Music has always found a warm welcome in the streets of London. It is a music-loving country and the largest source of musical advancement. Inspiration came from the Medieval and Renaissance periods, as well as Baroque and classical music, western culture, and ancient/traditional folk music, all of which laid the groundwork for the many forms of popular music that exist today, including jazz, rap, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll, and a variety of live disco, and cabaret.
In the 1950s, young artists took ideas from the United States and spun them into their own versions, including “rock,” which eventually led to the 1960s, and the British Incursion led by The Beatles, which secured Britain a major place in the rock and pop world.
So there you have it! Today, the streets of London are rich and flourishing, with world-renowned musicians and bands; annual concerts and festivals, classical concert halls, jazz clubs; and local pubs; and a flourishing audience of tourists and locals alike.
The streets of London, as a major metropolis with a broad range of cultures, have some incredible street performers to admire. As you walk through the capital, you’ll notice acrobats, illusionists, and dance performances, but if you really want to include street recreation during your stay, there are five places you should go.
Covent Garden, The Piazza
Whenever it comes to street performers, Covent Garden is the best place to go. There are usually at least a handful of artists getting the world ready for their next song. The courtyard hosts a lively mix of entertainment, all of which must audition for timed slots, so you know reliability is assured.
Street entertainment in Convent Garden dates back to the 17th century, and the West Piazza is home to a variety of groups of performers ranging from escapologists to conventional clowns.
Covent Garden, James Street
Covent Garden is so prevalent with performers that it has two distinct locations. The James Street spot is most likely to have musicians performing in a variety of styles. The Park Grand Hotel Kensington is only a 20-minute tube ride away from both Covent Garden locations on the Piccadilly line.
You’ll be close to the famous busking area and have plenty of possibilities to see a street performance or two thanks to the handy Covent Garden tube stop.
The Underground may not come to mind when going to look for street performers, but it does have a flourishing entertainment scene. For the past 15 years, the London Underground Busking system has been in operation.
There are 35 approved pitches on the Underground to cheer up commuters’ and tourists’ days. Ed Sheeran (ranked #1 multiple times on the UK Singles chart)and Bob Geldof have earlier busked on the Underground, so you never know who the next big artist will be. If you’re staying in one of the hotels in the area, Hogarth Road, the Earl’s Court tube station is a short walk away.
Even without street performers, Southbank is a significant cultural destination to visit. Because of the high footfall on the banks of the Thames near the famous London Eye, there are usually plenty of buskers and entertainers. Expect high-energy, high-impact performances to amaze and brighten up your day exploring the streets of London.
Trafalgar Square is almost certainly on your travel list if you plan to see the highlights of the capital. Head to the North Terrace to combine sightseeing with some exceptional street performers. As you stroll the terrace, you’ll notice a number of living statues, as well as some aspiring musicians searching for their big break.
Any Beatles fan should not miss Abby Road. Except for the heartfelt words of love on the pedestrian walkways and brick surrounding buildings, the zebra crossing on this iconic corner, it appears to be an ordinary street corner.
Tin Pan Alley
Denmark Street, also known as “Tin Pan Alley,” connects Charing Cross Road to St.Giles High Street and is steeped in history, from early musical labels to rock stars and their film companies, to vendors of fine guitars. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and Jimi Hendrix are all recorded here. (The nearest underground station is Tottenham Court Road, which is a 2–3 minutes walk away.)
Sounds of the Universe: an idiosyncratically minded store with a large selection, a good second-hand section, and original vinyl.
Head over to 7 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DA, London.
Records by Phonica Famous for its selection of house and electronica records, this really is likely the only place in the world where you can still record a message directly to vinyl since they have one of only 2 working historical Voice-O-Graphs.
Head over to 51 Poland Street, W1F 7LZ, London
From Roger Whittaker to Ralph McTell their songs tell a story, and you can get the hands-on experience with the vinyl they put out.
Honest Jon’s Records on Portobello Road in Notting Hill is well-known for its collection of blues, jazz, and folk vinyl.
