Prepare to don an orange jumpsuit as you become an inmate at these immersive cocktail bars in central and east London. Inspired by America's infamous prison and the Hollywood movies surrounding it, Alcotraz creates tailored cocktails based on your liquor and tastes - just make sure the warden doesn't catch you!
Cool and Quirky Bars in London
This beaut of a city is fortunate enough to host several of the most unique, weird and wonderful bars in world, ranging from secret speakeasy dens and bars in toilets to rooftop palaces. Whether it's taxidermy or immersive experiences, fire-spitting bartenders or just the downright outrageous - you're spoiled for choice in the capital. So in no particular order (because hey, what's life without a little surprise), here are the best cool and quirky bars in London.
One of Chelsea's most sought after bar experiences, hidden away in the Chelsea Funhouse you'll find The Bletchley - a fully-immersive cocktail bar and a World War Two-inspired escape room. And if that doesn't take your fancy? There's also a stunning journey-inspired restaurant and late-night cocktail lounge paying homage to all things espresso martini.
Sister site to the mighty Nightjar speakeasy, Oriole is a sumptuous space of global influence and exotic design in Smithfield Market. Come for luscious cocktails made up of tastes and flavours from all corners of the globe, equally tasty bites to eat and a live music schedule which spans everything from Cuban Son to West Coast African blues.
Taking residence in Victorian listed basement, The Piano Works is the revival of the loud and vibrant live music bars, where you can dance and party to the sound of a 6 piece band playing your song requests. Taking on a vintage style speakeasy, this House of Song is one of the best hidden gems London has to offer.
With four venues across the city, there's no better NYC-inspired spot to find yourself in than Dirty Bones. From a slick range of delcious American comfort eats, to quirky cocktails to wash them down with, there's a great time guaranteed at any one of these fun London bars.
Inspired by the Wild West, this immersive cocktail bar is one of a kind. Try your hand at card games and solve clues, in the heart of East London. Make sure you've smuggled in your choice of tipple which expert bartenders use to create personalised cocktails based on your own choices and tastes.
From retro wares which include old-fashioned maps and an incredible plant-ridden conservatory, Powder Keg Diplomacy is a vintage watering hole in South London. The Clapham spot serves up delicious cocktails mixed with everything from Earl Grey tea to citrus fruits, there's also a hearty menu if you're peckish.
Powering up in Canary Wharf this winter is one unique bar concept from the minds behind Flight Club. Electric Shuffle is an all-new technological spin on the classic pastime, with additional food and drinks to forge an unforgettable evening.
From the secret cocktail lounge through to the stripped back dining space, Martello Hall is a gorgeous East London pub turned into a cool bar. Check it out for delicious homely plates, with everything from pizzas through to meatballs.
Hidden within Merchant House of Bow Lane, this secret bar can be booked for a few hours, where you'll have your own music, a personal bartender and even be able to make your own drinks.
Megaro is charming and characterful cocktail bar, sitting below the bustling streets of Kings Cross. The venue's expert mixologists have really let their creative side shine, curating a menu of signature creations and spirit infusion. Why not try the Borsh Mary cocktail, created using the venue's very own homemade hot sauce. If that wasn't enticing enough, the cinema-style seating and elegant portraits hanging on the walls add a bit of edge and quirk.
The Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings is a quaint bar in North London, based just a short stroll from Angel tube station. With a sleek bar serving all the signature cocktails that have made the B&H name famous over the years, the venue's idyllic greenhouse and airy cafe offer prime spots to unwind in with mates. Soak up all the vintage and carefree vibes at this quirky bar in London.
Shoreditch Platform is an exciting new space in East London that charges guests by the hour, making it a perfect spot for working during the day. By night the venue transforms into a fun bar and over weekends DJs spin until early in the morning.
Colourful, imaginative and let's face it, a little weird - Adventure Bar Clapham Junction is anything but your average bar. Based within the home of a wacky time traveller, you can expect a Victorian-cum-futuristic decor, peculiar art and plenty of conversation-starting oddities. Quirky cocktails and damn fine nosh await.
