There’s nothing like a good podcast to keep you company on a long drive, an early commute, to entertain you through the day or help you escape from reality when you need it the most. And right now, we’ve got more time on our hands than ever, so what better way to keep your ears entertained at home than by tuning in to a good podcast?
Whether you’re into gritty true crime, looking for some nuggets of wisdom from the professionals or in need of a dose of celebrity gossip, there really is something for everyone in the world of audio.
There are thousands of podcasts out there now, but here we’ve selected just some of our favourite podcast picks for escapism, conversation, self-improvement or just to keep you laughing. Here are some of our favourites.
59 of the best podcasts 2021
Changes with Annie Mac
This podcast features the international DJ and broadcaster Annie Mac in conversation with artists, writers, musicians and a host of fascinating people about how we navigate and overcome some of the biggest changes in our lives. Releasing an episode a week from 4 May, guests include Swedish singer-songwriter Robyn, author Caitlin Moran, BAFTA winning and Oscar nominated Syrian filmmaker and activist, Waad Al-Kateab, journalist and documentary maker Jon Ronson and writer and academic Sinead Burke.
All Round Mine
Hosted by BBC Radio 1’s Arielle Free and George Lawton, Primark’s podcast All Round Mine gets famous guests (previous celebs include Laura Whitmore, Munroe Bergdorf and Scarlett Moffatt; just launched series 2 sees Felicity Hayward, Abi Clarke and Melvin ODoom join the conversation) to open the doors to their home. Think of it as an audio Through the Keyhole, where you get to snoop inside celebrity homes as they divulge on everything from their music collections to their most cherished possessions.
The High Low
Journalists and friends Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes discuss high- and low-brow culture and everything in between in this chatty weekly news and pop culture podcast. From the trivial to the political, nothing is off limits for these two, from current affairs to book recommendations to reality TV. Unfortunately, they’ve since ceased recording new episodes, but the whole back catalogue is still available to listen back to.
BBC Radio 4’s iconic Woman’s Hour show packaged into a neat little podcast for you to consume at any time of day. Hailed as ‘the programme that offers a female perspective on the world,’ everything from parenting to sexual abuse to cooking is discussed by hosts Jane Garvey, Jenni Murray and their guests.
Call Your Girlfriend
Co-hosted by real-life long-distance BFFs Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, each week the two women pick up the phone and discuss everything from the intricacies of pop culture to the latest in politics. They’re opinionated, unapologetically feminist and ‘here for every facet of women’s humanity.’
The Cut on Tuesdays
Talking everything from culture and style to sex and politics, this podcast from New York Magazine doesn’t shy from the taboo. It expertly navigates a variety of topics in a fearless, rounded and often hilarious way. From pubic hair to sex in fiction and the topic of getting high, this podcast takes a sharp, humorous look at women’s issues.
Fortunately… with Fi and Jane
Just as popular with mid-lifers as it is with millennials, Jane Garvey and Fi Glover’s smash-hit podcast has learnt itself a cult following. Frank, razor-sharp wit intersects the women’s intimate and candid musings on life, from pet deaths to the trouble with HRT patches, while they always manage to get their guests to share more than they probably should have.
This City with Clara Amfo
Join radio DJ Clara Amfo as she explores the streets of London through the eyes of some of the city’s most recognisable names such as Louis Theroux, Dina Asher-Smith and the Sugababes. From the pubs and restaurants they frequent to the spots that kickstarted their careers and their favourite hidden gems, it’s all unearthed right here. The latest episode sees Clara sit down with Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall.
A runaway success of a podcast, The Receipts is helmed by Audrey, Milena and Tolly T aka some of the smartest, most confident and totally hilarious young women in the podding world. Now with a TV pilot in the works, the girls chat everything from pop culture to mental health, sex to issues affecting women of colour.
