This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (2024)

With five trips to London stamped in my passport, I’ve visited most of the spots that top tourists’ to-do lists, especially because two of the trips were with young nieces — first-time overseas travelers. We rode in an open-top bus, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, enjoyed the view from the London Eye, and toured Kensington Palace. We shopped for souvenirs at Covent Garden Market and devoured fish and chips at a local pub.

I’ve spent time in Greenwich with a friend, arriving from Paris on the Eurostar, a few stops on the Underground, and a short river boat cruise. And my first visit to London many years ago included Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London. However, even after all those admittedly short trips, I still didn’t have a sense of London’s many neighborhoods and how they all fit together.

So, on my recent trip, with plans for theater and shopping, I decided to make London’s West End my home base as a way to become familiar with that lively section of the city. Famous for Oxford Street stores, restaurants, museums, Piccadilly Circus, and more than 40 theaters, the West End offered all I needed in a convenient location. What I found was more than enough to keep me busy from morning to night for nearly a week. If theater, shopping, and a bit of history sound appealing, you’ll find them in London’s West End with this guide.

The Best Times to Visit London, According to Local Experts

Best Things to Do

This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (1)

Visit West End museums.

Explore the National Portrait Gallery where paintings, photographs, drawings, and maps take visitors from 16th-century portraits to photos of rock stars —and so much in between. Continue a day of art enjoyment at the Royal Academy of Arts.

This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (2)

See a show at a West End theater.

Take in a performance (or two) in one of London’s famed West End theaters, where you’ll find popular musicals, comedies, dramas, immersive shows, Shakespearean plays, and more. Theaters range from intimate to large, ornate neo-classical venues where the theater itself is part of the show.

Treat yourself to a spa day.

On a rainy day, indulge in a luxurious spa treatment at the hidden-away, underground Akasha Wellbeing Center at Hotel Café Royal. There’s a heated pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and fitness center. Or visit The Retreat at The Londoner or the AWAY Spa at the W London Hotel.

See the church where a Bridgerton wedding was filmed.

This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (4)

Visit St. James’s in Piccadilly, the church where the wedding in Bridgerton’s second season was filmed. Check the schedule and come for a concert in the intimate space. When I stopped in, a mid-day piano performance was in progress — perfect timing.

Enjoy afternoon tea in an elegant setting.

Sip tea and nibble on savory and sweet bites with one of London’s premier afternoon tea experiences. I loved Fortnum & Mason’s afternoon tea, and there are many other lovely spots including The Langham, The Ritz, and Claridges.

Best Restaurants


Unique dining venues set in a three-story 18th-century townhouse include the Michelin-starred Lecture Room & Library, the elegantly decked-out Gallery, the Parlour, the East Bar, and the beautiful, if somewhat bizarre, Glade. The egg-shaped individual loos, set under a colorful ceiling, attract as much attention (and photos) as the delicious food and over-the-top decor.

Café Murano

Located near Piccadilly in St. James, the restaurant is convenient for a pre-theater dinner or for a late meal after a show. Chef Angela Hartnett’s signature arancini, crisp and tasty, are favorites, and there’s a good selection of Italian wines to accompany the seasonal menu of dishes representing Italy’s cuisine.


This lively St. James dining spot serves lunch, dinner, Saturday brunch, and weekday breakfast. There’s a bustling bar scene (every seat at the huge bar was occupied during my visit, with many enjoying dinner there). Signature, classic, and no-alcohol co*cktails are offered along with beer, wine, cider, and a list of gin and tonics. Seafood, beef, pork, and plant-based dishes are well-prepared, delicious, and presented beautifully.


Serving traditional dishes that represent the diverse food culture of Indonesia, Toba’s cuisine offers an array of flavors and Indonesian spices. The menu includes Nasi Goreng a la Toba, fried rice with seafood or tofu and tempe for a vegetarian option, and guests can expect a bit of spice, making the dishes tasty and authentic. Sunday brunch and pre-and post-theater dining are available.

Claridge’s ArtSpace Café

Creative breakfast and lunch menus include signature crêpes, tortillas, toasties, croque monsieurs and madams, and an appetizing selection of pastries, cakes, and coffee beverages. Casual, comfortable, and classy, the café sits above an art gallery with rotating exhibitions, free for all to view and enjoy.

Heddon Street Kitchen

The menu at Gordon Ramsey’s West End restaurant includes sushi, salad, seafood, steaks, salads, and a special Beef Wellington for two. Kids eat free, and adults will want to check out Hidden Heddon, serving signature co*cktails and nibbles in an underground setting.

Best Hotels

This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (6)

The Ritz London

Located near Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and West End theaters, this historic five-star hotel is in the heart of London. The elegant property features plush suites, refined design, superb service, and the Michelin star–honored Ritz Restaurant.

