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A Guide to the West End of London

A Guide to the West End of London

The West End is a broad term that is used to describe several areas in Central London including Marble Arch and Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly and Mayfair. Since it is a rather spread-out area of London, it’s worth learning about all the different areas that it encompasses and what is available in each. The West End of London is the perfect place to head to if you want to enjoy luxury self-service hotels in the heart of London with nightlife, theatres, and plenty of shopping opportunities right on the doorstep.

History of the West End:

The West End of London is a loose term that is often used to describe the area in the central part of London that is viewed as the place to be for leisure visitors who are looking for nightlife, theatres, and shopping. Trafalgar Square is located in the West End of London and is a major tourist attraction in the area, along with being the geographical central area in London. All of the road distances measured to and from London are taken from this spot.

The West End first started out as an area that was designed to be convenient for the rich and powerful people in the city to have their mansions and stately home. It was an ideal area due to the fact that it is close to both the business centre of London and the major government buildings. Today, the West End still has Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament on the southern border, and the business centre of London including the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral is on the east.

Getting to the West End:

Heathrow is the only airport that most people would consider getting a taxi to the West End from, with other London airports further out of town and costing a lot in taxi fares. Thankfully there are excellent public transport options available in London allowing you to easily get to the West End at an affordable rate, regardless of the airport that you land in. You can find affordable coach services from all London airports to the centre of London where you can connect to the West End or get the Underground from Heathrow Airport directly to West End tube stations such as Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. Buses to Stansted and Luton Airports run from the north-west tip of the Marble Arch area.

Although the West End is located in the centre of London, it is not very well served with direct and affordable options to the major transport hubs. All of the central London train stations for those travelling from within the UK are located outside of the West End, although there are regular tube connections to the West End from stations such as Euston and King’s Cross.  You can get a tube on the Piccadilly line to the West End, with services stopping at Green Park, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden.

Traffic and Area Tours:

The West End is usually one of the busiest areas in London and traffic is often gridlocked, so driving is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. Drivers should also be aware that this area is covered by the congestion charge and they will be required to pay unless driving a vehicle that is exempt. In addition, finding parking in the West End is also not easy. Most street parking is reserved for residents and has strict time restrictions in place. There are several car parks, however, these can fill up quickly so it may be worth booking your space in advance wherever this is possible.

Bus tours are a common sight in London, however, due to the heavy traffic that is often characteristic of the West End, many tour vehicles do not cover the West End district unless they have to. If you are taking a day tour from London to nearby areas like Oxford or Stonehenge, you will usually be picked up from a hotel outside of the West End or picked up very early in the morning to beat the traffic if you are being collected from a West End hotel.

What Areas are in the West End – Is Soho in the West End of London?

Despite the name, when people talk about the West End of London, they are actually referring to a group of Central London areas. The West End refers to:

  • The entertainment district in London around Leicester Square and Covent Garden, including many of London’s top theatres in ‘Theatreland’.
  • The shopping district along Regent Street, Oxford Street and Bond Street.
  • It is also a term that is sometimes used to describe the wider area of central London to the West of the City of London, which includes areas such as Covent Garden, Chinatown, Soho, St James’s, Mayfair and Fitzrovia.

Is Soho West London?

Despite sometimes being referred to as in the ‘West End’ of London, Soho is located in the centre of the capital, to the west of the historic City of London. Soho is located close to many of the key West End areas including Theatreland, Covent Garden, Oxford Street and Marble Arch.

Is Soho in West London – Things to Do in the Area:

Located in the West End in Central London, Soho is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Due to its close proximity to the entertainment district, Soho is a top choice of place to go to enjoy a meal or drinks before or after catching a show and is an interesting place for shopping with a difference if you enjoy looking for unique and different finds that you will not be able to get your hands on anywhere else.

Things to Do in the West End:

Whether you’re looking for entertainment, dining, shopping, or attractions, the West End is home to some of the most popular and well-known things to do in London.

Shopping:

From courtyards crammed with gorgeous independent boutiques to flagship stores in iconic London streets and huge department stores, the shopping in the West End is one unlike everywhere else. Oxford Street is home to over eighty different flagship stores including Vans and Primark, along with one-of-a-kind shopping experiences with huge brands like Nike, Adidas, and the Disney Store. There are several department stores including Selfridges and Flannels, along with pioneering and heritage brands on Regent Street such as Hamleys.

Shows:

The theatre scene is one of the most famous and most popular things to do in the West End of London, with over forty theatres to choose from in the world-famous ‘Theatreland’ with top London musicals shown almost every night of the week. There’s a range of musicals that are always there to enjoy including the Book of Mormon and Les Miserables, or The Mousetrap, which is the longest-running play in London. If you’re looking for budget tickets, the best place to go is the TKTS booth, located in Leicester Square, where you can get your hands on discount theatre tickets for both on-the-day and advance shows. If you enjoy ballet and opera, the London Coliseum and the Royal Opera House offer some of the best shows in the city with tickets that can be booked in advance for as little as £10.

Attractions:

London’s West End is home to some of the biggest and most well-known attractions in the capital. There are various popular museums, galleries, and fun things to see and do for all visitors. Piccadilly Circus and its flashing lights is a top spot for tourists, and the Royal Academy of Arts and the National Gallery are the best places to go to see world-class art. The Scenes in the Square sculpture trail in Leicester Square is the perfect place to go to spot your favourite actors from film and TV, or go on a quest to find crystals with your friends at the amazing Crystal Maze Live Experience.

Cinemas:

If you want to see a film during your visit to London, the West End is the best place to be, with several cinemas on offer. Some of the best cinemas in London can be found in the ‘home of film’ at Leicester Square, where the red carpet is often rolled out for the stars during film premieres. The Odeon Leicester Square is the best place to catch some of the latest box office hits, or Regent Street Cinema is where you should go to discover old classic and world cinema alongside new films.

Special Events:

If you’re planning a visit to the West End of London, there are several special events that are held throughout the year which are worth visiting. Trafalgar Square is the home of several large events in London throughout the year including St George’s Day, Chinese New Year, and the Trafalgar Square Festival. During the holiday season, the West End is decorated for Christmas and hosts a range of seasonal special events including Christmas lights. And, the New Year Parade always takes place in the West End.

Despite its name, the West End is the most central – and most visited – area of London, with several things to see and do.

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