Soho can be daunting. It’s full of choices, restaurants piled one on top of the other, coffee shops lined up to grab your attention, shops in their hundreds – and as for finding your way around, down all the tiny hidden streets – well, you might need our help.
So, to sort the great from the mediocre and give you a bit of direction when you’re planning to go to Soho, here is the guide to the hotspots. Some of our favourites, the hidden spots, and the institutions of Soho that you simply have to go to at least once. We’ve got plenty of HeadBox venues in the area too, so we’ve flagged up a few of our favourites!
Restaurants & Bars
Soho is a hotbed of foodie spots and bars – some new and cool, some established old favourites, but mostly top quality (or they don’t last long in an area as discerning as this).
Kingly Court is hidden just behind Carnaby Street and is a haven of food and drinks establishments. HeadBox favourite, Cahoots (pictured) lurks behind a discreet doorway and makes some of London’s finest cocktails. We also love the cocktails in the Experimental Cocktail Club, and Polpo does the greatest Aperol spritz you will ever taste (with the added bonus of a big fat olive in it). Another classic, the London Gin Club does exactly what is says on the tin. Just really great gin. They also run masterclasses and tastings if you fancy educating yourself in all things gin-related.
As for restaurants, Ember Yard is high up the list. A bit Spanish, and bit Italian – a bit of both and just great. The list of top-notch restaurants in Soho is pretty endless (we especially love Brindisa, Bo Drake and Blacklock amongst many, many others). Go with your gut, and you’ll find something incredible.
Shopping & Ambling
Everyone always says it, but a wander down Carnaby Street really is worth it. It’s full of life and epitomises the Soho vibe. Don’t just walk down the street though, venture off down some of the little side streets for hidden gems.
Just off Carnaby Street, around Newburgh Street and Ganton Street are some of the best boutiques. From the Levi’s Vintage clothing store with its classic, iconic denim pieces, to Red Wing shoes – creator of some of the finest and most iconic boots known to man (and woman).
Soho is known as being creative and artsy – so pop into one or two of the galleries and ogle the art. Unit London is one of our favourites. The arty aspect also, of course, blends seamlessly into theatre district. The Soho Theatre is a classic venue – and also has a great bar where you might be able to grab a seat if you time it between performances…
On the fringes of Soho, Ripley’s might be a tourist hot-spot, but it’s also somewhere in London you absolutely must visit. There’s a very good reason why the tourists love it – because it’s fascinating, mind-blowing, hilarious and grotesque, all at the same time.
Fancy a laugh? The Comedy Store (pictured) is world-famous and not to be missed. There’s always something on at this Soho institution, so if you fancy a laid-back evening head here.
Liberty. Again, world famous, and with good reason. Chances are you won’t buy a thing, but it’s all beautiful to look at – from the iconic fabrics, to the perfumes, jewellery, homewares and carefully curated clothes collections.
What to avoid
A classic mistake, but never arrange to meet someone at Oxford Circus tube station. It is huge, swarming with people, and it’s pretty likely you’ll be trying to find each other for half an hour. And also, never never exit on to Oxford Street. You’ll thank us for that advice. Top tip – take exit 8 (we repeat: EXIT 8) onto Argyll Street.
Avoid making very specific plans. Have a few ideas of places you want to go, particularly when thinking about restaurants or bars. Make a shortlist and avoid the pitfall of setting your heart on one restaurant (that likely doesn’t take reservations), turning up and being told there is a 2 1/2 hour wait for a table.
That covers just a teensy tiny fraction of Soho. It’s buzzing, vibrant and full of life, and wherever you end up you’re pretty much guaranteed a great time.