Socialising, drinking, eating, sleeping and networking: they’re all important parts of daily life, so why enjoy these pleasures in a restaurant or at home when you could be at a private members’ club? From the hedonistic to the business-like, the edgy to the sophisticated, London boasts some of the most coveted clubs in the world: so which membership is right for you – and how on earth do you apply?
1. The King’s Head (Dalston)
Nestled beneath a derelict pub, The King’s Head members’ club in Haggerston is a fantastic alternative to other London establishments. With pop-up restaurants, live music nights and jaw-dropping taxidermy displays – including a gargantuan polar bear – the east London hangout is certainly a different type of private members’ club, for all the right reasons. With arty types working during the day, the club comes to life in the evening, with Friday and Saturday nights seeing action until 5am. Apply online and be prepared to ask an existing committee member to be your referee.
2. The Hospital Club (Covent Garden)
Set over seven stories in the heart of Covent Garden, The Hospital Club has bars, terraces, boutique hotel rooms, a live performance space and a TV and music studio – along with a strong commitment to supporting creative talent. With 40 events a month, masterclasses for members and reciprocal clubs all over the world, The Hospital Club is an ideal place for those in creative industries to network and collaborate with like-minded colleagues. Application is via an online form, with the joining fee waived for those under 30.
3. Home House (Marylebone)
Located steps away from Selfridges, the opulent Home House is hard to leave. It’s got it all, from luxurious dining options and decadent party rooms to an array of social events and a state-of-the-art gym and spa. Plus, if you get sleepy while working on one of the huge armchairs in the drawing room, you can opt to stay overnight in a sumptuously luxurious bedroom. There’s no dress code to adhere to, either: in their own words, the “only rule of the House is that nudity is discouraged.” After submitting an application, would-be members are taken on an hour-long tour of Home House before a monthly membership committee meeting considers their request.
4. Shoreditch House (Shoreditch)
A membership to the achingly cool Shoreditch House not only gives you access to its rooftop swimming pool, Cowshed spa and luxe screening room, but also – should you opt for its more pricey Every House membership package – access to homes away from home all over the world, from New York and Miami to Istanbul and Berlin. With a creative community, plenty of dining options and a stylish gym, it’s definitely the hip choice. Members can apply online, with a hefty discount for the under 27s.
5. The Arts Club (Mayfair)
Counting Charles Dickens and Franz Liszt among its former members, The Arts Club is undoubtedly one of London’s most talked-about clubs. With a prime spot in Dover Street, 16 designer hotel rooms to pick from and a carefully curated selection of contemporary art, it’s definitely a chic option. As part of your application, you must either be nominated by a current member or be an active member of the art, architecture, fashion, film, literature, music, performance, photography, science, theatre or media industries.
6. Annabel’s (Mayfair)
With mobile phones banned, leather frowned upon and gentlemen’s jackets compulsory, London’s legendary private members’ club is all about honouring traditional values five decades after it was first established. It’s seen everyone from Princess Diana and Kate Moss to Frank Sinatra dance until the early hours within its walls, but rumour has it that it will soon be opening a day club – with gym and health club – which is in stark contrast to its hedonistic past. New members keen to follow in the footsteps of its famous clients must be proposed and seconded by two existing members before filling out an application form.
7. 5 Hertford Street (Mayfair)
Super-exclusive, it’s said that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are regular visitors to the Mayfair hotspot, and that George Clooney, Tom Cruise and Kate Moss are all members, too. Like all world-class members’ clubs, though, it’s shrouded in secrecy, so unless you’re granted access yourself, you’ll never know for sure which A-listers have crossed the threshold. Applicants must have a proposer or seconder write in to request a membership form, after which the membership committee decide their fate.
8. Morton’s (Mayfair)
Once the private residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Morton’s Club is luxurious yet not intimidating. With beautiful Berkeley Square views, elegant interiors, a fascinating selection of contemporary art and an extensive selection of wines, it’s a grown-up choice of club. The events – from fashion shows by Mulberry to talks by the late Howard Marks – show the variety of members. Those wishing to join must fill in an application form detailing their intended club use and select the interests that most apply to them, from art and food to wine and sport.
9. The Groucho Club (Soho)
With a roster of celebrity members and plenty of headline-grabbing antics since it opened over 30 years ago, The Groucho Club has stuck to its original ethos: offering an alternative to stuffy gentlemen’s clubs with their strict dress codes and no-women policies. Its name – and rebellious nature – came from the famous quote by Groucho Marx: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Would-be members must have their applications proposed and seconded by current members, with applicants normally waiting six weeks to hear whether they’ve been accepted.
10. The Club at The Ivy (Covent Garden)
Spread over three floors above The Ivy – its entrance discreetly hidden within a flower shop – The Club at The Ivy offers an elegant dining, reading and relaxing experience for discerning club members. With an aesthetically pleasing decor and events including theatre nights and its very own cricket club, it’s a refined place to network and meet like-minded people. Aspiring members fill out an online form detailing their career history, interests and favourite places to socialise in London, and must then wait for the membership committee – which meets once a month – to make that all-important decision.