Soho and the West End, London
Soho is synonymously known for its entertainment district especially for its sex shops/industry venues, night life and film industry. The area has undergone a big transformation since the 1980s. Today it's mainly restaurants, bars, cinemas, entertainment centres, theatre and media offices. Soho is also the home of London's gay community and London's Chinatown which holds a number of cultural events throughout the year.
It was the 1600s when the name 'Soho' first appeared. It was used to rally calls for James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, to rally calls for his men at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685. Soho initially wasn't the fashionable area in London compared to Bloomsbury, Marylebone and Mayfair. Instead it attracted immigrants especially the French Hugunenots which develop its own community (the area became know as London's French Quarter). There was never are considerable redevelopment at the time and by the mid 19th Century arrived, prostitutes, music halls and small theatres moved in. In the 20th Century the area became bohemian with its restaurants, cafes, bars and entertainment especially its film, theatre and music scene. The British Board of Film Classification has its offices in Soho Square.
I always enjoy wandering through Soho especially its backstreets and there is always something I find which is usually off the beaten track! It's a less stressful way going via Soho from Oxford Street, not far from my accommodation, to London's theatreland.
Carnaby Street is one of those London attractions that is sure to peak your fancy – until you actually visit it. The fashion boutiques and little clothing shops remain on Carnaby (albeit side by side with name brand stores) but the same swinging vibe and dynamic cultural energy that characterized the street in the 1960s has since vanished. Carnaby Street was the epicenter of the mod and hippie trends in the 60s, and was made world famous by Time Magazine, as well as by musicians and directors who featured the Street in their works. Today, it is largely part of the hip-but-not-cutting-edge atmosphere of Soho, and is still good for an afternoon window shopping stroll.
Soho Square, like Golden Square, is a historic green spot in Soho, the otherwise densely built section of central London that has gone through the rollercoaster of urban decline and renewal. The Square was initially built in the latter half of the 17th century and featured in the centre of the Square a statue to King Charles III. While the statue spent several decades in exile (initially removed for repair) in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was restored to its original place in the Square in 1938. The Square is also notable for its gardener’s cottage, which has that typically English half-timbered design that so many of us from outside of the British Isles associate with the English countryside. The Square hosts the headquarters of a number of media organizations, but also an interesting Victorian-era Catholic church.
Soho may be perceived as being a transitioning area between sleaze and the respectability of the arts and musical theatre, but it is also a commercial and residential district no different from other areas of London. Indeed, parts of Soho have an air of being the perfect bourgeois homestead, and this is aided by small spaces of greenery such as Golden Square. The Square doesn’t appear to have any special historical interest, but, as with so many other parts of London, it does in fact add to the city’s architectural fabric. In particular, it is believed (but not proven) that the square was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect famous for the plans of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Today a number of offices occupy the Square, including those of the Saatchi Group, as well as a wonderful coffee shop that specializes in Portuguese pastries and musical instrument shops.
Cambridge Circus is the destination in London for those who love big-name theatrical productions. It is here that you will find the late-19th century Palace Theatre of London, as well as various other theatres that offer such shows as the Mousetrap, London’s longest running production. The undisputed Queen of the Circus is the Palace Theatre, which was initially opened as the Royal English Opera House, and offered patrons only one English opera. It then moved into variety acts, and has since been a stalwart of the vulgarized form of opera known as musicals.
Soho is perhaps an example of a district that has come full circle, from a respectable, if somewhat sleepy, section of the city, to a seedy part of town taken over first by immigrants and then by the entertainment industry’s underclass, and finally back to a respectable component of London’s arts and culture scene. While aristocracy had initially attempted to turn the area into an upper-class neighbourhood, in the 17th and 18th centuries it became known for its French Huguenot community. These Protestants gradually gave way to music halls and theatres in the 19th century, at which point the last vestiges of London’s “respectable” classes had fled. In the 20th century, the music scene was joined by sex shops and blue venues. These have gradually died out, although a few remain, and Soho has now become a sort of gentrified counter-culture capital, thanks to the writers, poets and artists who were drawn to its more liberal mores and stayed once they had been accepted by society at large. Soho is also the centre of London’s vibrant gay community, although it appears that ridiculously high prices of real estate have meant that economics, rather than sexual or any other identity, govern the appearance of restaurants and pubs.
Broadcasting House was built in 1932, as the BBC's first purpose-built broadcast centre. The building is worth a visit for two reasons, in my opinion. Firstly, for its architecture; it is a classic example of 1930s design. It is built of Portland stone and often likened in design to the prow of a ship. Above the entrance is a famous statue of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's play The Tempest), by Eric Gill (see photo 3). Ariel is naked, and there is a story that there were complaints about the size of his p***s, with the result that John Reith, then Director-General of the BBC, ordered Gill to alter it, although there is no real proof of this.
Secondly, visit for the historical resonance of this building. It was from here that the first BBC radio broadcast was transmitted, a performance by Henry Hall and his BBC Dance Orchestra, on 15 March 1932. In a studio here John Logie Baird tried out his experimental television apparatus in August of the same year. And in Christmas of that year King George V came here to deliver the first of what is now a British tradition, the monarch’s Christmas day speech to the nation.
During the Second World War this building epitomised the British determination to carry on as much as normal as was possible. It was painted grey during the Second World War to disguise it from bomber attack but nevertheless it was bombed three times. The most destructive of these was in October 1940, when seven members of staff died. Newsreader Bruce Belfrage was reading the 9.00 PM News at the time – famously, he continued without pause, for security reasons. To ensure that they would be available when it was time for their programme to be transmitted, producers, announcers and artists often slept in the building. Apparently the Queen of the Netherlands was an overnight guest, and trod on sleeping newsreader/journalist Alan Bullock lying in the corridor on her way to the bathroom. It was also from here, on June 18 1940, that General de Gaulle made a speech, following his escape from Nazi-overrun France, in which he rallied his compatriots to form what was to become the Free French Forces.
