There’s nothing quite like celebrating your birthday at activity bars with games, mostly because –
A) It faithfully recreates that magical, nostalgic feeling of playing party games in your youth (but with booze this time). And,
B) Everyone has to let you win.
And these are the best activity bars in London to do that…
All Star Lanes | Shoreditch (and Holborn, Westfield)
Bowling’s great. Especially when you combine it with cocktails, non-sweaty shoes, a 1950’s vibe, an authentic American diner serving everything from Southern fried chicken thighs with buffalo sauce, to chargrilled prime beef steaks, and private karaoke booths. Just in case you accidentally on purpose elect to get drunk, you know. READ MORE
Numbers? Up to around 21
Also check out: Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, which sport a similar retro vibe and allow you to book up to 8 lanes at once.
Baranis | Temple
A basement cocktail bar with a simple menu of traditional Provençal snacks and a sizeable array of the region’s prime anise-flavoured apéritif, pastis. They also have a gravelled indoor pétanque court, where the goal is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball. Simple. Unless you don’t have arms.
Numbers? There’s only one lane, so unless you want to play in rounds, it’s probably best to cap it at around 8.
Mac & Wild | Liverpool Street
Yes, it’s a whisky bar with over 200 varieties on their shelves, bottled house cocktails and bar snacks like ‘haggis pops’, but the best part is the pair of virtual shooting ranges stretching down its middle – complete with tweed-heavy dressing up box – that allow you to take a shot at simulated game like deer, grouse, and wild boar. READ MORE
Numbers? £70p/h for up to 40 people
Bar Kick | Shoreditch
“Shoreditch royalty” would be a relatively adequate summation of Bar Kick. Then again, so would “a bustling, rambunctious football-inspired bar offering a menu of epicurean sandwiches, charcuterie and cheese, cocktails, beer, wine and – most importantly – foosball tournaments.”
Numbers? Groups between 10-35 can reserve areas with 1 or 2 football tables.
NOTE: Café Kick, in Exmouth Market, is Bar Kick’s smaller, younger, more intimate brother.
London Shuffle Club | Shoreditch
Shuffleboard is an unexpectedly addictive game. In fact, the Tudors had to ban it from the general public, because it was stopping them from doing useful things like going to work, and practising their bow and arrow technique. And they didn’t even have cocktails from an airstream caravan, freshly baked pizzas or DJs to go with it… READ MORE
Numbers? 4-8 people per lane, with 6 indoor and 2 outdoor lanes
Draughts Board Game Café | Hackney, Waterloo
A partially crowd-funded board game café in the heart of Hackney and the archways beneath Waterloo station, stocking more than 500 games and a much smaller selection of local craft beers, ales, ciders and wines, as well as homemade baked goods. READ MORE
Numbers? You can book for up to 8 people, which is about as many people as you can squeeze around a decent sized board-game…
Bounce | Holborn, Shoreditch
Set over 12,000 square feet of a Russell Sage-designed space in Holborn, Bounce features an impressive 17 ping-pong tables, a 40 foot bar serving seasonally-inspired drinks, a DJ booth and a raised restaurant for overlooking the action. In short, if table tennis was fun before the addition of cocktails, music and all of your friends – which it was – then Bounce has done the nearly impossible, and actually made it better. READ MORE
Numbers? Basically anywhere from 2 people to, apparently, 500. You can book tables, or indeed an entire room of tables
NOTE: You can also play ping pong at Doodle Bar.
Electric Shuffle | Canary Wharf
Flight Club is really taking the biscuit with its next activity bar.
See, the team have branched out from darts to apply their unparalleled mix of high-tech wizardry, cocktails and general joie de vivre to the game of shuffleboard. There are three teched-up versions of the game to play, and a steampunk-art deco bar to celebrate your victory in afterwards… READ MORE
Numbers? It’s 6 people minimum per table, and numbers can go up to 350 if you hire the whole place.
Swingers | The City & West End
Swingers is crazy golf like a Ferrari is a way of getting from A to B. Each of their vast, beautifully decked out spaces have two golf courses, three restaurants, and – in the City – five bars. Yes, five. SWINGERS CITY | SWINGERS WEST END
Numbers? The place is vast, and they have private rooms that can be hired for groups of 12-500 people. The price is £13 per person, per round (peak) or £10 per person, per round, during off peak times (Mon-Wed, before 5pm).
Birdies Battersea | Battersea
Birdies Battersea in a word: surreal.
Birdies Battersea in twenty nine words: a truly crazy crazy golf experience in which each of the nine colourfully abstracted holes seems to be designed to derail your senses even more effectively than the cocktail bar.
Numbers? You can squeeze up to 4 people on a hole at the same time, but you can have a few groups following on from each other. It costs £12pp at peak times (£10 off peak).
