Located firmly in the middle of Zone 1, Soho is the beating heart of London – creative, dynamic and filled with people day and night.
Despite the incredible location and endless entertainment offered by Soho, it’s rarely thought of as a place to live in London. Potential residents are often put off by the lack of family-friendly facilities and small apartments, but for a young professional we think it’s one of the most underrated places to live in the capital.
After a few decades as a rather seedy area, Soho has been transformed in the last few years by an influx of independent restaurants, bars and shops. Many key media and film agencies are based here, which helps it retain the bohemian, artistic vibe it became known for historically.
On a Map
Soho is within the City of Westminster.
History of Soho
Up until the late 16th century, the bustling inner-city Soho we know today was actually just a series of fields used by Tudor Kings for hunting from the nearby Palace of Whitehall, which led to it being named after the hunting cry ‘soho’. It developed into a commercial area with a high number of French ex-pats during the 17th and 18th centuries, where it was popular with French Huguenots fleeing the Catholic regime in France. They brought tailoring, nightlife and music to the area, and it eventually became a renowned spot for jazz music in the 1920s with Cafe de Paris and Ronnie Scott’s leading the way.
Bound by Oxford Street, Regent Street, Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square, Soho is arguably the best connected area in London for transport and commuting. With a staggering four tube stations in the area and a Zone 1 location which allows you to walk easily anywhere in Central London, living here couldn’t be more convenient. Don’t attempt to bring a car here though – parking is very, very limited.
Cost of living in Soho
There’s no gentle way to say it – living in Soho is very expensive. The lack of properties and central location has pushed up prices here faster than the London average, and rent has risen by 25% in the last few years. There are very few houses, most of which are located on Meard Street and cost £4-6 million to purchase, while apartments begin at around £650,000 for a small studio.
However, more and more commercial buildings are being converted into apartments, which is beginning to open up the Soho real estate market. In addition while there may not be many properties, there is a great variety in styles, with modern developments, ex-authority buildings, loft apartments and period houses all in this small area of London.
In 2015, the average rental price for a home in Soho was £5,100 per month.
Restaurants and Bars
This cosy, atmospheric Italian restaurant serves delicious Venetian small plates for sharing, with dishes such as arancini, goats cheese pizzetti, and veal meatballs on the menu. The bar does great value prosecco and a mean Aperol spritz too, which eases the waiting pain of their no-bookings policy.
Address: 41 Beak Street, London W1F 9SBPhone: 020 7734 4479
Photo credit: www.theguardian.com
Famed chef Jason Atherton has done it again with his restaurant Social Eating House, which combines a cool atmosphere with an innovative Modern British menu. The dishes are simple and well crafted, with interesting combinations such as Shetland salmon with miso and winter truffle, and slow-cooked venison with date jam and Brazil nuts. For the full experience, try the tasting menu at the hidden dining space downstairs.
Address: 58 Poland Street, Soho, London W1F 7NRPhone: 020 7993 3251
Photo credit: www.bernerstavern.com
Berners Tavern wins the award for most misleading name – despite sounding like a country pub, it’s actually a posh restaurant located inside the glamorous Edition Hotel. With chandeliers on the ceiling, walls of opulent art and a menu full of British seafood and steaks, it’s definitely a destination for a special occasion.
Address: The London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, London W1T 3LF
Phone: 020 7908 7979
Photo credit: www.thesundaytimes.co.uk
Despite being a London institution since the 1920s, L’Escargot fell off the radar a little until it was bought by new owners last year. Now restored to former glory, it’s one of the best places in London for high-end French cuisine such as lobster thermidor, moules marinére, foie gras, coq au vin and of course, escargot. Keep your eyes peeled for the art on the walls while you wait for your meal, which includes work by Picasso and Miro.
Address: 48 Greek Street, London W1D 4EFPhone: 020 7439 7474
Photo credit: www.flickr.com
This Grade II listed pub on Dean Street is another historic Soho spot, having been very popular with the French Resistance in London during the Second World War. These days it still sells more Ricard than anywhere in Britain, along with a great selection of French wines and champagnes and a short dining menu. It’s also stubbornly held onto anti-technology values, making it one of the only places in the city where you’ll find no phones, no TVs and no music!
