Soho is without a doubt London’s most colourful and eclectic area – situated in the West End, it is a part of the City of Westminster. It is an area of about one square mile, with Oxford Street to the North, Regent Street to the West, Leicester Square to the South and Charing Cross Road to the East. Known for its history of prostitution, music, creativity, night life, and more recently a mecca for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual (LGBT) community, Soho is a lively, fashionable, multicultural and creative area, with never a dull moment. It is full of clubs, bars, restaurants, businesses, residences, and late night establishments which offer almost 24-hour entertainment at weekends. The area is divided by Wardour Street. The eastern half of Soho is considered busier, and the slightly more sedate western zone is largely occupied by the media industry, providing headquarters for numerous leading publications and film companies.
23% of the workforce in Soho are engaged in the creative industries
Record shops cluster in the area around Berwick Street, with shops such as Blackmarket Records and Vinyl Junkies. The street also has a small street market, and numerous fabric shops. Carnaby Street, arguably one of Soho’s most famous streets, rose to fame in the 1960s as the fashion centre of London. The character of the street has changed over the years but it is still a must-see location. Denmark Street is well known for its musical instrument shops and its nickname, Tin Pan Alley, harks back to the days when it housed the sheet music companies that preceded the advent of records. Originally mainly Greek and Italian affordable restaurants serviced Soho, thanks to the high level of immigration into the area from those countries. Now, the area has restaurants offering something for every budget and every taste, with a rise in extremely upmarket restaurants and bars in recent years. Soho’s Gerrard Street houses London’s Chinatown, along with its plethora of Chinese shops and restaurants. Soho is at the centre of London’s world-famous theatre district.
Media, creative and digital companies thrive in Soho, and the area is a well-known magnet for both start-ups and established businesses in these sectors. Due its fast pace and exciting environment, Soho attracts young workers in their droves, many of whom can be seen spilling out onto the buzzing streets from cafes and bars at the end of each working day. Rent for office premises is not the cheapest in London, but there is an abundance of shared office space available, something which start-ups take advantage of. Pop-up shops, restaurants and businesses are also often seen in Soho, which give businesses the opportunity to test the water with their ideas. Soho has long been considered a launchpad for new genres of music, and new acts, and this continues to be the case. Soho helped launch Jazz into the UK during the 1940s, and rock music bursting onto the scene in the 1950s with Europe’s first rock club was opening in Old Compton Street in 1956. Many prolific musicians made Soho their home, and as a result recording studios also sprung up around the area, including, most famously Trident Studios, which recorded music from The Beatles, Elton John, Queen and David Bowie amongst others. Westminster Council supports development of the area as a centre for media and technology industries, and commissioned recent research which shows that 23% of the workforce in Soho works in the creative industries, making it one of the most creative square miles in the world.
Living in Soho is not for the faint hearted! It is noisy, bustling, expensive, grimy, and can be considered a little dangerous, especially during alcohol fuelled weekends. The average house price is a staggering £980,000 and average rental is £1,850 per week. The gay community in particular choose to reside in Soho, indeed Old Compton Street is considered London’s ‘gay village’ and there are dozens of businesses catering specifically for the LGBT community.
Soho is served by numerous London Underground stations, a network of bus routes and, of course, countless black cabs. Soho gets extremely congested with pedestrians, especially at weekends, which makes passing through Soho in any kind of vehicle challenging.
Taxis are also easy to hail. Soho gets extremely congested with pedestrians, especially at weekends, which makes passing through Soho in any kind of vehicle very difficult – this is exacerbated by premises who put tables and chairs on the pavements, meaning pedestrians have to use the roads.
The Soho Underground stations provide direct access to Victoria, Waterloo, Charing Cross, Paddington, Marylebone, Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras mainline rail stations and provide easy connections to London’s remaining mainline and suburban train stations. Soho is served by five tube stations; Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden, which makes accessing the area fast and easy.
There are regular and frequent bus routes running from Soho across the rest of London.
The nearest airports are London City and London Heathrow, both of which can easily be reached by public transport.