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A Guide to Soho, London

Neon lights of the famous St. Martins Theatre, Soho, London
Neon lights of the famous St. Martins Theatre, Soho, London | © S Swenson / Alamy Stock Photo
Seedy, sexy and storied, Soho’s once-grungy streets are now home to upmarket galleries, exclusive clubs and some of the city’s best restaurants. But the area hasn’t lost all its sultry charm – its red-light roots can still be found in strip clubs and sex shops, while its theatres, comedy clubs and jazz bars maintain Soho’s status as London’s premiere nightlife destination.
Soho, London © ollie weait / Alamy Stock Photo

Made up of 90 streets set in one square mile, Soho sits at the heart of London’s West End. Gaining its name from a 16th-century hunting cry, its long and varied history has seen figures from Mozart to Karl Marx and The Sex Pistols call the area home.

Bar Italia in Soho, London © Goddard on the Go / Alamy Stock Photo

Today, its energetic streets feature an eclectic mix of dining, nightlife and shopping options. Head to Liberty, a 200-year-old Tudor-style department store constructed from the timbers of two ships for luxury goods and iconic prints, or follow our Soho shopping guide through the neighbouring Carnaby, Oxford and Regent Streets’ designer stores, high street gems and independent boutiques.

People looking into the window and Christmas decorations at Liberty, London © Cath Harries / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’re feeling peckish, check out London’s finest restaurants with our best of Soho guide or head to nearby Chinatown, off Shaftesbury Avenue, for roasted duck and rice in the neighbourhood’s glut of authentic and affordable restaurants.

For a taste of culture, catch a show on Shaftesbury Avenue. Running along the edge of Soho, the street forms a central vein through London’s West End Theatreland, and is home to the iconic Gielgud, Apollo, Queen’s, Palace, Lyric and Shaftsbury theatres.

A rickshaw on a rainy night in Soho, London © Roger Garfield / Alamy Stock Photo

Celebrate Soho’s place at the heart of London’s LGBT+ scene in the lanes surrounding Old Compton Street. G-A-Y Bar attracts a young crowd with its cheap cocktails and catchy pop tunes, while Yard has smart leather sofas, wooden banquettes, sedate lighting and a popular smoking balcony.

Evening street scene in Soho, London © Fotomaton / Alamy Stock Photo

For drinks, pop in to one of the area’s many bars and clubs – Cahoots is a former air-raid shelter transformed into a 1940s-themed cocktail bar set in a disused Underground station, while the Box nightclub pays homage to Soho’s sexy side with over-the-top cabaret performances.

Nightlife in Soho, London © Fabio Burrelli / Alamy Stock Photo

For live music, head to the long-running Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Operating in London since 1959, its stage has welcomed icons such as Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Prince and Jimi Hendrix. It still hosts two evening performances a night, with ‘late late’ sets from midnight onwards.

Ronnie Scott's jazz club and bar in Soho, London © Jeffrey Blackler / Alamy Stock Photo

Finish your night at one of our favourite Soho hotels. The Dean Street Townhouse, set in a 1730s Georgian townhouse, encapsulates the area’s intimate, old-world charm, while the Soho Hotel’s screening room and film club pay homage to the neighbourhood’s star-studded glam.

The Windmill Theatre, Soho, London © David Collingwood / Alamy Stock Photo

Our debut short film, The Soul of Soho, explores neighborhoods separated by oceans, history and culture but united by craft community and change. Neighborhoods bound by one name: Soho. Intimate portraits of city living in the Sohos of London, New York and Hong Kong reveal rich stories of the people who bring life to these iconic neighborhoods. Explore Soho here.