The Ultimate Soho Guide: London's Funnest Square Mile
Read about the real Soho through the eyes of a local Londoner
This square mile of London contains more seediness, entertainment and fun than… well, not the whole of the city put together, but a good deal of it. Sitting at the heart of the West End, Soho originally got its name from a 16th century hunting cry, so you know that people have been stalking the streets here for a long time. Historically an area of carousing and disrepute, today the neighbourhood shows visitors a jolly good time with bars, theatre shows, top restaurants and plenty of people out to have fun. Here, the ultimate Soho guide from the experts at Plum Guide.
Experience the unusual
Having seen its fair share of reprobates and dandies, there’s lots in Soho that you simply can’t find elsewhere. Always wanted a tasteful anchor on your upper arm? Now’s your chance. Head to Diamond Jacks, which has tattooed the Sex Pistols and Pete Doherty and is the oldest tattoo parlour in Soho.
For something a little more arty, wander through the winding back streets and see if you can spot artist Rick Buckley’s 1997 installation, the seven noses of Soho. A hint: there are three on Dean Street. It’s said that if you can find all seven, you’ll be blessed with good luck. Who nose if it’s true, but we’re betting you need all the luck you can get these days.
For your very own taste of the unusual, this quirky, fascinating apartment perfectly captures the spirit of the area. A converted warehouse, it’s packed with neon signs, bright red cushioned headboards and funky furniture.
Grab a pint (or cocktail) and drink up
There are an extraordinary amount of eating and drinking establishments in this little patch of London. For breakfast, head to the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square, which make the cinnamon buns of your dreams as well as open faced sandwiches on dark rye bread and Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam.
For lunch, the eponymous Dean Street Townhouse will deliver. A sprawling Georgian townhouse owned by the Soho House group, you’ll be taken care of as soon as you walk in the door. Plus, the menu has no fewer than four types of Bloody Mary – we’re sure that one will match perfectly with whatever you order for lunch.
For a pre-dinner drink, head to Grade-II listed pub The French House. Charles de Gaulle used it as a base during the second world war and both Francis Bacon and Dylan Thomas drank here. They famously only ever sell beer in half-pints, so order accordingly.
You have a huge number of options for dinner, but we would recommend either the festive Russian-English offering Bob Bob Ricard, where each table has a ‘press for champagne’ button, or La Bodega Negra, located in the basement of what used to be a rather raunchy establishment. Fear not - now instead of girls girls girls you can eat tacos tacos tacos (and tequila of course), so it’s more or less suited to the whole family.
You'll want to snooze off all that food, and there's no better place to do so than on the enormous, comfortable sofa in this nearby apartment. Spend the evening watching people stroll by from the huge glass window.
Trendy Soho has any number of chic boutiques, charming vintage shops and curiosities among its streets. For an excellent pair of jeans that will probably last you whole lifetime (crawling around on a carpet after a marauding toddler notwithstanding) go the Swedish ethical jeans company Nudie. Vintage lovers should pop to Reign Vintage and Beyond Retro, and
music nerds vinyl lovers will love rare vinyl shop Sounds of the Universe, which has an impressively broad selection of musical genres.
For more edible souvenirs, try the 130-year-old Algerian Coffee Stores which stocks more than 80 different varieties of coffee (and can be smelled from the street) or Lina Stores, an old-school Italian deli with panettone hanging from the ceilings all year round.
Once you’ve stocked up on ingredients, the marble kitchen in this sleek and modern flat will inspire you to cook a feast for your friends. And once you’ve finished your dinner party, you can head out on the town knowing that you’ll only have a few steps to stumble home.
Stay up until the small hours
If you've spent the day ticking off the must-sees in Westminster, it's time to dance away all that political stuffiness. There’s no denying it – Soho is a place to party, and our Soho guide will tell you just where to go to have fun. For late-night jazz, the classic venue Ronnie Scott’s will deliver on jazz licks and impeccably shaken cocktails. For some sweaty dancing to cheesy pop tunes, G-A-Y Late welcomes all visitors with open arms. For a more sedate option, try an all-night film marathon at the Prince Charles Cinema, which has regular showings of cult classics and fan favourites, often with singalong options. Don’t say we didn’t warn you when the people around you burst into song.
This art-filled pad is just the spot to get ready for a night out, and has a cute balcony for a chic pre-drinks. A special feature is the stained glass window in the shower, ideal to keep you entertained while you wash away the sins of the night before.
There you have it: our ultimate Soho guide. At Plum Guide, we're not only experts on professionally-vetted accommodation; we've rustled up guides on where to stay and what to do for all of London's most popular neighbourhoods. So whether you're a tennis fan looking for places to stay near Wimbledon or want to meander around Marylebone, we've got you covered.