Hotel Café Royal

Hotel Cafe Royal is located on Regent Street steps from Piccadilly Circus, convenient to shopping, theater, restaurants, and London’s St. James's, Mayfair, and Soho neighborhoods. Below the hotel, the serene Akasha spa offers a variety of treatments, and an expansive lap pool, steam room, sauna, and Jacuzzi.

Dukes London

This classic London hotel, known for its superb martinis and traditional British style, is located in the heart of St. James’s Mayfair. Rooms are elegant, understated, and comfortable. The Great British Restaurant (GBR) offers all-day dining and specializes in “British dishes with a contemporary twist.”

Brown’s Hotel

Located in elegant Mayfair, Brown’s Hotel blends its nearly 200 years of history with sophisticated modern style and approachable Italian luxury. A favorite of royalty, Brown’s welcomes young guests thoughtfully with toys and treats. Dine at Charlie’s and drop in for a co*cktail at the chic Donovan Bar.

Sofitel London St. James

British style with a Parisian touch, the hotel is located in the West End’s exclusive St. James neighborhood, convenient to shopping, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and theaters. The Michelin-starred Wild Honey St James for dinner, St James Bar for co*cktails, and Afternoon Tea at The Rose Lounge combine for a delightful stay.

W London

The W London combines its hip vibe with excellent service, comfortable guest rooms, and convenient breakfast in the walkable Soho neighborhood near Leicester Square, Covent Garden, and Chinatown. Dine, drink, or relax with afternoon tea at The Perception or stop in for a co*cktail at the W Lounge.

Best Shopping

This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (7)

More than 300 shops, designer boutiques, restaurants, pubs, and department stores make Oxford Street the perfect place to shop ‘til you drop. Selfridges, open since 1909, houses six floors of clothing, designer brands, housewares, jewelry, wine, food, and furniture. Restaurants, a night club, movie theater, Champagne bar, and afternoon tea means you could spend your whole day there.

Fortnum & Mason, dating to 1707, specializes in fine foods, cheese, wine, spirits, jams, jellies, chocolate, tea, coffee, and elegant gifts. The food hall boasts fresh produce, baked goods, flowers, restaurants, and a delightful afternoon tea, accompanied by piano music.

Burlington Arcade, England’s oldest shopping arcade, is a covered promenade with skylights and classical architecture, home to 40 gorgeous shops — a fascinating place for window shopping or a splurge on something special. Make time for a tour with a uniformed, top-hatted Beadle to fully appreciate its history.

Browse the collection at Hamleys, one of the world’s oldest toy shops, or buy a gift for a special youngster (or yourself!). Visit Hatchards Piccadilly, London’t oldest bookshop, the bookseller to the Royal Household.

Jermyn Street is famous for high-end men’s fashion that includes luxury grooming products, shirt makers, leather goods, and bespoke suits. Shoppers will also find restaurants, wine shops, and art galleries.

Shop for designer brands on Regent Street and Bond Street, with labels like Ralph Loren, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, and Ferragamo.

Best Nightlife

This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (8)

Upgrade your movie night.

For the perfect co*cktail, dinner, and a movie date night in a sophisticated setting, The Cinema at Selfridges is the place to go. Guests enjoy the latest films with three screens, state of the art sound, and luxurious reclining seating. In the luxurious foyer, co*cktails, wine, beer, and Champagne are available, along with snacks, popcorn (of course!), and sweets.

See London from a rooftop.

Take in panoramic views of London from above it all at Willows on the Roof, high above Oxford Street. Sip a dark chocolate espresso martini and snack on a burger, charcuterie board, or another tasty dish. You can also check out the view at The Nest, located atop Treehouse Hotel where you can imbibe on an extensive selection of co*cktails, beer, and wine along with light bites or something sweet.

Enjoy a stage performance at a West End theater.

Choose a popular musical, drama, a new production, or an interactive experience in one of nearly 40 theaters in London’s West End. From intimate stages to grand theaters with curved balconies, chandeliers, and Art Deco glamour, the environment and audience are all part of experiencing a live production.

Try your luck at the UK’s largest entertainment and casino venue.

Check out the Hippodrome Casino, open 24 hours every day, where you’ll find four floors of gaming, including roulette, baccarat, poker, electronic games, and more. There's also the Magic Mike show and eight bars and restaurants, including the outdoor terrace overlooking Soho.

Take on some friendly competition.

Boom Battle Bar features games like beer pong, shuffleboard, crazier golf, augmented reality axe throwing and darts, karaoke, and American pool.