We Londoners think we've seen everything, but then a bar like Black Rock comes around and puts an 18ft, 185-year-old oak tree trunk in the middle of the bar and we're shocked all over again. The tree trunk acts as an interactive cocktail ageing system, that you can use on their over 250 bottles of different whiskies on display for your pleasure.
One-hundred-and-eiiiiighty! Flight Club in Shoreditch and Bloomsbury breathes a new lease of life into the UK's favourite pub game, welcoming you into their beautifully designed oches to play interactive and creative games. Throw in some real-time scoring (there's not a chalk board in sight), awesome gameplay animations and a dash of competitive spirit and you've got hours of unadulterated fun at one of the most unique bars in London.
Step off the cobbled streets of East London and into this multiple award-winning cocktail bar permeated by a wonderfully eccentric vibe. This Alice In Wonderland themed retreat serves up their famously refreshing and punchy cocktails to an eclectic crowd who are enticed in by the weird and wacky décor. Keep your eyes peeled for the wardrobe that leads to a clandestine dining space and try an alcoholic slushie at the charismatic upstairs bar.
Opium is a great London speakeasy style cocktail bar. They deliver seasonal Oriental themed cocktails, in a discrete and decadent setting. Widely considered one of London's best bars, Opium is a cool and quirky London cocktail bar hidden among the bustling streets of China Town.
This space-aged bar cum VR arcade is the perfect East London spot for a quirky date or special night out. Strap in and be teleported to an alternative reality, with 16 gaming options, before heading to the bar for a range of futuristic-themed drinks.
The Four Thieves in Battersea has everything you need for a trip to the boozer. From more than 70 gins, a microbrewery on site and enough craft beer to keep you drinking the week's woes away, the fun doesn't stop there. Head upstairs for an incredible games room, filled with car racing, ping pong and virtual reality.
Modelled on the activity of a 1920s speakeasy, head to this illicit underground haven for a taste of unrivalled vintage glamour. A venue showcasing beautiful performers in full burlesque, come for dinner and a show, with an extensive list of wines and classic cocktails served at the bar of this dazzling burlesque experience in the city.
Boasting a DJ booth tucked inside of a vintage piano, cocktails served out of the finest of China, and luxurious seating arrangements, the Arts Theatre Club is certainly in the upper echelon of cool and quirky bars in London. This members-only, Soho speakeasy acts as the perfect, Prohibition-era getaway amidst the modern day hustle and bustle of the city.
This quirky bar in West London is set to be flat party central outside of your own flat, with fantastic drinks, the coolest vibes, and even delicious, international food for you to tuck into. Expect mischievous mayhem when you visit.
Ping pong bars are all the rage in London right now, and few do it better than Bounce. A buzzing underground spot made for eating, drinking and playing ping-pong late into the night, the tables here can fit up to 20, and the table service policy means you won't have to ditch your area when ordering in the delicious pizza or a few gin-based cocktails.
The Alchemist have quickly built up a reputation for being one of the UK's most exciting bars, serving unique creations from the heart of Old Street that fizz, change colour and come to life right before your eyes. Head to East London this summer to experience the theatrics for yourself.
This charismatic Angel hangout features a quirky train-carriage theme that takes you on a journey calling at great food central and innovative cocktails parkway. A plethora of shadowy foliage adds to the atmosphere and the friendly bar staff stroke train conductors make this a venue you won't go forgetting any time soon.
A hidden treasure marrying inventive cocktails with an eclectic music programme, you don't go forgetting a trip to Apples & Pears in a hurry. The venue's radiant atmosphere makes it perfect for date night or stopping by after work, and with a medley of live acoustic acts and animated DJ nights, we challenge you not to find yourself tapping those toes deep into the night.
Hop Kingdom is a unique venue in Southwark that acts as a skate park, bar and live music venue. Whether you're looking to book a birthday party, gig, exhibition bands, photo shoots, or anything else that springs to mind, the space is adaptable to any and all occasions.