Flight Club | Shoreditch, Bloomsbury, Victoria
From the competitive minds behind both Bounce and All Star Lanes, FC boasts animated, automatic dartboard scoring; virtual guides; a collection of fast-moving games; pizza boards and canapés; and touch screen interfaces invented by a rocket scientist. Oh, and booze. READ MORE
Numbers? You can book for up to 400 people, but it’s probably best to stick to under 40.
Karaoke Bars in London | Across London
Karaoke is a legitimate sport. It requires skill, determination, perseverance and finally, alcohol. And to bring all that together, you need one of these excellent bars, where you can book a private booth, pay per person, and bring all manner of cocktails into said booth… SEE ‘EM ALL
Numbers? Some of these joints fit up to 30.
The Cauldron | Stoke Newington
A pop up bar where you’ll don robes, grab a wand, and create two molecular cocktails using magic and/or science. Expect cauldrons overflowing with smoke; colour-changing cocktails; and beer from a tree… READ MORE
Numbers? Up to 80
Original Sin | Stoke Newington
As well as looking like the broody basement bar of a lower NYC whisky refinery, Original Sin is also one of the rare gems which exist to provide you with only one thing: fun. Oh, and a free pool table. READ MORE
Numbers? Sunday to Thursdays they book for groups up to 15, however on Friday and Saturdays it’s only for groups of 6 people.
The Four Quarters | Peckham
A Peckham bar / pub specialising in all your classic misspent-youth arcade and video games like Pong, Asteroids, Tron, Pac Man and Streetfighter II. READ MORE
Numbers? You can rent the entire console room for between 5 and 25 people.
Four Quarters East | Hackney Wick
Want to get the same thing, only way bigger? And right next door to a Breakfast Club? Then get thee to Hackney Wick (specifically the bit that was originally a media hub during the 2012 Olympics, but which has been repurposed for bars & restaurants). READ MORE
Numbers? Anything up to 250, basically. They have three private console booths that can handle 5-10 people a pop, or you can book the entire venue, should you want to.
Roof East | Stratford
Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones… but those on the roof of a Stratford car park definitely should. Because the Social Fun & Games Club is back at Roof East for the colder season with curling lanes; crazy golf from Birdies; and virtual reality foosball. And a cinema. READ MORE
Numbers? Up to 8 on one lane, or for parties of 40+ they’ll set aside a games area with your own bar.
ABQ & Sinner | Hackney
Turns out you can fit a lot in one railway arch. Downstairs is the Breaking Bad RV, filled with yellow boilersuits, ‘cooking’ equipment, and a boatload of cocktail recipes for drinks that smoke, bubble and change colour. Upstairs is Sinner; a shot bar where you pay for tokens, play video games, and receive shots of varying palatability depending on your score. READ MORE
Numbers? Between 30-35 in the RV, and up to 200 in their new venue.
Sin Bin | Queensway
Sin Bin overlooks the huge (almost two football pitches-wide) ice rink at Queens: Skate Dine Bowl, where you can score cocktails, MEATliquor grub, and the perfect spot to recuperate after you’ve exhausted the games arcade, the pool tables, the bowling lanes, the ice skating, ice hockey, curling… and human curling. READ MORE
Numbers? Dependent on activity, but there are also private bowling lanes available.
Four Thieves | Battersea
Most of your time at the Four Thieves will be spent trying to get out of there. That is, if you’re playing their in-pub escape room, Lady Chastity’s Reserve. The rest of the time, of course, will be amply filled by their retro arcade games, VR experiences, indoor blacklight crazy golf course aaand epic remote control car-racing game.
Numbers? The escape room has a max of 6 players at once, and that’s probably a sensible number for the other activities, too.
Urban Golf | Soho, Smithfield
Golf: hitting a tiny ball with a tiny club into a tiny hole hundreds of metres away behind trees, water beds and sandpits. Urban Golf: kind of just like that, except virtual, and indoors, and warm, with 50 of the world’s best courses on electronic hand, and a bar food menu, with drinks.
Numbers? Anywhere ‘from 8 to 150’, they claim. But realistically, 150 people can’t play golf simultaneously, so take that for what it’s worth.
Nine Lives | Bermondsey
Nine Lives is all about zero waste – even the pith from the lemons used in their cocktails is recycled to make soap for the bathrooms. So it makes sense that they’re not wasting any part of their stylish bar space, either – by installing a tabletop shuffleboard in a secluded corner. READ MORE
Numbers? Up to 8
Porky’s | Bankside
Beer Pong + BBQs.
Numbers? Up to you, but the table has strictly 2 players per side, so probably don’t run over a dozen or so people.
Otherworld | Haggerston
An immersive, virtual reality arcade & bar in an old East London railway arch. There are 16 different games to choose from, as well as food from Lords of Poké and cocktails designed by an ex-Milk & Honey mixologist. READ MORE.
Numbers? You can go solo, and get your own immersion room or you can hire out the whole arcade for up to 60 people.
Last Updated: 22nd March 2020 | Main image: Bounce Farringdon
Looking for somewhere a little more sedate? How about a place for classy birthday drinks…