Did you know that savvy travellers often avoid Soho when they visit London? It’s such a famous area, but with fame come millions of tourists and global chains, and many people say that Soho has lost the edginess that once made it interesting. It used to be one of the seedier neighbourhoods in London, but in the last decade or so it has become much more tourist-friendly, with classy bars, interesting restaurants, music and fashion stores and a wide range of hotels with Premier Club Rewards. If Soho is on your list but you’d like to avoid the tourist traps, here are our picks for getting off the beaten track.
This adorable vintage shop also has a location in Shoreditch, but in Soho you can find it on Marlborough Street. It’s a great place to find London’s finest vintage clothing, much of it by designer brands and all of it in great condition. If you’ve come to London looking for style inspiration, this definitely needs to be on your list. Every piece is one-of-a-kind and the prices are very affordable, especially by Soho standards.
This bookstore is an English institution. There are only a few of them scattered around the country, but this one on Charing Cross Road is the original and the best. Soho is tied closely to the literary world because the publishing industry once made its home here; if you walk along Charing Cross Road you’ll find plenty of independent and second-hand bookstores. Foyle’s is much bigger but remains independent with a wide and intriguing range of titles covering every topic you can imagine.
3.The Photographer’s Gallery:
This art gallery on Ramillies Street is an expansive space which regularly hosts hard-hitting and bold photography exhibitions such as “Human Rights Human Wrongs”. The museum is free to enter, like many of London’s major museums, but exhibitions cost extra. It’s very easy to sink an hour or two in here if you find yourself feeling the need for respite from the crowds of Soho.
4.Clubbing on Old Compton Street:
This is still a hub for LGBT culture in London, which means you can find some of the city’s most interesting clubs along this strip. Depending which night of the week you choose to visit, you might find mud-wrestling competitions, international DJs and artists, or simply a high-energy club night full of pop hits and accompanied by a welcoming, diverse crowd.
5.Branch out in Theatreland:
When you think of West End theatre you probably think of long-running smash hits like Les Miserables, The Book of Mormon and Wicked, but theatregoers in the know tend to skip these blockbusters. Instead, take the chance to see shows with a limited run that you won’t have the chance to see again, such as Miss Saigon or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. If you haven’t booked in advance, you can find discount last-minute tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, or at one of the many other ticket booths in the area – just don’t expect the best seats in the house. Another tip from those “in the know” is to show up to the theatre of your choice before 10am and ask if they have any seats for later that day. Many theatres keep seats empty for this exact purpose and you could find yourself in the very front row!
Gaudy and crowded, this is definitely the real thing, full of restaurants selling a range of different Asian cuisines as well as Vietnamese bakeries, Korean beauty shops and Japanese comic stores. If there’s an Asian product you need, chances are you’ll find it here. You can find it between Lisle and Wardour Streets, with most of the shops and restaurants along Gerrard Street.