More recently, Broadcasting House has seen the birth of Radio One, the BBC’s pop and rock station, in 1967. And today a large modern extension is underway, that will extend the activity here to include all BBC Television and Radio News, Network Radio services and the World Service (currently at another iconic building, Bush House in the Strand). The intention is to also increase access for the public, who will have much more opportunity to see broadcasting in action.
Meanwhile, although Broadcasting House isn’t generally open to the public, there are tours offered once a month on Sundays. More details of these are available on the website below, but do note that these are considered suitable for children 12 and above, and pre-booking is essential. I haven’t done a tour myself, but I have had occasion to visit BH (as it is often shortened to) several times in the course of my work and I reckon a tour would be well worth doing.
Piccadilly Circus with the statue of Eros, Theatres and antiquated book shops on Shaftsbury Avenue.
China Town and slippery Soho - a mix of old, seedy-sixties-sex-industry 'red neon' and pretentious yuppy restaurants, media and offices.
Leicester Square for cinema and food and Covent Garden for bars and street entertainers.
The West End of London is the place to be at night.
See this West End Map for details.
In the middle of the busy Soho the Soho Gardens is a delightful quiet place to have a moment of to relax.
The history of the square and gardens dates back to 1681.
In the center is a small Tudor-syle house built in 1925 to cover an electricity sub-station underneath; it's now a garner's hut.
Oxford Street in London is a hopping heaven. There are so many stores (both expensive and reasonable). However, shopping on Saturday afternoons requires courage (not being pushed from the main street because of so many shoppers), always keep eyes on your bags due to frequent appearance of pickpockets, maneuver skillfully your ways to shop and tube entrances. If you do not mind doing these things, it is one of the best shopping streets in London. A good luck.
Soho is a small neighbourhood in London, but it’s central and very famous. It is the center of culture and fun. It has many clubs, pubs, bars and restaurants which make it unique place for enjoying the night
Also Soho is home of the biggest gay-community in London especially in the beginning of the 90-s. There are gay bars in the whole area.
I loved walking around the Soho area. The whole area is so cool, and you can almost feel creativity in the air, I don't why.
The streets and Pubs have a lot of activity, but still there is a sense of calm and "savoir - vivre" all around.
The little garden in the small square in the centre of Soho is a perfect place to rest from a long walk around the whole area.
Free admission. Open daily 10am -5pm
Closed 24-26 December.
The Wallace Collection is named after the illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace, of the Marquess of Hertford. It is housed in Hertford House.
There are 25 galleries in this superb building, which itself deserves a visit. It was built as the home of the Marquesses of Hertford who collected many paintings, pieces of furniture and armour, and porcelain in the 18th and 19th centuries. When the last member of the family died in 1897 , she left the house and its contents to the nation.
There are exhibitions held on a temporary basis, as well as lectures.
Among the most famous paintings are:
The Laughing Cavalier by Franz Hals. Instead of being a cavalier it is actually a rich Dutch merchant
The swing by Fragonard
Titus, by his father Rubens, a genuine painting.
Landscape by Rembrandt, one of a pair. The other is in the National Gallery.
Dance to the Music of Time by Poussin
Canalettos, Titians, Gainsborough and others
It is possible to see the collection in about an hour.
There is an excellent restaurant in the Courtyard open Sunday-Thursday 10 am- 4.30pm
Located in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum offers visitors the ultimate insight into the world of the odd and bizarre. Marvel at over 500 weird and unusual artifacts in over twenty themed galleries spanning four floors. Whether examining genuine shrunken heads, getting a close up view of an actual section of the Berlin Wall, or experimenting with a real life vampire killing kit, the truly amazing Ripley's Believe It or Not! collection proves that fact can indeed be stranger than fiction. For over 40 years, Robert Ripley - the real-life Indiana Jones - travelled the world collecting the unbelievable, the inexplicable, the one-of-a-kind. Now, for the first time in London, this bizarre collection can be viewed in person.
Adult £17.95 (about 23 Euro)
Senior/Student £15.95 (about 20 Euro)
Child [4 - 15] £13.95 (about 18 Euro) Under 4 FREE Mirror Maze £3.95
Family * £59.96 * 2 Adults + 2 Children (about 75 Euro)
Set in the heart of Royal London at Hyde Park Corner,Wellington Arch is a landmark for Londoners and visitors alike. George IV originally commissioned this massive monument as a grand outer entrance to Buckingham Palace. It was completed in 1830 by architect Decimus Burton, and moved to its present site in 1882.
Take a lift to the balconies just below the spectacular bronze sculpture which tops the imposing monument, for glorious views over London's Royal Parks and the Houses of Parliament. The statue is the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, and depicts the angel of peace descending on the chariot of war.
Inside the Arch, three floors of exhibits tell its fascinating history, including its time as London's smallest police station.
The Arch's Viewing Gallery offers unique views of the Household Cavalry passing beneath on their way to and from the Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards Parade.
Apsley House, opposite Wellington Arch, was the London home of the Duke of Wellington.
Price to enter Wellington Arch
Adult: £3.20 (about 4 Euro)
Children: £1.60 (about 2 Euro)
Concession: £2.40 (about 3 Euro)
DONT MISS MY VIDEOS OF WELLINGTON ARCH
DONT MISS MY TRAVELOGUES OF WELLINGTON ARCH