Julie’s Library: Story Time With Julie Andrews
Dame Julie Andrews has just launched her very own podcast and it sounds like the perfect thing to help us fall asleep. Get tucked in and let the melodic tones of the Sound of Music icon lull you to sleep as she reads aloud her original children’s stories (she’s co-written over 30 with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton). Although aimed at children, we can’t think of anything better to listen to to help us nod off at night.
Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place sees the ex-radio host interview celebrity guests on life, love, loss and everything in between as they discuss what happiness means to them. The stellar line up of guests have included Dawn French, Tom Daley, Davina McCall and Stephen Fry, to name a few.
Open Mind with Frankie Bridge
This podcast sees ex-The Saturdays singer Frankie Bridge openly discuss her mental health journey, from breakdowns to breakthroughs. With half of all mental health sufferers admitting that isolation and shame is worse than the condition itself, Frankie encourages her guests (including Anita Rani, Andrea McLean and Giovanna Fletcher) to open up and share their own experiences with mental health.
Host Francesca Specter coined the term ‘alonement’ – it’s a word for when being alone isn’t lonely. Francesca chats to her guests about the positive side of spending time alone, getting them to discuss the time they spend by themselves, what they do with it and why it matters.
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
From one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature, Gretchen Rubin’s award-winning podcast covers the topic of happiness and good habits, which she discuses with her sister Elizabeth Craft. Recent episodes have covered the myths of spring cleaning, the benefits of keeping a stress diary and celebrating birthdays.
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations
We know that anything Oprah touches turns to gold, and her podcast is no different. Designed to ‘awaken, discover and connect to the deeper meaning of the world around you,’ listen to Oprah interview thought-leaders, best-selling authors, spiritual luminaries and health and wellness experts on life’s big questions. Naturally attracting a superstar roster of celebrities, recent guests have included Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson and Michelle Obama.
Another BBC Radio 4 produced podcast, Short Cuts is a collection of short documentaries and adventures in sound presented by Josie Long. Short Cuts pushes the boundaries of the medium of sound, using it in myriad ways to explore everything from the climate crisis to encounters with old texts to tarot cards. The result is a mixture of personal storytelling, true stories, radio adventures and found sound.
Dear Joan and Jericha
For side-splitting, totally non-PC humour, Joan and Jericha are your gals. Performed by Vicky Pepperdine and Julia Davis, this agony aunt-style spoof podcast will have you laughing out loud at Joan and Jericha’s solutions to their listeners problems.
My Dad Wrote a Porno
Jamie Morton’s dad wrote a series of amateur erotic fiction novels title Belinda Blinked. Now Jamie sits down with friends Alice Levine (of Radio 1 fame) and James Cooper to read a chapter a week. Cringing, toe-curling and cry-laughter is guaranteed.
The Guilty Feminist
Hosted by comedian Deborah Frances-White, this feminist comedy podcast filmed in front of a live audience features a panel of guests discussing and doing stand up on the big topics all 21st century feminists agree on, while confessing their ‘buts’ – the insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that undermine their lofty principles.
Is It Just Me?
Hosted by the brilliant Jo Elvin, editor of YOU magazine, and her former colleague James Williams, Is It Just Me? debates the funniest, weirdest and most pressing dilemmas of the moment. Full of wit and topical conversations, Jo and James are joined by a new celebrity guest each week – and with over 100 episodes, it’s safe to say they’ve been joined by everyone who is anyone in the UK.
Anna Faris is Unqualified
As the title suggests, this podcast is hosted by romcom queen Anna Faris, which means you can expect major giggles from the get go. The actress gets candid about everything from her plastic surgery, to the jealousy she used to feel when watching her ex-husband Chris Pratt with gorgeous women onscreen.
David Earl, Joe Wilkinson and Poppy Hillstead invite a celebrity guest to join them each week to discuss unsubstantiated rumours sent in by listeners. At the end of each episode they choose their favourite piece of gossip and help spread it further by getting Poppy to shout it out the window.
