If you’re planning on taking a short-break in London and like the sound of checking out a district of the city that’s almost entirely devoted to having fun, then you must pay Soho a visit. Located slap-bang in the centre of town, Soho’s bordered by the world-famous thoroughfares that are Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road, Leicester Square and Regent Street, it’s one square-mile of brilliant boutiques, fine dining, live entertainment and throbbing nightlife. Not to mention too, of course, it’s home to several of the West End’s most prestigious and most popular theatres.
Having supposedly taken its name from a call (‘Soho!’) dating back to its origins as Royal hunting ground in centuries past, nowadays its name’s undoubtedly a clarion call for all those looking to enjoy a district of diversity, vibrancy, colour and excitement…
Need some retail therapy?
With its unequivocal association with the Swinging Sixties, the still hip and somewhat alternative Carnaby Street is a must for those seeking high-quality fashion boutiques, but they shouldn’t miss out either on the similar retail opportunities of the neighbouring Kingly Court and Berwick Street. And the area’s a haven too for lovers of vinyl – the famed Denmark Street (once known as ‘Tin Pan Alley’) still features many old-fashioned record outlets – and second-hand book-hunters, for whom Charing Cross Road and its side-streets are a beacon. Alternatively, of course, there are the world-famous high-street stores that are the mock-Tudor-frontage-boasting Liberty; brand name outlets like Burberry, Aquascutum and Apple; plus, of course, the magnificent toy store emporium that’s Hamleys.
How about a night at the theatre?
Whatever you fancy – a big-budget glossy musical, a revered drama, a witty satire, a slice of superb Shakespeare, awesome opera, brilliant ballet or a comedy farce – you’re bound to be rewarded with your perfect theatrical night out in the West End. Especially if you’re enjoying one of the great London City break deals available and so saving money while staying in a beautiful hotel suite London. And a number of these most popular venues – and, yes, shows – are located in Soho. Indeed, playhouses like the Prince Edward theatre and the Prince of Wales theatre have been putting on productions for the best part of a century, while new players on the scene such as the Soho Theatre are great places to catch cutting-edge theatre and the very best stand-up comedy acts.
Fancy a tipple – or a boogie?
No question, Soho’s nightlife is absolutely second to none. At the very heart of the capital’s live music and clubbing scene, it’s an essential district for old-fashioned pubs, pumping clubs and the hottest ‘secret’ bars in the city. In fact, thanks to tourist-friendly places like Bar Soho and The O Bar, you might suggest that Soho’s ‘cocktail central’ in London, while it’s also revered for its gay and lesbian-focused night spots and more risqué entertainment, including burlesque venues – it’s the hub for the capital’s Pride celebrations every year in late spring. Moreover, if live music’s your passion you must check out the likes of the 100 Club and Borderline (so important in rock history) and both the original Ronnie Scott’s club and Ain’t Nothin’ But… for irresistible jazz vibes. Alternatively, if karaoke’s more your scene, then make a beeline for Lucky Voice.
What about wining and dining a loved one?
Finally, you’re absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to seeking out a quality restaurant and eating out of an evening. Reflecting the eclecticism of the district, the restaurant options are highly diverse. There’s excellent fine dining courtesy of Michelin-starred places like Yauatcha, Barrafina and Social Eating House or small-sharing specialists with their delicious offerings, such as Barrafina, Blanchette and Polpo, and simply the very best spicy Indian cuisine courtesy of Cinnamon Soho, Imli Street and Masala Zone. Or you may just fancy a quality burger; if so head to Mash or the self-describing Honest Burgers – or for tasty cheap snacks, it’s got to be Yalla Yalla. Yum yum!