The West End’s jam-packed full of a wide variety of venues, of course, but you don’t actually have to set foot inside any of these for an exciting and electric experience – you merely have to wander around the area itself. Pulsating with never-ending motion, vibrant colour and constant noise, it’s the centre of the UK capital, yet it feels like the centre of the world.
Explore Piccadilly Circus & China Town
The catch-all name for the district that encompasses Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Covent Garden, as well as the thoroughfares Shaftesbury Avenue, Oxford Street, Haymarket, Regent Street and the Strand, the West End never stops. With a never-ending hum of bustling tourists and fast-moving locals, the bright and gaudy neon of venue signs and vehicle and traffic lights, as well as the enticing odours that emanate from restaurants and street-corner fast food vendors, for some it’s irresistible and exhausting in equal measure.
During the day, its pavements throng with consumers paying tribute to the shopping gods; at night they’re replaced with revellers, young and old alike, ready to enjoy the nightlife the bright lights promise, as they wend their way between the area’s acclaimed bars, pubs, casinos and nightclubs. Meanwhile, the roads – be warned – are unforgiving for straying pedestrians, packed with everything from expensive sports cars to tourist-friendly rickshaws; red Routemaster buses to black cabs; brave souls on ‘Boris bikes’ to those tooting horns on scooters.
Of all the West End attractions, you’ll probably find the most furious and fascinating hustle-bustle in Piccadilly Circus. It’s here that the world-famous Eros statue’s located – an enduring meeting point for people new to London and those meeting up with friends intending to show them the sights. It’s a multi-cultural melting pot like no other. To the east of this zoo-like ‘Circus’ lies the similarly popular Leicester Square, arguably the focal point of the district (don’t worry, it’s really easy to reach if you’re staying in the centre at somewhere like the Park Grand hotel Lancaster Gate); its four sides littered with restaurants, casinos and, of course, cinemas where many of the biggest movie premieres are hosted.
Leicester Square in London
Head in the opposite direction and you’ll end up walking down Regent Street, whose beautiful mock-Georgian architecture is as much an attraction as the stylish and enticing shops, and beyond that Oxford Street, the road that’s a mecca for hard-shopping addicts. Moreover, the patchwork of streets to be found between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus/ Leicester Square make up the eclectic area of extremes that’s Soho, with fine dining and boutiques on the one hand and grown-up night-time distractions on the other.
In conclusion then, no visit to the capital’s complete without a walk around the West End. Samuel Johnson once observed that when a man’s tired of London, he’s tired of life itself – and of nowhere is that more true than the urgent, unmissable district at its very centre.