London At Night: Fall For The Capital's Dark Side
In a city that never sleeps, hibernation isn’t an option. So once the sun’s gone down, get back up to explore the dark side of London.
Ghost Bus Tours will save you from flesh-eating zombies, but you’ll still have to deal with oddballs as you take a ride on the dark side on one of its vintage double-decker buses. Find out where Jack the Ripper lurked, and see graves of plague victims as a peculiar conductor narrates London’s gloomy past. Just be ready for actors and special effects to make you jump out of your skin.
Many of London’s attractions are still bustling at night. Meet the spooky jellyfish-witch at SEA LIFE London, or take a spin on the Coca-Cola London Eye (21-31 Oct), one of the world’s largest observation wheels, for a panoramic view of the city’s twinkling lights. Inspired by pumpkins, the wheel will be lighting up orange and include a pumpkin display.
The twice-yearly festival Museums at Night (26-28 Oct) sees museums and galleries open after hours, giving you the chance to discover late-night exhibitions. Last year, more than 200,000 visitors attended 700 events in 500 venues across the country.
Now in its ninth year, the festival is produced by Culture24, an independent non-profit-making company that brings together art and heritage organisations to support the cultural sector and help it connect with audiences across the UK.
Don’t miss Thursday Late: Venice in Focus at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace (26 Oct), an evening celebrating Venetian culture and cuisine; and Craven Street Bones at Benjamin Franklin House (28 Oct), where you can find out how human skeletal remains came to be buried under its basement.
For lights of a different kind, attend Bach Brandenburg Concertos by Candlelight at St Martin-in-the-Fields (19 Oct), a classical concert by the internationally acclaimed Feinstein Ensemble. Alternatively, enjoy a free candlelit tour of Sir John Soane’s Museum on the first Tuesday of every month – or lose yourself in another era on a Silent Night Tour at Dennis Severs’ House. The tour stirs your senses as you journey through rooms on a silent search for a family of Huguenot silk weavers, who are out of sight but can still be heard – you must then piece together a scene you have missed.
Take a test of a different kind in the immersive experience Trapped in a Room with a Zombie. Put your survival skills to the test as you and nine others work as a team to look for clues, solve riddles and discover the key that will unlock the door to the room you’re trapped in, in under an hour. If you fail, a brain-hungry zombie is unleashed... Speaking of the unnatural, you can also be spooked watching Susan Hill’s best-selling ghost story, The Woman in Black, at the Fortune Theatre. Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt, it follows solicitor Arthur Kipps who is tasked with putting an eccentric woman’s a airs in order following her death on a remote village surrounded by eerie marshes.
For an alternative (and healthy) way to see sights, Love London Night Run hosts 5km and 12km runs past St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and along the River Thames with regular stops for photo opportunities. You can even test your city knowledge in a quiz mid-route.
Spook yourself silly at these events over the Halloween period
Want to test your zombie knowledge? Then visit Drink, Shop & Do (19 Oct) and compete in its Halloween horror quiz. Frightening challenges and creepy riddles await you as comedian and DJ Huw Joseph hosts a chilling night of fun.
If that sounds too tame, then you can get up close to ghosts and ghouls at The Roof Gardens, as it opens its doors for its annual Halloween party (27-28 Oct. To celebrate the spookiest night of the year, the gardens are transformed into a witch’s den with goblins and vampires. Arrive before 9pm to be treated (not tricked) with a themed cocktail.
Get in the Halloween mood by watching iconic horror films at Rivoli Pop Up Cinema. Start with the 1984 cult classic Nightmare on Elm Street (24 Oct), then work your way up to The Shining starring Jack Nicholson (25 Oct), supernatural horror, Poltergeist (26 Oct) and – if you can bear it – the terrifying The Exorcist (27 Oct)
The London Bridge Experience and London Tombs’ adult-only Phobophobia – Night Terrors (21-31 Oct) makes your worst nightmare come true as you encounter lost children trapped forever in a dark labyrinth. This immersive theatrical experience brings together history, horror and fun. While you journey around the attraction, you’ll witness some of London’s most famous (and horrific) events, from Jack the Ripper’s gruesome murders to the devastating Great Fire of London. While this is one of London’s scariest sights, young ones are welcome: ask for a Guardian Angel Tour – they will be taken ahead of the rest of the group, and not be chased by some of the scariest characters.