Liz Jones’s Diary
YOU magazine’s totally unfiltered columnist now has an equally outrageous podcast where her and best friend Nic dissect her weekly diary and delve into the archives to relive the good, the bad and the ugly from the last 20 years of Liz’s column-ing antics.
FOR BEAUTY BUFFS…
Beauty Full Lives
Journalist Madeleine Spencer explores the relationship we have with beauty and the emotional value we attach to products. She’s joined by guests to reflect on the challenges and triumphs they’ve faced in life and the beauty memories and rituals that have played a role. Trinny Woodall is this week’s guest and previous guests have included former British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman and journalist and author Sophia Money-Coutts.
A podcast for beauty addicts, by beauty addicts. Hosted by professional make up artist, Harriet Hadfield and unprofessional beauty junkie, Lindsey Kelk, tune in to listen to the pair discuss the latest news, trends, launches and cult favourites in the world of makeup, skincare, haircare and beyond.
Beauty editors (and friends) Jessica Matlin and Jennifer Goldstein are the hosts of this award-winning weekly podcast. With their fingers firmly on the beauty zeitgeist, Jess and Jenn divulge the latest in beauty news as well as sharing candid stories of their adventures in beauty, from celebrity interviews to freaky facials. Their fave people from the bizz also drop in to share their knowledge, including Emily Weiss, Charlotte Tilbury and Bobbi Brown.
From The New York Times comes The Daily, a podcast that take the biggest news of the day and discusses it for twenty minutes, five days a week. Although with a mainly American focus, it’s an easy, bitesize way to digest the biggest Stateside headline of the day.
If you’re looking to brush up on your knowledge of modern politics, Nerdcast is for you. Every Friday, host Scott Bland chats with guests to discuss the political news of the week. Again, it’s American-made so there’s a US-skew to the topics covered, but with each episode no longer than an easily digestible half an hour, this might be the only way we ever get our heads around US politics.
Written and presented by Ross Sutherland, Imaginary Advice is a miscellany of quirky stories and includes everything from re-telling the plot of Four Weddings and a Funeral and recording love monologues at a drum and bass rave to turning current affairs into poetry. Listed as one of the Best British Podcasts of 2018, it has been described by critics as ‘a podcast that pushes the boundaries of the medium, and displays a level of creativity that is rarely seen on just one podcast. The writing is bold, the delivery is daring, and it takes the listener on a journey unlike any they will have encountered before.’
This new podcast by featuring Kristen Wiig, Alia Shawkat and Ethan Hawke explores the human element behind voice assistant tech. Created by podcast studio Gimlet, it follows Helen (voiced by Shawkat), who, in an attempt to leave her old life behind her, lands a job at Orbital Teledynamics – the company behind an omniscient digital voice assistant called Sandra. However, as her real and virtual worlds begin to blend, she soon realises that she has become one of many ‘Sandras’ – real humans who answer questions from people thinking they are actually talking to an algorithm.
Homecoming is a fictional podcast that follows a therapist and an army veteran as they join a new government programme to help soldiers re-adjust to civilian life. Their story is told through a series of therapy sessions and phone conversations and explores the serious dangers of suppressing trauma.
As one of the most talked about podcasts ever, Serial certainly lives up to the hype. Its debut season tells the story of Adnan Syed – a Baltimore high school student who was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, after her strangled body was found in a park a month after she went missing in January 1999. This series consists of 12 episodes hosted journalist Sarah Koening, who attempts to re-investigate Syed’s case and features a series of interviews with Syed, who is in prison facing a life sentence, as well as a host of witnesses and the police. It was downloaded more than 40 million times in 2014 alone.
Get right to the heart of some of the biggest stories of the late 20th century with Slow Burn. The first two seasons investigated the Watergate scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Now, season three takes a deep dive into the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
The Shrink Next Door
Over seven episodes, discover the story of Isaac Herschkopf, the Hamptons-based celebrity therapist who allegedly manipulated and abused his position as psychiatrist to exploit his patients for personal gain. Compulsive listening.
