As a major cultural capital, it’s hardly surprising to learn that London has a thriving infrastructure for live music. From the smallest music cafes to stadia swollen with a torrent of fans, there seems to plenty of enthusiasm for the art of the live performance and the city is an essential part of any star’s world tour.

The best live music bars in London attract serious talent too. You wouldn’t expect to see globetrotting megastars appear in the confines of wood panelled rooms but its a time honoured tradition. These intimate little performances are the kind of thing that most fans would absolutely kill to be a part of. After all, getting to see their idols up close and in the flesh is an experience that doesn’t come around often. In many cases, it’s just the once.

This list of the top 10 live music venues in London focuses on this little gems but includes a few larger establishments. Some venues are just so iconic and special that they can’t be avoided.

Cafe Oto

cafe oto

A small cafe in the east of London, it sounds like a hipster’s paradise. The chance to hear a band before anyone else and say: “I was there when X first started, you know. I saw them in Cafe Oto when they were just beginning and it was an experience that you’ll never be able to top.” This is a familiar narrative: the calling card of many a smug poseur who wants to assert their musical superiority. The truth is though, seeing a band before they rise to prominence, is a special experience and that’s why Cafe Oto is an obvious choice. The newcomer’s paradise offers a diverse range of genres and acts sure to satisfy even the most demanding of tastes.

Cafe Oto is located at: 18-22 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL

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Brixton Academy

brixton academy

Any list of the top 10 live music venues in London wouldn’t be complete without this fairytale vision. A converted theatre, the hints of the theatrical that still linger make it a unique place to both perform and observe. The touch of the dramatic that it lends the bands on stage is best incorporated into the show, and when it is the result is a truly magical experience. Soft lighting on ballads as your favourite artist croons under the arches, beside the painted stucco architecture. Intense flashes during the powerful rock thrillers, gloomily lit and incredibly atmospheric. It’s no coincidence that any band with a strong stage director loves coming here.

Brixton Academy is located at: 211 Stockwell Rd, London SW9 9SL

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Take one look at this cosy but simple bar and you’d write it off as nothing special. The music that they promise would surely be the normal mix of local bands and mid sized tourers with a cult following. Certainly nothing much bigger than that. So it might come as something of a surprise to learn that some of the biggest names in the world have performed here at some point or another. The Foo Fighters, for example, found it to be the perfect place to play one “for the fans”

Dingwalls is located at: 11 Middle Yard, London NW1 8AB

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Best known as a gay bar, Heaven might seem like an odd inclusion on our list of top 10 london live music bars. Until you see some of the superstars of EDM that have performed here over the years. With a generally friendly and joyful crowd and an excellent clubbing facility, it’s the ideal place for many DJs to perform and it remains ever popular in that scene. Pop stars with a preponderance towards drama and frivolity also seem to find it a great alternative to the soulless venues offered by o2.

Heaven is located at: The Arches, Villiers St, London WC2N 6NG

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Earl’s Court

earls court

The incredible artists that have performed here speak for themselves.

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One of the best live music bars in London when it comes to reggae music, if not the best. Their excellent support of local artists is only one of the many things that can be said about Hootananny, who embrace their Brixton location with a wholehearted passion few others seem to possess.

Hootenanny is located at: 95 Effra Rd, Greater London SW2 1DF

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Hoxton Square

hoxton square

Raw, is the best word to describe Hoxton square. Bare walls and stark concrete provide the perfect setting for garage bands, with that industrial edge that is so loved by the scene.

Hoxton Square is located at: 2-4 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU

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This excellent club is a mainstay on many of our lists because of its electric atmosphere and willingness to embrace new artists, Koko was practically an automatic inclusion on a list of the top 10 london live music bars. Offering the chance see rising stars far before they hit the mainstage anywhere else, it’s the perfect blend of hipsterish tendencies and good production values.

Koko is located at: 1A Camden High Street, NW1 7JE

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Wembley Stadium

wembley stadium

A legendary arena, what more needs to be said. The photo says more than we every could

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Camden Barfly

A dingy room above a pub, this is one of the better low key venues in the city. Looking at it, you’d never suspect that it was in the top 10 London live music bars but when the beer flows and the people pack in, the atmosphere becomes eletric.

Camden Barfly is located at: 49 Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AN

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