The Best Things To Do In The West End

By Olivia Emily

11 months ago

It’s not all musicals in the West End


Soho, Piccadilly, Oxford Circus, Bond Street: some of London’s hottest destinations are concentrated in the West End. Got an empty hour ahead of your evening show, or just fancy exploring something new in this thrilling London district? Here are the best things to do in the West End.

The Best Things To Do In The West End

Check Into Hotel Cafe Royal

Join the likes of Oscar Wilde, Princess Diana and David Bowie, and check into the West End’s chicest hotel, Hotel Cafe Royal. It’s nestled on Air Street, a stone’s throw from bustling Piccadilly and just off Oxford Street – but step inside and you’ll be plunged into serenity. Sitting here for over 150 years now, the tiled blush foyer introduces you to the opulence immediately, with huge bunches of flowers, glittering chandeliers, sumptuous sofas and lofty ceilings. And this is only extended in the bedrooms, which reimagine the old building with modern fixtures, cavernous bathrooms with rain showers, blush pink armchairs, and huge beds to flop into after a long day pounding the West End pavements.

If you’re not planning on staying the night, you should at least visit Hotel Cafe Royal’s premier dessert restaurant, Cake & Bubbles. Champagne and sweet treats – what more could you want?

 

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Watch A Show

Well, when in the West End, as they say. London’s theatre district is home to some of the world’s best shows and performances – it would be wrong not to step inside one of the many old theatres, soak up the opulent surroundings, and settle in for something exciting. Musical lovers should book Grease, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, Moulin Rouge, or Matilda the Musical for some family fun. If comedy is more your speed, The Pillowman is widely regarded as one of the best plays of the last 25 years. And for a classic who-dunnit, venture slightly further afield to catch Witness for the Prosecution – a courtroom drama staged in an actual old courtroom – and challenge yourself to guess the twist.

Go Shopping

We all know about Oxford Street (which is incidentally Europe’s longest shopping street), Bond Street and the uber luxe New Bond Street, but if you’re looking for a spot of shopping with a difference, try Burlington Arcade. Manned by smartly-dressed Beadles (the shopping arcade’s very own police force – seriously), this covered, luxurious shopping space is just under 200 yards long and houses around 40 shops. It dates back to 1818 when George Cavendish, owner of next door’s Burlington House (now occupied by the Royal Academy of Arts), built it for his wife to shop safely with the rest of London’s elite, away from the dirty, crime-ridden city streets (and also to stop people throwing rubbish over his garden wall). It’s very Bridgerton.

 

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Experience An Immersive Museum

Artists, neuroscientists and philosophers came together to create the latest immersive experience to hit London: Twist Museum, a mind-bending experience that’s worth its salt. Step inside to have your perspective challenged, experience the joy of illusion, and ultimately just play a little.

 

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Visit Claridge’s ArtSpace Cafe

Art lovers, there’s a new top spot to visit: ArtSpace Cafe. This chic little spot is part of Claridge’s, but is hidden down Brooks Mews, a leafy, neighbourhoody street just steps from the West End’s main thoroughfares. Tuck into a delicious sandwich or seriously pretty savoury crepe if you’re peckish (you’ve certainly worked up an appetite by now), but the stars of the show are the desserts.

Claridge's ArtSpace Cafe

Truly a work of art, admire Executive Pastry Chef Thibault Hauchard’s creations under their glass counter, and tentatively smush your choice with your spoon when it arrives at the table; delicious. Oh, and then there’s the actual art, too: ArtSpace is Claridge’s gallery hosting a rotating roster of exhibitions. Sit back and admire it all with your artisan coffee or indulgent stir-in hot chocolate – or, in true Claridge’s fashion, a glass of bubbles.

Soak Up Some History

The West End has been a popular spot for centuries now – and it has accumulated an abundance of history in that time. One for fashion lovers is John Lobb, a traditional wood-panelled bootmaker on St. James’s Street epitomising British craftsmanship: visitors can see exactly how made-to-measure boots are created.

Speaking of St. James’s, amble over to St. James’s Church to absorb one of London’s most beautiful landmarks; despite being designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1672 and 1684, it’s quite a radical spot, hosting drag shows and commissioning new artworks to recognise forgotten Black figures.

Or if you’re more of a bookworm, step inside Hatchards, the UK’s oldest bookshop that has sat in the same spot on Picadilly for over 200 years (most recently, you might have spotted it starring in Netflix’s Lockwood & Co.).

Visit An Art Gallery

If a highbrow museum is more your speed, the National Portrait Gallery’s brand new layout is definitely worth checking out. The art has been totally rearranged and there are marvels around every corner, now moving chronologically from the Tudors on floor three down to the modern day on floor zero – or vice versa. While you’re there, check out the varied current exhibitions, from photographs by Paul McCartney to the upcoming hotly anticipated David Hockney exhibition which will display portraits of a whole host of famous faces, including Harry Styles. Ticket prices vary, visit npg.org.uk to find out more.

Or there’s always the ever-impressive Royal Academy of Arts, which is a feast for the eyes before you even step inside. Venture across the threshold for the world famous Summer Exhibition, which has run every year since 1769; this year, the open-call exhibition has been co-ordinated by British painter David Remfry RA under the theme ‘Only Connect’, a reference to E.M. Forster’s novel, Howard’s End. Tickets from £20 per person.

Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, London (c) Fraser Marr

Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, London (c) Fraser Marr

Dine At Aqua Kyoto

London is a mecca for rooftop bar lovers, and Aqua Kyoto is one of the West End’s best. Peer over shoppers darting across Oxford Street as you sip a tasty cocktail and tuck into some of London’s best Japanese food, plus deliciously fresh sushi made right before your eyes at the counter.

 

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Visit A Day Spa

The West End is beautiful – but it can be exhausting. Wind down with a trip to Akasha Spa, whether for a soothing day amid the serene pool, sauna or bubbling jacuzzi, or for a lovely treatment. The aromatherapy massage is simply divine; you’ll feel every ache and niggling pain melt away, along with all of your stressors as the anxiety-soothing scents do their job.

EXPLORE

To find out more about the West End and to plan your trip, visit:

Bond Street, bondstreet.co.uk 

Leicester Square, leicestersquare.london 

Oxford Street, oxfordstreet.co.uk

Regent Street, regentstreetonline.com 

St James’s, stjameslondon.co.uk 


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