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London - United Kingdom
Soho is always buzzing with crowds who pack themselves into the many pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants. It's also home to London's lively gay scene.
Islington is vibrant and hip, with a café/bar scene that leads to a lot of people watching. Here you'll find Sadler's Wells (for contemporary dance, ballet and opera), the Almeida Theatre and an excellent antique market called Camden Passage.
Camden is a friendly community, with a large, thriving base that supports artistic endeavors. There are loads of live music venues here, including the Jazz Café. There's also a massive, trendy market on weekends, and the Jongleurs Camden Lock comedy club.
The art scene is alive and kicking in London with the injection of a new British vitality spearheaded by Damien Hirst. The proliferation of hip, trendy, and increasingly famous young British artists merely adds to the wealth of the more traditional art that London has to offer. The National Gallery and the Tate Britain are mainstays. The Courtauld Institute of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Barbican Centre and Hayward Gallery are lesser known but just as good. For a modern challenge, check out the ICA Bar And Cafe Gallery and of course, the Bankside behemoth that is the Tate Modern.
Most of the city's mainstream cinematic venues are centered in Leicester Square. A cheap option is the Prince Charles cinema. For a real 'Art-House' experience, try the Gate Cinema, the ICA Bar And Cafe, or the BFI Southbank. There are also frequent film festivals like the popular Latin American Film Festival. The BFI London IMAX at Waterloo offers a state-of-the-art screen featuring IMAX films — a real viewing experience.
If you're looking for a laugh, you can't beat what London has to offer. The most famous club is the The Comedy Store, but the branches of Jongleurs Camden Lock and the Comedy Cafe are also worth checking out.
Performances tend to center on Sadler's Wells theater, where contemporary dance, ballet and opera can all be found. The Royal Festival Hall and The Barbican Centre also house excellent productions, and the ICA is a Mecca for experimental dance.
If you want to check out some art, not to worry-museums here are abundant and of excellent quality. The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A South Kensington are all located in South Kensington. The Imperial War Museum is also worth a look — it isn't just for tank-spotters. Naturally, there is an absolute myriad of smaller, often fascinating museums throughout London: Pollock's Toy Museum & Toy Shop, the Design Museum and the Horniman Museum and Gardens are just a few examples.
Classical music has three main homes in London: the Barbican Centre, the South Bank Centre and the Royal Albert Hall. The London Symphony Orchestra is resident at the Barbican and the Philharmonia is based at the Royal Festival Hall, which is part of the South Bank Center. The Royal Albert Hall plays host annually to the BBC Proms — a fabulous summer-long festival of classical music.
This sort of music is everywhere in London. Camden is always bubbling with indie vibes. The Brixton Academy is an excellent place to see bands on the verge of stadium-sized fame, and Borderline is good for bands on the verge of Brixton Academy-sized fame. For jazz, you can't beat the legendary Ronnie Scott's.
These places come in as many flavors, shapes, sizes and styles as there are people to fill them. The better-known clubs tend to be around the Leicester Square/Charing Cross Road area. Another club worth seeking out is Ministry of Sound.
Resonates from two sources — the English National Opera and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Theater in London can be separated into three parts. One section encompasses the sophisticated end of the theater spectrum — plenty of Shakespeare and complex modern plays. There are four repertory companies based in their own theaters: the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe.
Then there are the "West End" shows (this refers to big productions, not to their location). Many of the West End shows can be found on or around Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. There are many big production musicals and plays that make for a great evening out.
The rest are generally known as Off West End. One of the best exponents of this sector is the Almeida where film stars Ralph Fiennes and Nicole Kidman have trod the boards. The Lyric Theatre and the Young Vic also regularly host high quality productions.
London features a number of tour companies and discount booking businesses. Theatre Breaks offers discounted rates to some of the most popular attractions and events.