Dolly Parton’s America
Essential listening for any Dolly Parton fans and an entertaining podcast for those who aren’t, Dolly Parton’s universal appeal means there’s something for everyone in this Dolly-centric podcast. To dissect her mass-popularly, the hosts of this 9-episode podcast take a journey into the Dollyverse, transversing her discography, status as a feminist icon and political stance.
TED Talks Daily
Obsessed with TED Talks? Get them in audio format every weekday for on-the-go TED-ing. Bitesize talks from the world’s leading thinkers and doers in their field, you’ll find episodes on everything from artificial intelligence to linguistics to zoology and everything in between.
Table Manners with Jessie Ware
Having rightfully earned itself a huge cult following, Jessie Ware and her mum Lennie invite a celebrity guest round to their house for dinner and cook for them. Raucous chatter and scintillating titbits of celeb gossip are divulged in the relaxed and candid atmosphere that Jessie and Lennie create. Previous guests have included Nigella Lawson, Emilia Clarke, Sadiq Khan and Ed Sheeran.
Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster
Ever wondered what Jay Rayner or Tom Kerridge’s ultimate meal would be? Comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster have the answers and more in their hit podcast Off Menu. The duo invite guests into their magical make-believe restaurant to divulge their favourite starter, main, side dish, dessert and drink for the ultimate dream meal.
Food For Thought
If you’re looking for some straight talking, myth-busting, evidence-based facts and science around food, health and nutrition, Rhiannon Lambert – the UK’s leading nutritionist, founder of her own private Harley Street clinic and author several books – delivers just that in her podcast, Food For Thought. From the biggest weight-loss myths to veganism and the future of food, Rhiannon sorts fact from fiction in an insightful, no-nonsense manner.
Out To Lunch with Jay Rayner
World famous food critic Jay Rayner takes famous names out to a restaurant of his choosing for great food and insightful chat. Guests have included Jamie Cullum, Mel C, Jamie Dornan, Jessie Ware and Lianne La Havas.
Desert Island Dishes
Taking inspiration from the format of popular Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs, chef Margie Nomura talks to a special guest each week about the seven dishes that have shaped their lives. From favourite childhood dishes to the ones they eat most often, Margie’s foodie guests (there’s been everyone from Gino D’Acampo to Gizzi Erskine) finish off by picking the one meal that would be their final dish before being cast off to the desert island.
FOR PRACTICAL ADVICE…
Struggling to break up with your phone? Apparently, so is everyone else. In It’s Complicated, host Tanya Goodin chats to guests about their relationship with their phone, their tech habits and how ‘the tiny tyrant in their pocket – their smartphone’ affects them.
For belly laughs peppered with (mostly) genuinely helpful advice, comedians Tessa Coates and Stevie Martin attempt to dissect what it takes to be a fully-functioning adult. Tackling life’s questions, big and small, episodes include ‘How to make a decision’, ‘How to host a dinner party’ and ‘How to be on time’ – essential listening for anyone.
Making The Cut with Davina McCall & Michael Douglas
Self-described as ‘TripAdvisor for your life’, Davina McCall sits down with her hairdresser boyfriend Michael Douglas to give their recommendations on the best things to eat, watch, use and do. From Davina’s fave mascara to live roast potato tasting tests and a review of Pret’s newest salad, don’t buy anything until you’ve got Davina and Michael’s seal of approval.
The Emma Guns Show
Emma’s reasoning for her podcast? ‘I talk to people who are smarter than me, so we can learn.’ On this podcast, expert guests join Emma, a writer of 20 years, to offer accessible insight into everything – starting a business, managing mental health, looking after your physical health, managing your time and more. From meditation and self-help to sex, entrepreneurship and the latest beauty trends, The Emma Guns Show aims to inform, empower, inspire and entertain.
