Soho and the West End, London
One of the must see parts of London is Soho, which makes up part of the West End. Soho covers around 1 square mile, bounded by Oxford Street to the north and Shaftesbury Avenue to the south.
Soho has many 'sides' to it, which makes it such an interesting place. It is the heart of London's gay scene, with lots of gay pubs and bars, particularly in the area around Old Compton Street.
It is also London's Red Light district, with sex shops and strip clubs dotted about, and a few sleazy characters guaranteed.
Soho is also filled with trendy bars and restaurants - my current favourite is Arbutus. And if it is great coffee you are after then pop to Flat White café on Berwick Street. There are a couple of great venues to check out some Jazz - Ronnie Scotts & the Pizza Express Jazz Clubs, and some very hip hotels nearby if you want to make a night of it.
Check out London's oldest surviving fruit & veg market on Berwick Street (handy for nearby sex shops as well if that is more your thing!).
If all this has worn you out, pull up a square of grass in the popular Soho Square, which is always guaranteed to be filled with locals and office workers relaxing at lunch time or of an evening in summer.
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.
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)
Carnaby Street, theatres, restaurants, pubs and clubs - these are the things that bring tourists to Soho - a maze of narrow streets bounded by Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Regent Street. Once known as London's sleaze and vice centre , nowadays the area is at the forefront of the city's television production, magazine publishing, and the funky side of fashion. Thankfully, it still retains its air of raffish charm and individuality with scores of independent shops, small cafes and restaurants and plenty of pubs. It's here that you'll find central London's only surviving fruit and vegetable market, open daily and still selling the freshest and cheapest produce to be had in the West End. As well as fruit, flowers and vegetables there's fish, bread and cheese to be had along with herbs and spices, fabrics and cheap household goods. Established in 1839 and still going strong, although much reduced in size, it's a taste of bygone London that the stall holders cherish as they joke with their customers in time-honoured London costermonger style.
Along with the market, Berwick Street was once just about kerb-to-kerb fabric shops, most of which have long disappeared in the face of cheap High Street fashions and today the few fabric and trimmings shops that remain are neighbors to music stores and good second-hand record shops - this is the place to come to look for that rare vinyl - a Japanese supermarket, and other small and quirky shops.
It's also where you'll find Flat White, home to what many see as the best coffee in London and one of the few places to serve a true Antipodean-style coffee.
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
A really coazy street to stroll around in, a lot of shops and restaurants along the way one of them is Shakespears head that i really recommend se my restaurant tip for this restaurant.
No cars allowed on this street so you can walk in peace.
A amazing shopping street. There was so much people walking around on Regent street, here is the world famous Hamley´s toy store (dont miss this, read my shopping tip for Hamley´s and look at the videos of Hamley´s. And many many moore shopps.
DONT MISS MY VIDEOS OF REGENT STREET
The no1 shopping street in London, shops, shops, shops evrywhere you turn. When we were there they had closed Regent street and Oxford street from traffic, it was London shopping day, it was so much people going in and out of the shops and so much people in the streets. I wonderd where all the people came from? It was like this for TWO days (saturday and sunday). It was a cool thing to experience.
DONT MISS MY VIDEOS OF OXFORD STREET SHOPPING DAYS, UNBELIVEBLE
London really has amazing architecture - all over the place you can find it! Both old and modern contemporary.
Walking from A to B and on to C and so on puts you in such a better position to see the buildings and what such an array of architecture and design amongst the buildings of London than relying too much on the Underground trains to travel with. (though that is of cultural and architectural interest too!)
From Picadilly Circus on up Regents Street and up Shaftesbury Ave there are lovely to stunning buildings to see around here - including Oxford Circus and on to Robert Adam's All Saints Church, the BBC building and on up to Regents Park. It continues through to the streets behind too of course - and another favourite street of mine is Harley Street in behind Oxford Circus.
It holds the title of the "Finest toys in the world"
Hamleys is not only a shopping tip it is a London institution not to be missed. They have the most amazing moving toy displays which change frequently and delight both young & old alike. Hamleys truely does hold every toy imaginable under its roof.
There has always been a Hamleys in Regent street since 1881, 11 years before Eros was erected. It survived being bombed 5 times during the blitz. In 1981 it moved to the site where it stands today and is world famous, attracting celebrites from around the globe.
The staff are very helpful and there are live displays on every floor interacting with the children
Open Mon-Sat 9am-8pm
Sun 12pm - 6pm
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.
Soho is definitely the seedier part of London that most tourists visit. Every now and then there are attempts to clean it up a bit, but they never seem to succeed, and I think most things are tolerated these days if they don't get out of control.
There were Police posters up however when I just visited last, apparently a 'working girl' had been stabbed to death by a 'punter' and they were appealing for witnesses. However from a tourist perspective, if you walk through Soho and have innocent intentions, you are highly unlikely to get into any sort of trouble.
This picture is one of the more 'adventureous' shop fronts in Soho. It seems to be catering for the leather fetishist and if you look carefully at the bottom of the window in the middle, you'll see a gimps head on a box (or at least the paraphenalia for one!). If you don't know what a gimp is, I suggest you watch th movie 'Pulp Fiction' as it is a bit risque to describe here!
If you say Soho to most people, they immediately think of strip clubs and sex shops, and to be fair, Soho does have quite a few of these. However there are also some rather nice parts with expensive restaurants and a very nice square.
This picture shows this quaint old building in the middle of Soho Square. Soho Square is a nice place to sit and relax, and has none of the seedier parts particularly near to it.
Soho is a dodgy area at night, and not for the prudish by day. But there are little corners that are interesting. I was trying to find where my great grandparents used to live, and wandered around Soho because I thought it was in Greek Street. Today Greek Street has a lot of restaurants; but in 1860s was full of small industries and shops.
I discovered the street I needed was now called Manette street after a character in Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities', whereas it had been Rose Street
We entered through an arched entrance and found a quaint little street with a mixture of old and new buildings.
What I found interesting was that above the arched entry was a pub called the Pillars of Hercules.
That is why I like London. Every so often a surprise awaits you. Drab streets and then a charming mews, or buildings with interesting names.
Update2008: One side of the street is taken up by Foyles bookshop, and there is a small Orthodox chapel, an Artists building, the sign above Goldbeater's house and a sex shop at the end of the street. This time we came across it from Charing Cross Rd side.
Marble Arch is a white Carrara marble monument near Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, at the western end of Oxford Street in London.
The name Marble Arch also refers to the locality of west London where the arch is situated, particularly the upper half of Edgware Road. Historically, only members of the royal family and the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery were allowed to pass through the arch in ceremonial procession. Today, the arch is open to pedestrians.