By Sabrina Evans
Just off the theatre-saturated Piccadilly square, and with one of the best LGBTQ scenes in Britain, you’ll find Soho. This vibrant hub draws crowds from all walks of life and it’s no wonder this London neighbourhood is so popular! With an eclectic mix of dining, nightlife and shopping, there are countless things to do in Soho, where London's cultural diversity truly shines through. The face of this London neighbourhood is perfectly packaged and tourist friendly, where you can explore all the well known attractions but scratch beneath the surface and you will uncover a whole other world that only the locals know about. Think bubble tea cafes, second hand record stores and chocolate bars. I love living in London and Soho is my favourite place to visit, handy since it’s not too far from where I work either. If you are passing through and want to check out this vibrant district then make some time to check out these spots.
Street Food Union
Nestled between the classic colourful pubs and trendy bubble tea cafes typical to Soho and London, this is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. At the moment, markets have seen a revival and this has become the thing to do in Soho - this spot is all the rage among locals. Open every Wednesday to Friday lunch time, this may be one of the city's newer food markets, but that’s not to say there’s not plenty to choose from. Clean-eating salads, delicious pulled pork burgers, jerk chicken, paella, pastrami and even poutine are just a few of the options on the menu, so make sure you make this your first stop in the streets of Soho and indulge in a delicious (and good value) lunch.
St Anne's Church and Gardens
If you do visit Soho in London then you have to make time to check out St Anne's Church and Gardens. Originally consecrated in 1686 and rebuilt in 1991, this modern looking church and garden offers a peaceful but friendly sanctuary from the bustle of Soho’s back-streets. There is an interesting history to this spot. The churchyard was destroyed in a bombing and was later raised 6ft above the ground to make space for over 13,000 parishioners who were buried here. It was closed to burials in 1853 and laid out as a public garden in 1892. With a rector featuring a background in puppeteering for the BBC, this church is an unusual but excellent spot to take in a perhaps surprising community feel of Soho – one that isn’t so strongly advertised in the bog standard tourist guidebooks. The gardens are definitely worth a wander around too!
Fancy dress, masks and record stores
Wondering what else to do in Soho? So High Soho is your answer. This hip little independent outlet is perfect for anyone who wants to get a real taste of what Soho’s all about – with funky fancy dress, wigs, incense candles, masks, fluorescent lipsticks and corsets, it really encapsulates the vibrant party vibe of this London neighbourhood. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you fancy a change from the monster memorabilia and souvenir shops littering nearby Piccadilly, make sure you stop in at So High! If that is not your vibe,perhaps Reckless Records is more up your alley? Established in 1984, this quirky second hand record store pulls in all kinds of music junkies, from hard core rock and roll fans to hipsters and students, with records being as much a trendy symbol now as ever. This shop is filled to the brim with second hand treasures including originals and reissues, and the friendly staff are more than happy to help.
The best chocolate and tea around
Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates is a really cool place to visit in Soho. If you consider yourself to be a chocolate lover (who isn’t?) you will be in absolute heaven here. Indulge in the best, award-winning chocolate in all of Soho and satisfy your sweet tooth. Considered as one of the world’s greatest chocolatiers, Paul Young’s recipes mix daring combinations in an exquisite artisan fashion. Prepare your taste buds for a journey they won’t forget. Fancy a four o’ clock pick me up? Why not give the latte a miss this time (terrifying prospect I know) and try out one of Tsuriji’s matcha cappuccinos? This is Tsujiri’s only teahouse in London and the UK, but with the matcha tea trend increasing in recent months, make sure to try it out. If the sun is shining and you don’t fancy a hot drink, they have a range of cold ones to choose from, why not enjoy a matcha milk float? Sample a Tsuriji Sundae, or even slurp on a shaved ice?
LGBT friendly spots
One of Soho’s longest running gay bars, Yard Bar is a unique and cosy spot which is the perfect place to wrap up your adventures in this exciting London neighbourhood. The attractive venue boasts a historic outdoor courtyard with vibrant mood lighting and pretty greenery, so enjoy a cocktail served by one of the friendly bartenders and take in some of the great LGBTQ atmosphere! It’s open late too – in case you fancy sampling the electric night-life of Soho! Another great spot in Soho, London, is Freedom- not a gay bar but one of the most inclusive and LGBT friendly venues. Dance the night away to commercial hist spun by up and coming DJS and have a great time!
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