Soho, London Travel Guide
- Center of London's nightlife
- Walkable area, with great people watching
- Lots of trendy restaurants and bars
- Gay-friendly, with many gay bars and clubs along Old Compton Street
- Convenient location -- home to Chinatown and bordered by the theater district
- Recently revitalized area
- Open-air market on Berwick Street
- Boutique shops on Oxford Street
- Numerous crowds, with some very touristy areas
- Streets do not follow an obvious grid and getting around can be confusing
- Not super kid-friendly (some sex shops, which crowded the area in the 1980s, remain)
- Not many hotels in the area
What It's Like
At one time the hub of London's music industry, at another a sleazy mix of sex shops and bars, Soho is now a blend of the vestiges of its past reputations and its increasingly trendy present. Sure, some of the sex shops remain, but now the streets are also lined by hip restaurants and shops, with more popping up everyday, and the area is home to numerous media agencies. Considered the center of London's nightlife, Soho offers an array of clubs and bars -- from seedy to chic to gay-friendly.
Although the street grid can be confusing (comparable to New York's SoHo), Soho is a walkable area, swarmed by crowds during the day and night. With shops and hot spots appealing to a variety of tastes, the people watching can be pretty entertaining. To avoid tourist traps, visitors may opt to check out the open-air market on Berwick Street or the boutiques along Oxford Street (which runs to Mayfair) rather than the kitschy shops on Carnaby Street. For those not in the mood to shop at all, Soho Square is a beautiful park for daytime roaming. By night, Shaftesbury Avenue, bordering Soho on the southern end, comes alive with theater-goers.
Where to Stay
Soho doesn't have many hotels -- probably because many visitors prefer to stay in quieter, more cultural areas of London, and visit Soho for just the day or night. Those who stay in Soho are often students, spending the night in hostels, or theater-goers, checking into swankier digs, such as Sanctum Soho House.