Wherever you decide to stay or visit when visiting central London, there are few areas in the capital that measure up to the vibrance and imaginative area of Soho. Eclectic, vibrant, and sometimes glamourous and stylish, Soho is a small yet hugely popular London district located within the West End. Associated with music, fashion, and partying, Soho is a popular lifestyle spot and the place to be whether you’re looking for somewhere to eat with friends or family, a cocktail bar where you can try unique and different drinks, or a busy club where you can party the night away. It is a hugely popular area with creatives and professionals alike, and its close proximity to the Theatreland of the West End makes it a top choice amongst tourists.
Table of Contents
What Does London’s Soho Stand For?
The name Soho first appeared in the 17th century and is thought to have been derived from a former hunting cry. Half a century after the term was first used for this area of London, James Scott, 1ST Duke of Monmouth, was said to use ‘soho’ as a rallying call for his men at the Battle of Sedgemoor. The Soho name has since been reused by various other entertainment and restaurant districts around the world including the New York City neighbourhood of Soho, Manhattan, which is a reference to London’s Soho along with its location at the south of Houston Street. Soho in Hong Kong is an entertainment zone that also gets its name from the London district.
What Does Soho Stand for London – Where is Soho?
Soho is a district that is located in London’s West End in the City of Westminster. It was originally designed to be an upmarket district for London’s aristocracy and has been one of the biggest entertainment districts in the city since the 19th century. The area was developed by Henry VIII in 1536 when the farmland was developed into a royal park. In the 17th century, buildings were created for the aristocracy and upper classes in London, which included the creation of Soho Square in the 1680s, turning Soho into a parish. For most of the 20th century, Soho had a reputation as a sex industry base, nightlife area, and a location for the headquarters of several leading film companies. The area has undergone a considerable amount of gentrification since the 1980s and is now mainly a popular district of media offices and upmarket restaurants. Soho is also home to a thriving gay community, which is centred on Old Compton Street.
What Does Soho Stand for In London – Nearby Areas:
Soho is one of the biggest entertainment districts in London and is home to or close to several famous theatres including the Raymond Revue Bar, which is owned by the famous entrepreneur Paul Raymond, and Windmill Theatre on Great Windmill Street. Music clubs including the Marquee Club, Trident Studios, and 2i’s Coffee Bar were based in Soho, and Denmark Street, which is located nearby and has been the home to various music publishing houses and musical instrument shops since the 20th century. The independent film industry in the UK is cantered in Soho, including the headquarters and offices for the British Board of Film Classification and Twentieth Century Fox. Nearby, you can find areas like Chinatown, which is based on Gerrard Street and is a popular spot for Asian restaurants and supermarkets.
Soho is around one square mile in area, bordered by Oxford Street to the north, Shaftesbury Avenue to the south, Regent Street to the west, and Charing Cross Road to the east. Apart from Oxford Street, all of the roads bordering Soho are 19th-century metropolitan improvements to the city, and Soho has never had formally defined boundaries. To the west of Soho, you can find Mayfair, Fitzrovia is located to the north, and St. James’s is at the south. On the east, you will find St Giles and Covent Garden.
If you’re travelling to Soho by tube, the nearest underground stations to the area are Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden.
What to Do Around Soho London:
Soho is one of the most popular areas in London thanks to its prime central area and the variety of things to see and do both in Soho and nearby.
Theatre and Film:
Soho is close to Theatreland, which is located in the West End and at the heart of the theatre scene in London. It is also home to Soho Theatre, which was established in 2000 and shows a range of plays and comedies. The Windmill Theatre is a popular choice that is located on Great Windmill Street. Along with theatre connections, Soho is also at the centre of the independent film industry in Britain along with the television post-production industry. Twentieth Century Fox in Soho Square was built as a headquarters for the company in 1937, and the British Board of Film Classification has been based in Soho Square since 1950. Sohonet is the fibre communications network for Soho since 1995, connecting the media and post-production community in Soho to various British film studios and other worldwide locations, including Warner Brothers and HBO.
Clubs and Restaurants:
Soho is well-known for being one of the best places in London to party and dine out, with a huge range of pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs on offer with several options for everybody, regardless of your tastes and preferences. Soho was the location where many small and affordable cafes, restaurants and bars were established during the 19th century, many of which are still standing and are popular options for both locals and visitors today. Greek, French, and Italian immigration to the area had a huge effect on the restaurants and cafes available, bringing a taste of continental eating and drinking to London. Although Soho restaurants were not looked upon very favourably, to begin with, their reputation began to change a lot in the 20th century, when Soho began to become a top spot for entertainment and dining in London.
Soho has a strong and vibrant music scene that can be traced back to 1948. Club Eleven was one of the most popular first music clubs in Soho and is generally regarded as the first venue where modern jazz was performed in the country. During the 1940s and 1950s, the Harmony Inn, located on Archer Street, was a popular hangout for musicians. In 1951, the 51 Club by Ken Colyer’s Band was a popular venue for traditional jazz on Great Newport Street. The beatnik culture in London had its centre in Soho in the 1950s. The first coffee bar opened here was Moka, which was located on Frith Street. Trident Studios was based in Soho at St Anne’s Court, which was a major recording studio in London. Artists who have recorded at Trident include The Beatles, Queen, Elton John, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy and Free. Although it is not technically considered to be a part of Soho, the adjacent Denmark Street is another key area for British music that is known for its connections to the industry. Due to the large number of shops here that sell musical instruments, it has earned the nickname of the British Tin Pan Alley.
Getting to Soho:
Getting to Soho is fairly easy as one of the most central areas in London, with excellent transport links. However, despite its popularity, Soho is not served by an Underground station of its own but is close to major London stations including Tottenham Court Road and Leicester Square, which can be accessed on the Piccadilly line from most major London transport hubs. If you are arriving in London by plane, you can reach Leicester Square directly on the Underground from Heathrow Airport in under an hour. There are also various buses that you can get from the London airports, including coach services to nearby Marble Arch from Luton and Stansted Airports.
If you are arriving in London by National Rail the nearest railway stations to Soho are Euston, Charing Cross, and Kings Cross St Pancras. You can get the Tube from these stations to nearby tube stations.
Driving is not recommended in the centre of London since there is often heavy traffic and finding parking is not always easy. If you plan to arrive in Soho by car, you should be aware that you will be required to pay the Congestion Charge unless you are driving a vehicle that is exempt. Road parking is sometimes available, but bear in mind that many of the road parking areas are restricted for residents. NCP car parks are available in Soho on Lexington Street and Brewer Street, where you can find secure parking options.
Soho is a vibrant and exciting area of London that many people enjoy living and working in. Whether you’re interested in getting into London’s film industry or want to live in a bustling city centre area while working elsewhere, Soho has a lot on offer.