Roger Whittaker’s Streets of London
Ralph McTell wrote and recorded “Streets of London” for his 1969 album Spiral Staircase. It was not released as a single in the U.K. until 1974. According to McTell, there are 212 known recorded versions of the music. On December 4, 2017, the song was re-released as a charity single for CRISIS, the Homelessness Charity, featuring McTell and Annie Lennox. In 1971, Roger Whittaker recorded a well-received version.
McTell’s interactions busking and traveling throughout Europe, particularly in Paris, inspired the song, and the personal stories are picked from Parisians. McTell was going to call the song “Streets of Paris,” but London was chosen instead because he realized he was singing about London; there’s also another song called “The Poor People of Paris.”
McTell’s song contrasts ordinary people’s problems with that of the homeless, lonely, elderly, ignored, and forgotten members of society. McTell stated in an interview with Danny Baker on Radio 5 on 16 July 2016 that the industry he made reference to in the melody was Surrey Street Market in Croydon.
In 1982, the punk band Anti-Nowhere League released a piece of music on their debut album. In a retrospective review, AllMusic’s Ned Raggett called it “the undisputed highlight” of the album.
Ralph McTell agreed to write another verse to the song in March 2020, inspired by the Coronavirus pandemic gripping the world at the time.
Live Music Venues in London
If it’s your first time in London, a symphony orchestra can be heard on the streets of London be it at The Royal Albert Hall, blues at Ain’t Nothin’ But (a hangout for musicians and blues fans), or jazz at many of the clubs (speakeasy-style Nightjar or Ronnie Scotts). This is a community that is constantly attracting musical fans.
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall, which was built for the advancement of the Arts and Sciences (the first stone was laid by HM Queen Victoria), started on March 29, 1871. If you’re planning a trip to London, find out what’s on first. The Albert has hosted some of the world’s best entertainment, including Phantom of the Opera, The Beach Boys, Coldplay, Bob Dylan, Frankie Valli, and Adele.
They are allied with Jeremiah Carlton Tower, Gore Hotel, and the boutique Milestone Hotel, all of which are within walking distance of the Hall and offer preferential rates to Hall customers.
Head over to Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP.
In Soho, Ronnie Scott’s is an iconic jazz club. This well-known club exudes an atmosphere and is regarded as the birthplace of British jazz. It is well-known for bringing US jazz greats to the UK and has hosted the likes of Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, Donald Byrd, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis. Above the main club is a casual jazz venue, which complements the outstanding basement club.
Head over to 47 Frith Street, London, W1D 4HT.
Café Oto first opened its doors in 2008. Its large open space is home to a diverse range of experimental music, ranging from underground Japanese artists to Norwegian improved and free jazz. Expect the unexpected, such as a performance by the psych-rock power trio Bushmen’s Vengeance or a talk by vintage-inspired composer Terry Riley. During the day, they operate as a café serving Persian-inspired fare.
Head over to 18-22 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL.
O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON
The O2 Academy Islington is a performance space within a shopping center that is important in the London gig scene. Since its inception in September 2003, the intimate venue has played host to rock and pop acts as well as some of today’s most popular contemporary artists, including American hip-hop legend Eminem.
Head over to 16 Parkfield Street, Islington, London N’1 0PS.
Bloomsbury Lanes, located beneath the Tavistock Hotel, is a 1950s-style bowling alley where you’ll have a drink (late license), a diner-style dinner in a comfortable booth, dance, and enjoy a game of ten-pin bowling. On weekends, they have inspired musical nights as well as live bands and DJs. There’s always a party going on. They also have karaoke rooms that can accommodate groups of 6 to 35 people.
Head over to Tavistock Hotel Basement, Bedford Way (between Russell Square and Euston underground), London WC1H 9EU.
The streets of London have a lot to offer. The music, its richness, the artists, and their ambitions, it’ll take you on a roller coaster ride of joy and talent.
Ralph Mctell and Roger Whittaker are an ode to the London musical society. Their singing can brighten up the mood of even a lonely man.
The culture and the lives of these street performers in London are nothing but a symphony to the ears. When scouring London, do not forget to check out these streets and their amazing artists!