Concoctions at a masquerade ball at London’s Foundation Bar
London, England. The name conjures up a montage of old buildings and new neighborhoods, dry scones and wet weather. And let’s not forget the nightlife. Local pubs are a quintessential fixture of London after hours, as are uber-classy VIP venues. (In)famous multi-level techno powerhouses have been around for a while, leading Western Europe’s counter-culture-cum-hipster-punk scene. “Secret” underground parties from Great Gatsby-esque speakeasies to cozy parlors have also been analyzed, scrutinized and examined until they are no longer secret.
But for a global city that is constantly reinventing its vibe, there will always be new secrets to unveil. We’re letting readers in on another London secret—its student scene. University students are refashioning how Londoners party. For starters, about two-thirds of the student body at the London School of Economics (LSE) hail from outside the UK.
This international feel trickles down into the more low-key themed bars and clubs in the Central London neighborhood sprouting westwards from LSE. Even on weeknights, these young jetsetters can be found at one of the quirky bars along the Piccadilly tube line stretching from Holborn to Piccadilly Circus. Here are seven favorites.
Just another day for LSE students outside the 3 Tuns Bar
Pre-gaming usually starts when it’s still light out. Located on the LSE campus itself, the 3 Tuns Bar is the perfect pre-game spot. Despite its no-frills design, this hidden haunt hosts a wide array of events from weekly Friday night CRUSH! parties when the basement transforms into a nightclub, to yearly festivities like Oktoberfest and holiday bashes.
Further north by Holborn station near a few Victorian-era hotels is Sway Bar. The chances of there being an LSE party are high, so just mention that you’re with the university and bouncers might let you in at a discounted price. In a nook adjacent to the main dance room is an ’80s-themed psychedelic disco floor blasting Michael Jackson and Olivia Newton John songs. Here, young people dressed in intentionally tacky clothes relive their parents’ youth.
A stone’s throw away transports you to a different world. At Guanabara, a Brazilian samba club, live performances and tropical cocktails will have you believing that you’re in Ipanema and not rainy London.
A few hops away by the Covent Garden tube station is Foundation Bar. Located in an underground tunnel with brick walls and adorned with patchwork sofas and funky paintings in each room, Foundation Bar is a cross between Andy Warhol’s imagination and Dracula’s den. Despite being a student scene–Foundation Bar once hosted an LSE masquerade ball—the parties rival those that “grown-ups” throw, such as the traveling Blitz Party.
Following the Piccadilly line to Leicester Square station, partygoers will come across Zoo Bar & Club where students are given priority to enter on Mondays through Thursdays since these are “student nights.” The venue is also ideal for hosting themed parties like “Night Safari,” while the upstairs provides a chill alternative with different rooms playing ’80s and ’90s music.
Zipping down to Piccadilly Circus station, the Piccadilly Institute is another basement haunt frequented by young globetrotting-types. The coral chandeliers, lopsided portraits and candles in birdcages offer a vintage-modern vibe, while the bathroom walls painted in Willa Wonka-style lollipops and candy wrappers conjures up a hallucinogenic feel.
Finally, another quirky nightspot near Piccadilly Circus worth checking out is The Warwick. Although technically a pub, the burgundy sofas and gold-framed paintings evoke an old-world charm. For those over 21 and feeling a tad cheeky, The Warwick also hosts speed dating nights before metamorphosing into a dance floor.