every year make seeing London at night more and more spectacular. And obviously, at night it is not only a question of seeing London illuminated, but of knowing where you can go to make it an unforgettable night.
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What will you find in this article?
When does it get dark in London
In London the time at which it gets dark varies according to the time of year. Generally speaking, it gets dark at 4 pm in the winter and 9 pm during the summer months. The truth is that we are not worried that in December it gets dark at 4 in the afternoon, since at night is when we can enjoy Christmas in London . Admiring the Christmas lights is undoubtedly one of the best plans for this time of year. During the summer months we tend to have very long days in London, and it can be difficult to see London lit up at night!
In our article the weather in London we are putting what the weather is like in London and what clothes we are wearing. It can also be useful for planning a trip to London.
Special Plans to See London at Night
Take a cruise on the Thames at night
Surely one of the best ways to see London lit up is on a Thames cruise. In this way you will get great and unbeatable views of the skyscrapers and key tourist points of the city from the river. If you want to make it a special cruise, you can book a sunset cruise with champagne and hors d’oeuvres , or treat that special someone to a dinner cruise on the Thames .
Go to the theater to see one of the best Musicals in London
Seeing one of the best musicals in London is definitely something I would recommend you consider if you are planning a trip to London. There is a session that starts at approximately 7.30 pm each evening, and lasts about 2 to 2.5 hours. Most of the theaters are located around Covent Garden and Leicester Square. Around these two squares there are many restaurants and bars for dinner or a drink, either before or after going to the theater.
Dine in a restaurant with a view in London
As expected, the center of London is full of bars and restaurants, especially the most touristic areas, such as Soho and Covent Garden. But if you’re looking to book somewhere special, then I think it’s best to book at a restaurant with a view. Among them, the restaurants located in two of the most famous skyscrapers in London, such as the Sky Garden or the Shard, stand out. But in addition to these two famous restaurants, there are more restaurants that offer great views over the British capital.
Recommendations for visiting London at night
Attend the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London
The mysterious ceremony of the keys of the Tower of London is surely the oldest ceremony in the world, having been held every night for the last 700 years. This ceremony is held every night to close the door of the Tower of London, where the British crown jewels are kept. And best of all, you can attend for free.
To attend the ceremony of the keys it is necessary to book in advance on the official website of the Tower of London . It is necessary to book 6 to 12 months in advance, as tickets sell out very quickly!
Take a Twilight Tour at the Tower of London
The Tower of London also offers the possibility of joining a night tour, during which we can listen to the guide tell us many historical facts and curiosities about the Tower of London. These night tours do not include entrance to the crown jewels or the towers, they take place on some Sundays of the year at 7:00 pm and it is necessary to buy tickets in advance on the official website of the Tower of London .
Join one of the many London Night Tours
In addition to the many tours that take place in London during the day, at night it is also possible to join one of the night tours that take place in different areas of London at night. One possibility is to take a night tour in London by open-top bus . This is a great way to see London at night without missing any of the major sites and to take some great photos. Another option is, for example, to do a night tour of Jack the Ripper and what better way to visit the places where the events that are going to tell you happened than to do it at night…
Visit The Shard at night
The Shard is the tallest building in London and has a viewing platform on its 72nd floor that is one of the newest tourist attractions in the British capital. The Shard illuminated at night is one of the most outstanding buildings in London at night, and climbing the Shard at night is without a doubt an unforgettable experience. We went in the afternoon and watched the sunset, and the truth is that it was spectacular. The Shard is open until 9 pm (although you must enter before 7 pm), and you need to buy tickets in advance. If you have a London Pass you can go up to the Shard for free without the need to make a reservation.
Visit the Sky Garden at night
The Sky Garden is a garden located on the 35th floor of another of the new skyscrapers in London, and also has a viewpoint from which spectacular views of the city are obtained. Going up to this viewpoint is free but it is necessary to book tickets in advance. It is usually open until 9 pm on weekends. so it is possible to go up to see London at night.
