If you're looking to stay in a London neighborhood that has it all, the West End should be top of your list. Complete with glamorous restaurants, secret bars, traditional theaters, sanctuary spas and hotels, its electric atmosphere keeps regulars and visitors coming back again and again. Located in the heart of the City of London, it's a honeypot of culture, character and cutting-edge, but without a sense of direction, it can be hard to navigate. This is your go-to guide to London's West End.
Once a 17th-century marketplace, Covent Garden has blossomed into a modern-day shopper’s paradise. With hundreds of small boutiques and stalls to choose from, Covent Garden serves up an eclectic mix of vintage, youthful and high-end designer items, stocking traditional classics such as Aspinal of London totes, Cambridge Satchels, and Links of London jewelry.
The glass-topped indoor Covent Garden Apple Market is full of independent stalls selling one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry from local craftsmen, wine bars (or mulled wine in the winter), and dining spots. The Crusting Pipe restaurant is situated in the middle of it all where guests soak up airy surroundings and live classical music and opera. Take a look above and you will see a beautiful array of seasonal decorations, particularly spectacular during the day when the light shines off of it. For those seeking a lavish experience, the stylish array of designer stores is enough to keep you occupied, before settling down for afternoon tea and macaroons at Ladurée next door - a luxury no longer exclusive to the streets of Paris.
A short stroll out of the market and you’ll find yourself closing in on Leicester Square, where speakeasy bars are plentiful if you know where to look. Hidden underneath a juice bar in Covent Garden is one of London’s best-kept gems, B.Y.O.C (Bring Your Own Cocktail). This small, candlelit bar requires all visitors to bring a bottle of liquor with them, which is then shaken into cocktails by their master alchemist. Expect to see him running up and down the stairs to collect fresh ingredients from the juice bar before retreating back underground. If you have a sense of adventure and some form of ID, it's a must-visit.
Whilst Leicester Square itself is inhabited by tourists, a short walk to Chinatown on Gerrard Street is sure to provide the true London vibe. A particularly hidden street in between the landmarks, the restaurants in Chinatown are authentic, yet reasonably priced, serving up the whole package. A favorite amongst locals is the Golden Dragon restaurant, where roast duck and dim sum is served fast and fresh: you won’t be disappointed.
Just down the road, you’ll find The Covent Garden Cocktail Club (this is where things get confusing – the lines between Leicester Square and Covent Garden are often blurred and if people ask you where you are, you can answer either and they will still be able to find you). With its underwhelming entrance on the side of Great Newport street, and the somewhat lax requirement to have membership before you go in (£2 usually, or free entrance for 3 people if you go with someone who has one) this bar is a popular choice. Once inside, the electric atmosphere and chilled decor oozes effortless style - a straight-up wooden bar, mismatched furniture, dancing on low-level coffee tables and a battered piano pushed against the wall - all topped off with bartenders serving classic cocktails, performing fire tricks and smacking the low hanging light bulbs to the beat of the music. Rough yet refined, it's an obvious choice for anyone looking for a good time.
A few steps down the road, you will reach the doorstep of the bohemian Soho square. Bursting with endless character and edginess, it’s hard to believe that Soho is just one square mile - with Oxford Street sitting north, Piccadilly Circus to the south and Regent Street and Charing Cross Road on either side. Its winding and artsy streets are filled with small theater venues including Apollo Victoria Theatre (Shaftesbury Ave), Queen’s Theatre (also Shaftesbury Ave) and the Prince of Wales Theatre (Coventry Street) performing classics such as Wicked, Les Misérables and The Book of Mormon.
There are also local independent café’s (Flat White is a local favorite), artisan bakeries (Gail's Bakery and Kova Japanese Patisserie) and fun-filled dance bars (including Club 49 and Rumba), making it a favorite amongst creatives, young professionals and anyone looking for a good time pre or post-theatre. Incidentally, it is also the only place in London where Café Nero closes at 2 am!
The infamous Beaufort Bar at the Savoy Hotel is a must-visit for everyone seeking a glamorous champagne-filled experience. With its bygone age black and gold interior décor, the infamous bar stocks all the ingredients for a perfect night, including a wide variety of champagne, fine wine, vintage ports and other handcrafted cocktails.
For those brave enough to tackle the masses in Oxford Circus – and survive – a timeless treasure is hidden just around the corner. Founded in 1875, the traditional Liberty London is a unique department store selling some of London’s most fashionable designer collections, as well as an array of unusual and hand-picked items from across the world. It is so popular amongst Londoners that it even had its own three-part documentary series just so everyone could ogle some more. Don’t forget Carnaby street next door, which was once a hotspot for model scouts and now stands as one of England’s most prominent examples of the London’s revolutionary burst onto the fashion scene. Expect glamorous fashion stores, makeup boutiques and other pop-up artsy collections.
After a long day out, the luxurious five-star Langham hotel is less than a five-minute walk away. Nestled behind Regent Street, the Langham has attracted celebrity guests, royalty, and international travelers for over 150 years all seeking sanctuary in the heart of London. Renowned for its excellent service, stunning floral displays, and glamorous décor, it's the perfect night’s sleep for anyone (and everyone) who loves being pampered.
Ready to feel some major wanderlust? Check out the video below.