Address: 49 Dean Street, London W1D 5BGPhone: 020 7437 2477
Photo credit: www.ldnfashion.com
While Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols may boast bigger collections, this mock-Tudor style shop is easily the most interesting department store in London. With four floors of well chosen clothing designers, beauty, accessories and furniture sourced from all over the world, it’s the perfect place to browse and buy on a rainy afternoon.
Address: 0 Great Marlborough Street, London W1FPhone: 020 7573 9484
Photo credit: www.maisonbertaux.com
A popular local spot since the 19th century, Patisserie Maison Bertaux is the oldest patisserie in London and has managed to retain its old-fashioned air despite the changes in Soho over the years. It’s quaint, iconic, and a great place to stop for fresh cakes, croissants and tea.
Address: 28 Greek Street, London W1D 5DQPhone: 020 7437 6007
Photo credit: www.artalive.org.uk
This unassuming archway off Carnaby Street is easy to miss, but hunt it out and you’ll be glad you did – it leads to Kingly Court, a beautiful open-air block with a central terrace and three floors of independent boutiques, restaurants and even a yoga studio. Make sure you stop at Pizza Pilgrims to recharge after hitting the shops.
Address: Carnaby Street, London, W1B 5PW
Photo credit: www.fluidlondon.com
If you consider yourself a tea aficionado then no visit to Soho is complete without popping into Yumchaa. This cosy cafe-cum-shop serves the best loose leaf tea in London with brilliant names such as Soho Spice, Earl Grey Blue Star, Enchanted Forest and Wanderlust, all of which is available to buy along with various tea accessories.
Address: Berwick Street Market, 45 Berwick Street, London W1F 8SFPhone: 020 7209 9641
Photo credit: www.mydaily.co.uk
The Soho branch of this East London vintage warehouse may be much smaller than the original, but with a well-curated collection you won’t miss the vast space of the Cheshire Street shop. They stock clothes for men, women and children from a range of periods, and the selection of vintage bags, scarves and boots is particularly good.
Address: 58-59 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JYPhone: 020 7434 1406
Things to Do
Photo credit: www.airbnb.com
Tucked away just five minutes from Oxford Circus, the Photographers Gallery is one of London’s best hidden art spaces, with a mix of free and paying photography exhibitions. Previous collections include those of André Kertész, Jurgen Teller, Robert Capa, and Andy Warhol, and they annually host the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. The basement also holds a great bookshop, with a range of photography books, art magazines and Lomography cameras.
Address: 16-18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LWPhone: 020 7087 9300
Photo credit: www.airbnb.com
London’s Chinatown occupies the area around Gerrard Street, and while relatively compact it boasts over 80 great restaurants serving a variety of Chinese and Asian cuisines. We’re particularly fond of the cocktails and dim sum at Opium, while New Loon Moon is the ultimate place to stock up on Asian groceries, with three floors full of food from China, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and more.
Address: Gerrard Street, London, W1D
Photo credit: www.vantageshanghai.com
The Society Club is a timewarp back to the days when Soho was a bohemian playground for the flâneurs and dandies of London, who came here to enjoy drinks, discussions and dancing. Technically an independent bookshop, it holds regular exhibitions and readings, and is a great place to spend a few hours relaxing with a book and a coffee. If you’re fond of our four-legged friends, they also have a number of dogs in residence!
Address: 12 Ingestre Place. London, W1F OJFPhone: 02074371433
As famed director Quentin Tarantino’s favourite cinema, you can expect a great choice of films at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. This independent venue shows new and classic cult and arthouse films, including popular sing-a-longs for The Sound of Music and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They’ve also got their own bar for a drink before or after the show, and keep your eyes peeled for the rumoured ghost who haunts the upper balcony…
Address: 7 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BYPhone: 020 7494 3654
Photo credit: www.innerplace.co.uk
This infamous burlesque and cabaret nightclub has been a Soho institution since the 1920s, when it was popular with the Prince of Wales and Cole Porter among others. While Louise Brookes is no longer here to introduce the Charleston, the London Cabaret Society hold regular performances to great acclaim, and you can even have a three course meal while you watch.
Address: 3 Coventry Street, London W1D 6BLPhone: 020 7734 7700