21 Of The Best Songs About London: The Big Smoke Playlist

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

London, England, is one of the most iconic places in the world. Those who travel would make sure to tick off going to London on their bucket list.

The red phone booths, famous streets, and the monarchy are the central theme of some incredible songs. These give you a glimpse into this beautiful city without ever needing to step foot at the tube station.

Whether you’re a London native or live halfway around the world, celebrate its culture with songs that talk about what it means to love the place. For that matter, we have compiled 21 of the best songs about London. Enjoy reading!

1. “Waterloo Sunset” By The Kinks

This popular song pays tribute to Waterloo Bridge near the London Eye and Big Ben in London. Ray Davies, frontman of The Kinks, walked across the bridge every day to get to school. However, “Waterloo Sunset” is about fictional lovers who meet under this bridge after making a plan to run away together.

The themes found in this song show the love that Davies has for his home city. So whatever meaning you take away from this song, you’re looking into the childhood and way of life in London through his eyes.

Davies told in an interview that he was in the hospital at one point in his life. The nurses would wheel him onto a balcony to look at the river and the Waterloo Bridge.

2. “The City” By Ed Sheeran

English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran grew up in rural Suffolk but moved to London as an adult to start his music career. He describes the differences between the rural areas and the big city of London throughout “The City.”

London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but Sheeran takes a different approach with this song. He says that “this city never sleeps.” Even at night, the city is bustling with activity. The noise and sights usually keep him awake.

A line in the song says, “London calls me a stranger.” This may refer to Sheeran acclimatizing to the new place, and it still feels new. He might feel alienated by the city’s personality, but he knows London “is now my home.”

3. “Baker Street” By Gerry Rafferty

Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty wrote “Baker Street.” This refers to a street in the city of Westminster. Sherlock Holmes fans are likely familiar with it, as the fictional detective lived at 221B Baker Street.

The song’s inspiration comes from when the singer was living in a friend’s flat on Baker Street. It was released in 1978 at the height of London’s punk scene, which made this song become everlasting.

The lyrics are quite heavy, involving the singer’s heavy drinking and depression during this time. The man in the song wishes for a better life but cannot achieve this goal on his own. His presumed failures lead to his drinking for him not to face reality.

4. “Hometown Glory” By Adele

Can you believe that Adele was only 16 when she wrote “Hometown Glory”? It became a staple for songs about London because it was the first song that Adele ever wrote.

The song’s story is about Adele’s mother trying to force her to leave her hometown, West Norwood, and move to London for university.

Adele describes this song as a powerful ballad about her love for where she grew up. As she walks around the town, memories come back. But above all, it’s the people she met who “are the wonders of my world.”

5. “Take Me Back To London” By Ed Sheeran Ft. Stormzy

Our dear Ed Sheeran appears on our list a second time with “Take Me Back to London.” This is a collaboration between Sheeran and British rapper Stormzy, released in 2019.

The lyrics show the affinity of these artists for London. It’s no wonder they would work together on this song, as both of them are from the United Kingdom. Now they’re singing about returning home to London after being “away for a while.”

Returning to the city you love and call home is worth celebrating. So as soon as Sheeran reaches London, he’s going to “hit my friends up, go straight to the pub.”

6. “London Bridge” By Fergie

When you think of a song with “London” in the title, you’ll mostly think of “London Bridge is Falling Down.” This famous nursery rhyme actually inspired Fergie’s “London Bridge.”

The bridge here isn’t an exact reference to the bridge in London. However, it’s Fergie’s interpretation of falling for a man that she sees for the first time. She sings, “How come every time you come around, My London, London Bridge wanna go down.”

When she sings about the bridge falling down, she’s relating this act to her inability to resist the man in question.

7. “A Day In The Life” By The Beatles

This list would not be complete without a song from The Beatles. “A Day in the Life,” tells the story of what a day is like for a particular person. Since there is no gender specified, we can say that the person can be a symbol for everyone.

Rather than referencing places, the song mentions specific events that happened in London. The first and second verses reference Tara Browne, the Guinness heir who crashed his car and died in 1966. He was a friend of the Beatles.