Every week, YouTubers and comedians Ashley Nichole and Taryne Renee answer listeners’ questions and problems on everything from life and love to dating, jobs and life’s most embarrassing situations. Their disclaimer reads: ‘Listening to the advice is required, but taking it is 100 per cent optional.’
FOR CELEBRITY CHAT…
Desert Island Discs
Everyone who’s anyone has chatted with Kirsty Young about the songs that formed the soundtrack of their life on Radio 4’s iconic Desert Island Discs. Now you can listen to the entire back catalogue anytime, anywhere as each episode is available in podcast form straight after being recorded live on air.
The Reality Tea
Essential listening for anyone who loves and lives for reality TV fans, The Reality Tea is a weekly get together where all the tea is spilled on what’s what in the sparkly world of reality TV stars.
The Adam Buxton Podcast
Adam Buxton may have the best job in the world – the guest list for his podcast reads like a smorgasbord of ridiculously talented people – Jeff Goldblum, David Mitchell, Nina Stibbe and Philip Pullman are just a small selection of the incredible guests he’s had the pleasure of nattering away with on his hugely successful podcast.
Walking the Dog
Emily Dean from The Times takes her guests on a walk with their dogs and chats. Utterly simple but a totally joyous listen, especially if you’re on a solo walk yourself. They talk about the weird, the wonderful, the funny and the extraordinary.
FOR TRUE CRIME…
All Killa No Filla
Comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean have a shared passion, serial killers. So they made a podcast about it. Each episode hears the pair talk all things murder and macabre will managing to keep things light, witty and humorous all along the way.
My Favourite Murder
Now a hit true crime comedy podcast, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark have broken download records with their morbid audio creation, My Favourite Murder. Lifelong of true crime stories, the pair discuss their favourite tales of murder.
Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad
Listening to The Murder Squad is akin to riding shotgun with retired cold case investigator Paul Holes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen as they attempt to solve unsolved murder cases. The listeners are key in their investigations, as they contribute their own findings to actually help solve a real life crime. Truly compelling listening.
FOR WORDS OF WISDOM…
Join Adrienne Herbert as she chats to leading coaches, creatives, change makers and innovators about their morning routines, daily habits and rules to live by. With her guests, Adrienne explores the idea of what you could do if you got up one hour earlier every day to work towards your goals – whether that’s building a business, writing a book or running a marathon.
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day
YOU magazine columnist Elizabeth Day’s podcast, How to Fail, invites guests to explore what the failures in their life actually taught them. Recent guests to take their turn at opening up to Elizabeth about the moments when life handed them lemons include Marian Keyes, Frankie Bridge and Andrew Scott.
Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel
Getting to eavesdrop on another couple’s therapy session sounds like a privilege granted only to the therapists of the world, until now. Step into the office of Esther Perel and listen in as real (anonymous) couples open up on the raw, intimate and profound details of their relationship. From infidelity to sexlessness to loss, nothing is off limits and everyone is heard and understood on Esther’s podcast.
FOR CAREER CHAT…
How’s Work? with Esther Perel
New from Esther Perel, How’s Work? sees the couples therapist-turned-podcaster dissect ‘the invisible forces that shape workplace connections, conflict and dynamics through one-time therapy sessions with coworkers, cofounders and colleagues — touching every work environment from start-ups and family businesses to corporations and service industries.’
Hey, Cool Job!
Mary H.K. Choi chats to people from all fields of work – recent guests have included SNL’s Bowen Yang and Kinfolk founder Keith Abrams – to discuss their 9-5. Self-described as ‘the best podcast about jobs’.
Hosts Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper promote the modern day non-linear career path in their podcast, Squiggly Careers. Covering topics such as how to manage stress and overcome your confidence gremlins to micro-aggressions and discovering your strengths, it’s a must-listen if you’re looking for career advice or just some reassurance.