London’s bustling West End district is the center of entertainment, theater and shopping. Stretching roughly from Euston Road in the north to the banks of the River Thames in the south, and from Hyde Park in the west to Charing Cross in the east, the West End includes shopper’s paradise Oxford Street, Soho, Covent Garden, Chinatown, and arguably the three most famous squares in London: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.
Here is our video tour of the West End district in London, where we take you across the West End to show the must-see spots in the area.
In the following article, we’ll expand on some of the places and buildings mentioned in the video tour to give you an even better feel of what it’s like to walk the streets of London’s West End!
West End’s Covent Garden
The first stop of the West End tour is Covent Garden, in the eastern part of the West End. The center of the district is Covent Garden Market, which contains many small shops, pubs and restaurants. It is also home to a craft market called the Apple Market.
Culture-wise Covent Garden also has a lot to offer: next to the Market is the Royal Opera House, a world-famous theater that is home to the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. To the south along the Strand you’ll find more famous theatres such as the Vaudeville Theatre and Adelphi Theatre. To discover more of London’s best theatres and musicals, check out our Foursquare list Best Musicals and Theaters in London.
Movie Magic at Leicester Square in London
If you prefer cinema to traditional theaters, Leicester Square is definitely worth a visit. Not only is the square surrounded by world-class movie theaters, but it’s also the preferred venue of movie premieres in London. If you’re in town on an opening night, you might just get to spot some famous film stars at Leicester Square! We would like to warn you that the movie theaters in Leicester Square are quite pricy, and the further you are from the square, the cheaper the theaters will be. For bargain hunters the TKTS booth at Leicester Square is also one to try. You can pick up discounted musical and theater tickets here even on the day of the performance itself!
Shopping in Soho & Oxford Street
If you’re up for some entertainment combined with shopping, make your way to Soho, London’s fashionable gay district. Boasting a huge variety of small boutiques and shops, Soho is also a big name in the culinary world, as here you’ll find lots of great places for lunch, be it trendy new restaurants or old-English pubs. London’s Chinatown is also located in Soho, so for some great affordable cuisine you’re definitely in the right place.
After exploring Soho and Chinatown, get ready to do some serious shopping on Oxford Street! Stretching 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles), Oxford Street boasts many chain stores as well as boutiques. Shops such as John Lewis, Topshop, Gap and Zara will keep you occupied all afternoon. You can also find the flagships of many stores on Oxford Street, such as House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer and Selfridges. HMV’s location on Oxford Street is even the largest music shop in Europe! Don’t forget to also explore the area around Oxford Street, as there are many more shops in streets just off Oxford Street, such as the new Abercrombie and Fitch store close to Piccadilly Circus or Carnaby Street.
After spending an afternoon on Oxford Street, you’ll want to be able to quickly pop back home to drop off all your shopping bags before continuing your exploration of the West End. We have many vacation rental apartments available in London’s West End that can be a great base to explore the city from. Not only do these apartments provide the comfort and amenities you’re used to having in your home, but also the opportunity and convenience to explore the West End like a true local!
Bloomsbury & The British Museum
After recuperating from your shopping spree, it’s time for some cultural experiences. Northeast of Oxford Street lies the neighborhood Bloomsbury, which is mostly known for its literary past with the Bloomsbury group, for housing the main buildings of the University of London, and for the British Museum.
The British Museum is one of the biggest museums in the world, and houses many great galleries depicting art from all periods across history. If you truly want to explore the entire museum, it’s best to save an entire day for this, but you can also just pick one or two collections and save the rest for another time. Some of the highlights to see are the collection of Egyptian Antiquities, the Department of Greece and Rome and the new Great Court. To find out more on the British Museum and the Bloomsbury neighborhood, see Bloomsbury, London tips.
Piccadilly Circus & Trafalgar Square
Close to Leicester Square lie two other squares, and all three put together are often thought of as the unofficial center of the West End. To the west of Leicester Square you’ll find Piccadilly Circus, which is famous for its neon billboards. The best way to take in the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus is to sit down on the steps of the memorial fountain in the middle of the square, if the weather allows it. The fountain is called the Shaftsbury Memorial, and is topped by a now famous statue of a winged archer, often thought to depict Eros the Greek god of love.
Southeast of Piccadilly Circus lies Trafalgar Square, which is the biggest of the three squares and boasts two grand fountains and Nelson’s Column. From the square, steps lead up to the National Gallery. The National Gallery houses paintings dating from the 13th to the 20th century. Like the British Museum, entrance to the main collection is free of charge. Some of the collection’s highlights include Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Monet’s The Water Lily Pond and Da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks.
West End’s Seven Dials
After exploring the many different neighborhoods that make up London’s West End, we’ll end the tour close to where we started. The northwestern point of Covent Garden is often referred to as Seven Dials, after the road junction where seven streets meet. At Seven Dials, you’ll see all the best of the West End district combined on one square: one of the seven apexes is a traditional English pub called the Crown, another the Cambridge Theatre, another a café and another a shop. This small square shows how the West End successfully combines shopping with theater and a true English pub culture.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the video tour and accompanying article about London’s West End! What’s your favorite spot in the West End?
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