Near the end of the song, the narrator wakes up and goes about his/her day. The person reflects on the routines we go through, even the fact that they “made the bus in seconds flat” after waking up late.

8. “The Fool On The Hill” By The Beatles

You will never find the word London anywhere in the song, but what leads this song on this list is the story behind it. Paul McCartney of The Beatles was inspired to write “The Fool on the Hill” after a mysterious experience one day.

He was walking his dog, Martha, and was with a friend on Primrose Hill when they encountered a man who seemed to appear out of nowhere. McCartney had a brief exchange with this man about God and the view overlooking London. And suddenly, the man disappeared.

In the song, the man is considered a fool by other people because he’s a naive individual. He may look like a fool, but the fact is that he’s a wise person. Near the end of the song, it says “he knows they’re the fools.”

9. “London Calling” By The Clash

English rock band The Clash came out with “London Calling” in 1979 from the album of the same name. It would have been a tribute to the beautiful city if it were not an apocalyptic song.

In a song that mentions “London” in a dystopian form, the focus is on ways the world could end. The lyrics are dark and haunting, but it’s one of the most famous songs written about London. The title comes from the BBC World Service’s identification, “This is London calling…”

Some of the ways mentioned include the ice age, war, and hunger. Notably, a lyric says, “London is drowning, I live by the river.” Those who live in London know that the place is prone to flooding. So if the Thames river goes up, London will be submerged.

10. “Werewolves Of London” By Warren Zevon

Who doesn’t like channeling their inner werewolf? This Halloween-themed but otherwise funny song with London in the lyrics was released in 1978. “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon is a classic song that locals have fallen in love with over the years.

In the lyrics, Zevon tells the story of a werewolf prowling the streets of London. Aside from looking for victims, he’s also out to get himself “a big dish of beef chow mein.” So the singer warns everyone not to let the werewolf in. He had already victimized an old lady the previous night.

The werewolf also sneaks around Kent and Mayfair, but you won’t catch him looking shabby. The singer notes how the werewolf has the perfect hair and appears dapper in his suit.

11. “LDN” By Lily Allen

Every place has its dark and light sides. Lily Allen‘s “LDN,” which is a text speaks for London, is not afraid to shine a light on the dark side of the city. It’s set against heavy lyrics tackling the truth about city life, including pimps and muggers in the area.

Allen speaks about the discouraging parts of London’s under-city. She’s making reference to how no one talks about these things since it’s underneath London’s beautiful surface. But it’s there in plain sight. At first glance, you might not see those things. “But if you look twice,” you’ll see the real image.

However, despite the ugliness she sees, the singer asks, “Would I wanna be anywhere else?”

12. “West End Girls” By Pet Shop Boys

In the song, the west end refers to a district of Central London, north of the River Thames. “West End Girls” was written by Pet Shop Boys duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, who explored the club scene in the 1980s along the West End.

The boys were inspired by TS Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land, and how it uses narrative voices. They wanted to apply that to their own song, and so they came up with one that tackles class and inner-city pressure.

The greatest part of this song is the music video. The duo goes around the city’s landmarks, including Tower Bridge and Waterloo Station. Everything you’d ever want to see in London is featured in this music video.

13. “A Rainy Night In Soho” By The Pogues

There’s always the one that got away, and the English punk band the Pogues has something to say about it in “A Rainy Night in Soho.” Originally, Soho was in the center of London’s theater area and is part of the West End of London.

In the song, we find the singer lamenting about the woman who broke his heart, and now he can’t stop thinking about her. Apparently, they’ve been together a long time as they witnessed their friends passing away. They’ve also shared happy and sad times together.

The singer remembers this one rainy night in Soho when they shared a passionate embrace. But now she’s gone and he’s trying to drown his sorrows by drinking.

14. “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” By The Jam

Despite topping the UK charts, “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” by the Jam was banned on several radio stations. The BBC put the ban on due to the violent nature of the lyrics.

The song is told from the perspective of a person who is the victim of a racially-motivated mugging. He is about to board the train on his way home to his wife. The muggers do not leave him alone, though. They beat him and left him for dead.

It’s not clear what happens to the victim. Some references from the song point out to him dying at the station, such as “I glanced back on my life” and “my life swam around me.”