Museums open late
Most London museums close around 5 or 6pm, but there is usually one day a week that each museum stays open later. Keeping in mind which days each museum is open later can make planning a trip to London easier. Friday is usually the day of the week when several London museums stay open later.
Many London museums also regularly host events, guided tours or talks in the evenings. These events are called “Museum Lates” and you can find specific information about each of them on the official website of each museum.
Recommended bars and restaurants to go to in London at night
In addition to the aforementioned restaurants with views, I have to mention that in London there are some restaurants or bars that, although they do not have views, are worth considering if you are looking for something different to do in London at night.
One of the restaurants that I personally recommend the most for dinner to our readers is Sarastro , as we believe that it is a unique place. You can see our restaurants in London section with information about some of the restaurants that we like the most in central London or a selection of romantic restaurants in London .
As for bars, you can imagine that there are millions of bars in London! But in my opinion Cahoots stands out , a bar oriented in the 20s that simulates subway cars. It is a super authentic place that is in the Carnaby street area . In Soho we also find the Ronnie Scott bar , the most famous Jazz venue in London. Other interesting bars is the Ice Bar , which is located next to Regent Street.
One of the most traditional English customs for partying is the well-known “ pub crawl ”. This consists of going from pub to pub and having a drink in each of them. You can join a pub crawl tour, and thus ensure that you are going to visit the most authentic bars in London, either because they are the most famous or the most traditional in the area. An example is the pub crawl you can join in the Camden Town neighborhood of London: Camden Pub Crawl
Go shopping in London at night
In the UK shops usually close at 5pm. At the latest, in some cities in England shops close at 5.30 or 6 pm. In central London, luckily, shops tend to close later, something that tourists certainly appreciate.
Most of the shops on Oxford Street and Regent Street , London’s most famous shopping streets, are open until 9pm Monday to Saturday, and until 6pm on Sundays. Westfield Shopping Center in Shepherd’s Bush is open until 10pm. Harrods department store is open until 9pm Monday to Saturday and until 6pm on Sunday. The Fortnum and Mason department store on Piccadilly Street is open until 8 pm Monday through Saturday (until 9 pm some days in the summer months) and until 6 pm on Sundays.
Walking through London at night
If what you want is simply to walk around London at night, here we are going to give you some ideas. Walking after dark in London in my opinion is quite safe. There are usually a lot of people, but of course, this will always depend on the time and the exact area!
Strolling through central London at night
Taking a walk through some of the most touristic places in London in the city center at night is an option. You can walk at night through the most important tourist streets and squares of London. For this I would recommend walking around the Covent Garden and Leicester Square areas, as there is usually a lot of movement of people due to the high number of restaurants and bars in these areas. This is where most of London’s theaters are concentrated. The last theater session usually ends around 10 pm, so that’s when quite a few people come out of the theaters.
London ‘s Soho is where a large number of bars, clubs and nightclubs are concentrated, which is why it is usually one of the most popular areas to go out at night. There are also loads of fantastic restaurants in London’s Soho, so I would encourage you to take a look around this area if you’re looking for dinner. In particular, I would recommend Bill’s Restaurant, Ping Pong or Dishoom, as they are some of our favorite restaurants in London.
Stroll along the banks of the Thames
In front of the London Eye , on the north bank of the Thames you can take some beautiful photos of the London Eye and Big Ben illuminated at night. This is one of the places we used to visit the most at night the first year we came to live in London. From here we can cross Westminster Bridge to reach the south bank of the Thames. This is the area of the South bank, where there is a fabulous walk, which goes from where the London Eye is located to just past the Tower Bridge in London .
We love this walk, and it is one of our favorites to do at night. Once past the London Eye we find the Royal Festival Hall. There are several restaurants and cafes here, so it is an area where there are usually quite a few people, even at night. From here you can walk until you reach the Millennium Bridge. Here you can take the famous photo of the millennium bridge with the cathedral of San Pablo in the background, which is beautiful at night. Along this walk we will pass through some areas with restaurants where there may be people. I have to say that there are some specific areas that are poorly lit, but in general I do not consider it a dangerous area to walk at night.