This London Neighborhood Has World-class Theater, Impressive Museums, and Cool co*cktail Bars (2024)


What's the best neighborhood to stay in in London? ›

Best places to stay in London
  1. Soho. Once a cornucopia of sex shops and rock 'n' roll, Soho maintains pockets of hedonism, but overall is more family-friendly these days, with shops, restaurants and theatres in abundance. ...
  2. Richmond. ...
  3. Covent Garden. ...
  4. Shoreditch. ...
  5. Hampstead. ...
  6. Dalston. ...
  7. Peckham. ...
  8. Clerkenwell.
Feb 6, 2024

What London is famous for? ›

This section will guide you through the top 10 London tourist attractions, each offering a unique glimpse into the city's rich tapestry.
  • Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. ...
  • Buckingham Palace. ...
  • The British Museum. ...
  • The Tower of London. ...
  • Covent Garden. ...
  • Westminster Abbey. ...
  • Camden Market. ...
  • The Globe Theatre.
Oct 9, 2023

Is the West End of London nice? ›

The West End is the fashionable area of London. It's kind of upper crust, with exclusive shopping, entertainment and dining. Piccadilly and Mayfair have some of the world's most expensive real estate. Tottenham Court Road is said to be the entry to the West End, it's easy to get to this area.

Where to stay in London for tourists? ›

  • Trafalgar Square. The area surrounding Trafalgar Square is one of the handiest locations for a first-time visitor to London, and one I heartily recommend. ...
  • Covent Garden & Soho. ...
  • South Kensington & Chelsea. ...
  • Westminster. ...
  • Near Victoria Station (Belgravia/Pimlico) ...
  • Mayfair & Marylebone. ...
  • Bloomsbury & Holborn.
Aug 30, 2023

Which is the rich Neighbourhood in London? ›

Now that you know how expensive London can get, let's take a look at some of the richest neighbourhoods in London!
  • Mayfair. Mayfair is a district in the West End of London, England. ...
  • Kensington. ...
  • Belgravia. ...
  • Chelsea. ...
  • Marylebone. ...
  • Knightsbridge. ...
  • Notting Hill. ...
  • Highbury.
Dec 28, 2022

What is the most affluent neighborhood in London? ›

1. Knightsbridge. If you're interested in London's richest area, Knightsbridge is renowned for its wealth and luxurious lifestyle.

What is cheaper to buy in London? ›

The Top 25 Things that are Cheaper in the UK.
  • British Tea. Brits love tea, and we don't want to pay a fortune for it. ...
  • Cadbury chocolate. Cadbury chocolate isn't available in every corner of the world. ...
  • Museum Gifts. ...
  • Union Jack Items. ...
  • Bath Items. ...
  • Creams & Lotions. ...
  • Women's clothing. ...
  • Men's clothing.
Nov 29, 2018

What is London nickname? ›

London – The Big Smoke: This nickname dates all the way back to the 19th century, when smoke covered the city of London - largely caused by the burning of coal and worsened by the Industrial Revolution.

Which part of London is better East or West? ›

The vibe is different. West London is cleaner and more cultured, while many Londoners tend to regard east London as 'rough' and 'dirty'. But it's a matter of individual taste, and more importantly it's about your budget. Beauty comes with a premium in every capital city, and London is no different.

Is it worth seeing a show in London? ›

No trip to London's West End is complete without seeing a theatre show. London has some of the best plays and musicals in the world, but there's so much more to this cultural district than neon lights and famous faces.

Why is West London richer than East? ›

As well as the proximity of the centre of government, the West End was long favoured by the rich elite as a place of residence because it was usually upwind of the smoke drifting from the crowded City.

Where not to stay in London as a tourist? ›

Where Not to Stay in London as a Tourist? Generally speaking, most areas of London are safe and suitable to stay in but, for peace of mind, we would recommend avoiding areas such as Canning Town, Tower Hamlets, and Hackney where crime rates are notably higher.

What is the cheapest way to leave in London? ›

Buses and trams

London's buses and trams are also some of the cheapest ways to travel in London. A Hopper Fare allows you to take unlimited bus and tram journeys for £1.75 within one hour.

Which part of London is cheaper to stay? ›

While London is notorious for its high cost of living, Shoreditch offers some respite for budget travelers. Shoreditch's proximity to excellent public transportation also makes it easy to explore other parts of London without spending a fortune on transportation.

What is the safest neighborhood to stay in London? ›

In Central London, the areas with higher crime rates include Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, and Hackney. On the safer side, Kensington & Chelsea, Islington, Lewisham, and Hammersmith & Fulham are some of the best areas to stay.

What is the best area to stay in London for first time visitors? ›

If you want to stay in the middle of all the action, stay in Covent Garden. It's touristy, sure, but the central location and great public transportation connections will make getting around London a breeze. Plus, it's full of great bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping.

What are the safest boroughs in London to stay? ›

  1. RICHMOND. This area was originally founded as a royal retreat in the 16th century and known as, Richmond-upon-Thames in South-West London and is one of the safest places to live in the whole of the city. ...
  2. BEXLEY. ...
  4. SUTTON. ...
  5. HARROW. ...
  6. BROMLEY. ...
  7. MERTON. ...
Mar 8, 2024


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