The Carnaby Street sign.

Discover Soho: Your Guide to Shops, Restaurants & Things To Do

With everything on tap from big-name attractions to independent retailers, Soho may be compact, but it packs a lot in. Kate Jones takes you on a tour...

Lead photo: Kate Jones

Soho, one of London’s most prominent entertainment districts, has had a long and multifaceted history.

After being developed from farmland by Henry VIII back in 1536, this buzzing part of the West End initially served as a hotspot for aristocrats and artisans.

By the 20th century, it had become known for its film headquarters and nightlife, as well as for being a base for the sex industry. 

Crowds on Carnaby Street

Soho shopping offers everything from big-name brands to smaller retailers. - Kate Jones

More recent times have seen further evolution, however, with today’s Soho a destination that offers something for everyone.

‘Everything seems to be going on in Soho,’ says Harley Cross, sales assistant at the area’s branch of trendy fashion and lifestyle chain Wood Wood, and he’s not mistaken.

Included within the boundaries of this district are some of London’s top attractions, as well as a plethora of shops, restaurants and other destinations that cater to all types of visitor.

With convenient bus and tube access to boot, it’s the perfect place to while away the hours. 

Piccadilly Circus, Soho

Be sure to take in Piccadilly Circus when you visit Soho. - Kate Jones

Things to see in Soho 

A host of the capital’s most well-known streets can be found in Soho.

Oxford, Regent and Carnaby Street are known for their shopping credentials, while Old Compton Street and Shaftesbury Avenue are bases for London’s LGBT+ community and West End theatre district respectively.

Other notable landmarks are Piccadilly Lights and the replica of the Broad Street pump – which commemorates a major development in the history of public health. 

The famous Dean Street, Soho. 

The famous Dean Street, Soho. - Kate Jones

Things to do in Soho

Soho offers plenty of attractions to keep you entertained. Kick back in Soho Square Gardens or Golden Square, visit The Photographers’ Gallery or the Radha-Krishna Temple or get your hair done at Bleach London.

Alternatively, head to the House of MinaLima – a must-see for fans of Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts. 

Shopping is another fantastic option in Soho, with everything on offer from big-name brands (like Liberty and Hamleys) to smaller retailers (as well as the famous Berwick Street Market, which has been running since 1778).

Pixi and Freshly Cosmetics are ideal destinations for beauty buys, Sister Ray and Reckless Records will assist with all your vinyl needs and Oliver Spencer, Dunno. Curated and END. are perfect spots for picking up new threads.

Be sure not to miss a visit to Footpatrol and Axel Arigato if you’re hunting for shoes too. 

With such strong links to the stage, it’s easy to spend an evening in Soho lost in the magic of a play or musical.

If you’re looking for a venue, try the Apollo Theatre, Soho Theatre or the London Palladium.

Afterwards, head to one of the area’s nightspots – Ronnie Scott’s, for example, is one of the oldest jazz clubs in the world.

Another option is SOMA: a basement cocktail bar with low light and delicious liquid refreshment. 

The iconic Piccadilly Lights.

The iconic Piccadilly Lights. - Kate Jones

Restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Soho 

Soho has long been a popular location when it comes to food and drink.

Why not start the day off right at one of the local branches of The Breakfast Club, a chain of cutesy breakfast ‘cafs’ that began life at the D’Arblay Street outlet in the mid 2000s?

For lunch, head to Tapas Brindisa, where you’ll have the option to choose from a wide array of Spanish food cooked with a real sense of care and attention. 

There are plenty of options in Soho when it comes to dinner too. Shoryu is known for its ramen, and Burger & Lobster offers a fresh take on the concept of surf and turf.

Handmade dim sum can be found at Ping Pong, while Scarlett Green provides a taste of Australia.

Soho is also home to London’s oldest French restaurant, L’Escargot, where you can enjoy dishes based on cooking in the Parisian grand brasserie style. 

Crowds in a street in Soho.

Soho offers plenty of attractions to keep you entertained - Kate Jones

Hotels, accommodation & where to stay in Soho

Having welcomed such esteemed figures as Rudyard Kipling and Diana, Princess of Wales, Hotel Café Royal offers five-star luxury just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Lights. 

With the hotel itself boasting everything from a wellness club to a dessert restaurant, you’ll be sure to enjoy a stay fit for royalty. 

Located on Richmond Mews, The Soho Hotel contains 96 bedrooms and suites, with each benefitting from the eclectic design of owner and creative director Kit Kemp.

Those staying here get the use of a drawing room, a library and a restaurant and bar, while younger visitors are well catered for with their own bathrobes, toiletries and books.

In addition, no Resident guide to this part of the West End would be complete without a mention of The Resident Soho, where guests enjoy in-room mini kitchens and ultrafast WiFi. 

For more information on things to do in Soho, visit thisissoho.co.uk  

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