Located in the heart of the West End, Soho roughly covers one square mile bordered by Oxford Street, Regent Street, Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road. Less commonly known is from where the area’s name actually derives – it’s commonly believed it was adopted from the call of horse riders (‘So-ho!’) as centuries ago its land was frequented by aristocratic hunting parties.
Admittedly, that’s a far cry (excuse the pun) from what Soho’s all about nowadays. A fantastic part of town for live entertainment, outstanding food and pulsating nightlife, Soho prides itself not just on its eclectic boutiques, West End musicals, delicious cocktails and – in some streets –risqué vibe, it’s also very proud of its diverse cultural history and being home to important elements of the UKmovie, music and wider media industries. In short, if you’re visiting London you must spend an hour or two in Soho – quite frankly, such is its pull, you may find it difficult not to.
It’s extremely easy to get to Soho– as it’s slap-bang in the centre of the city, its transport links are superb. The best way to reach the area is undoubtedly via the London Underground (Tube), the most relevant stations being Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road. You’d be well advised buying a Visitor Oyster Card before you find yourself in the city – you can have one delivered to your home before you arrive in London.
If you’re actually looking to stay in or very near Soho while visiting London, then you’re excellently catered for by accommodation. With everything from youth hostels and cheap and cheerful budget places to luxurious hotels, the area caters for every kind of traveller and every traveller’s kind of price range. Among the fine options you might consider are the hotels available to Premier Club Rewards members, such as The Piccadilly London West End, Park Grand London Lancaster Gate and Grand Royale London Hyde Park, all of which offer elegance on the inside and out, comfortable modern furnishings, free Broadband and Wi-Fi access and state-of-the-art Plasma TVs (with satellite channels) in every one of their rooms.
Bars and clubs
With everything from traditional and casual pubs to ‘secret’ bars and clubs,Soho might be said to be at the very crux of London’s nightlife scene – one of the biggest reasons why to visit Soho. Prominent bars such as The O Barand Bar Soho are always popular with tourists and offer plenty of cocktail opportunities or, if you’re craving a late-night coffee, Bar Italia always brings a little bit of Rome to the centre of the West End – and is a fantastically festive hang-out when the Italian national team are playing in a football tournament.
Also the focal point of London’s gay and lesbian scene, Soho boasts a high concentration of gay clubs and bars and is always at the heart of the London Pride celebrations each year in early June. If jazz is more your thing, though, then you’re excellently served, as this area was arguably its first home in the UK, with the legendary Ronnie Scott’s bar still providing supreme syncopated nights decades on from its opening.
London’s most renowned theatres can be found in the West End and a good number of them in the specific Soho area. The likes of the Gielgud, the Prince Edward and the Prince of Wales theatres are revered for the smash-hit musicals and classic plays they’ve played host to over the years,but there’s a thriving stand-up comedy scene in Soho too, plus a good amount of quirky cabaret if that’s to your taste.
Traditional or quirky; opulent or down-to-earth? The choice is yours because the variety and diversity of the eating-out options are truly tremendous. If you’re looking to indulge in fine dining, why not book a table at one of the area’s Michelin-starred restaurants, Social Eating House, Yauatcha or Arbutus? Or if you’re looking to keep on-trend in the capital then small sharing portions may be the way to go– places like Blanchette, Polpo and Barrafina are good options. For those whose tastes are more conventional then steak, burger and chicken is the order of the day at Honest Burgers, Clockjack Oven and Mash. Meanwhile, you can go Indian at Masala Zone, Cinnamon Soho and Imli Street, and do brunch at The Breakfast Club Soho.
Finally, Soho is nothing if not famed for its fashionable boutiques, especially in the iconic thoroughfare of Swinging Sixties lore that’s Carnaby Street and the nearby Kingly Court, as well as Berwick Street. At the head of Carnaby Street too is the world-famous mock Tudor department store Liberty, while the just as renowned toy shop extraordinaire Hamleys is to be found on Regent Street and in this vicinity too you’ll discover flagship fashion and electronics stores, especially on Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road.