15. “South London Forever” By Florence + The Machine

South London being her place of birth, it’s not surprising that the vocalist of Florence + the Machine band would pay tribute to what she considers home. Through “South London Forever,” Florence is holding onto the memories of her younger years.

Throughout the song, we hear about the different places that Florence went to. She talks about passing by the place where she was born or the pubs where she used to drink. She also recalls “how we climbed onto the roof, museum,” referring to the Horniman Museum back during her college days.

She appreciates what south London is to her by singing, “It doesn’t get better than this, what else could be better than this?”

16. A Foggy Day (In London Town) By Michael Buble

The typical weather in London revolves around cloudy and foggy days. This is what Micheal Buble sings about in his rendition of “A Foggy Day (In London Town).”

This song was originally written for the 1937 film A Damsel in Distress. It was inspired by the black fog caused by air pollution, which was a common occurrence in London.

And that is what the song says in its entire two repeating verses. The singer says that the foggy day in London town had him feeling unwell. No surprise there, as the fog had led to respiratory and similar diseases.

17. “London Town” By Paul McCartney And Wings

The 1978 song “London Town” by Paul McCartney and Wings is the romanticized view of London that people wish to see. The lyrics talk about the ordinary people that McCartney would see on the streets while speaking about everyday life in London.

In movies and music, London is seen as this beautiful city with red phone booths and double-decker buses. But in the song, the singer compares his loneliness to how the people of London look much happier.

The funny thing about this song is that McCartney started writing it while he was in Australia. He then finished it when he was in Scotland. But his imagery of London shines through the lyrics.

18. “We Are London” By Madness

Up next is a song that takes the listeners on a journey from one corner of London to the other. Madness‘ “We are London” takes you from Regent’s Park mosque, an important place of worship in Central London, to Carnaby.

Also, the song mentioned Camden Market and popular music venues where people have been performing for years. After mentioning all the fan-favorite places to go in London, the singer talks about how everyone can live together as one big happy family.

Notably, this song doesn’t call for racial unity. What it does, though, is to call for us to “live as you please.”

19. “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” By Nat King Cole

This Nat King Cole rendition of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” references Berkeley Square, a large park in Mayfair, London. In the lyrics, the singer also mentions The Ritz Hotel, one of London’s most prestigious hotels..

This is a romantic song about the night two people met. Because he is in love, he feels like there’s magic in the air. And when she smiles at him, “a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.”

A nightingale has been referenced in literature and music due to the beauty of its song. This bird can also produce more than 1000 sounds. But it’s unlikely you’ll see a nightingale in London because these birds prefer rural areas. This line in the song can only mean that improbable things happen when you’re in love.

20. “Warwick Avenue” By Duffy

Throughout the lyrics, the song references Warwick Avenue, a real place located in Central London. Duffy‘s “Warwick Avenue” is a haunting song about a woman who keeps coming back to her lover but finally had enough.

And so she asks him to meet her at Warwick Avenue, perhaps to say goodbye. The line “I’m leaving you for the last time” is proof that she had given him too many second chances. Each time, he hurt her badly.

She may have second thoughts, though, as she wishes, “I didn’t want the train to come.” But she is trying to be strong, knowing he doesn’t love her.

21. “London” By Cody Fry

Quite simply, “London” is Cody Fry‘s tribute to one of his favorite places which he wrote during the pandemic. He said that he was inspired to write this song because he missed traveling, something that was easy to do pre-pandemic.

The song starts with the line, “I’ve never been to London in the summer.” And then he continues sharing with us his experiences with someone, probably a lover, on a rainy, cold day.

He recounts all the things they did, such as “stepping off the train to find some coffee.” Or anywhere where they can find shelter from the cold. They ended up in a restaurant to sip some pisco sours.

These days, he mostly stays home. And when it rains, or when he misses her, he thinks of London.

Summing Up Our List Of London Songs

And there you have our best selection of songs about London. Perhaps it’s safe to assume at this point that you’ve already fallen in love with this city.

London has a variety of influences spanning different eras. So there’s always something new and interesting to learn about this historic city. And what more fun way to do so than by listening to great songs?

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.