Based on the HQ of the secret society that ran Victorian London, The Escapologist is part Victorian men's club, part Masonic Lodge; a totally unique drinking den based on the shady exploits of the infamous Baron. Head this way for sharing cocktails and cheese-drenched pizzas in one of the most eye-catching basement bars in town.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat, how I wonder what you're at. Borrowing its name from the Mad Hatter's poem, Little Bat is a quirky neighbourhood cocktail bar featuring plenty of Wonderland-themed influences. Expect a playful and imaginative ambience complemented by superb cocktails and attentive at Callooh Callay's new sister site.
Cirque brings all of the fun of the circus to Old Street. A kooky little space filled with rubix cube stools, zebra taxidermy and dangling airplane models, there's a lot of charm and character to this bustling cocktail bar. Drinks are a tad on the steep side, so it's worth timing your visit to fit with happy hour, where cocktails are 2 for £10 between 4 and 8pm.
Upper House pad in Islington hosts quite the spread of unique bars to sup, dine or dance in for a bit of contemporary cool partying. Something of a sophisticated playground, the Upper House collective know how to host everything from delicious eats to hand crafted cocktails and a party that will keep going until 4am.
Undoubtedly a cool place to drink in London, 68 and Boston is a Soho favourite for vintage wine labels and expert mixology. With decor fitting some suave '70s leanings and colonial vibes this cocktail turn wine bar is a top destination for date night drinks, intimate gatherings and any who consider themselves a connoisseur of concoctions.
The Exhibit is Balham's all-in-one social destination. Come for a majestic cocktail or get stuck in at the dinner table, and don't forget they love a big party come Friday Night. There's comedy at the weekends, life drawing classes, art exhibitions and the chance to catch a film in London's smallest independent cinema space.
Gigi's is an eccentric London DJ bar, live music venue and restaurant in the heart of Hoxton Square. Shoreditch clubbing, dining and drinking can all be enjoyed in this bar's bold and beautiful interiors making it one of the best London late night bars without a doubt.
The third venue of its kind, Old Street Records brings cutting-edge live music to the masses in the heart of Shoreditch. Head along on any given night and expect to see EP launches, new bands or established acts taking the stage, with intimate jazz nights and DJ sessions usually focused in the basement. It's not exclusively about the music though, with bespoke cocktails and authentic Italian pizzas also well worth checking out.
Prohibition parties. There's plenty going round, but only a select few come out firing on all cylinders like the Candlelight Club. They'll keep details hush-hush for as long as possible, but we're allowed to tell you that there will be bespoke cocktails, vintage DJs and live jazz bands summoning up the spirit of the 20s long into the night. Braces, fedoras, flapper dresses and feather headdresses are a must!
Spread across two floors, Bobby Fitzpatrick is a quirky '70s den of vintage wallpaper, kitsch sofas and signed photographs. There's board games and a quirky cocktail list inspired by Fitzpatrick's great loves, as well as American deep dish pizzas.
There's more than a hint of West London suave about this basement bolthole. It's found beneath the Arbitrager, offering a relaxed yet refined atmosphere to the city's after-work crowd. Cross this one off your 'must-visit' list and you'll soon be enjoying a daring and innovative list of signature drinks in one of the hot-to-trot basement bars in London.
BYOC Camden is not your average cocktail den; for starters it has an amazing 1920s theme, complete with vintage blackjack tables and roulette, and secondly, you are expected to bring your own bottle of spirit for bartenders to whip into masterpieces.
An ideal pitstop whether you're in need of cocktails, beers, wine or food, Ruby's is one of East London's true treasures. Consistently rated as one of the best basement bars in town, head to this Dalston favourite if your idea of a good night features innovative drinks served in an intimate atmosphere. There's also a lovely lounge area to explore, serving a wider choice of beers, wines and Vietnamese street food on the side of a curated programme of live music and events.
Rehab is Homerton's neighbourhood bar serving good quality cocktails and locally sourced vegan food. It's housed in a former launderette, and you can still find the original washing machine covers adorning the bathrooms. Intimate and charming with plenty of raw brickwork and low lighting? You know it ticks all the right boxes.