Typically thought of as London’s Theatre District, the West End of London has so much more to offer in addition to its many world class theatres. The west of the city centre has some of London’s greatest shopping opportunities, popular museums and galleries, and excellent bars and restaurants.
Albeit named the ‘West End’, this area of London could be seen as the central hub for leisure in the city, located to the West and North of Trafalgar square. The area houses some of London’s most iconic streets and squares including Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, Leicester Square and Covent Garden.
Akin to New York’s Broadway, London’s West End Theatre District is one of the best in the world, delivering world class performances every night. With around 40 theatres, there is always something to suit every theatrical taste from musicals to Shakespeare and other classic plays. Popular plays have included The Woman in Black, with acclaimed musicals like Les Miserables, The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera.
Visitors to the West End are encouraged to take advantage of the many pre-theatre dining offerings in the area. Again, with choices to suit every appetite, West End restaurants range from Michelin Star fine dining to fast food and authentic world cuisine.
West End’s Soho has an abundance of excellent stylish bars and clubs to enjoy a signature cocktail or two, and experience the area’s vibrant nightlife. There are a number of hotel bars and themed bars in the area to choose from for your preferred evening entertainment.
Shopping in the West End is an experience to be remembered. From the flagship stores of Oxford Street to more boutique shopping in the Soho area, visitors rarely go home empty handed.
The West End is also a great place to soak up a bit of London’s culture with popular museums like the National Gallery, London Transport Museum, The Royal Academy of Arts and the National Portrait Gallery.
One of London’s praised theatres and part of the West End theatre district, Palace Theatre is located at the Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road intersection. It’s striking red brick front and Renaissance style interior give the theatre an air of grandeur, reflecting the quality of the performances held on its stage.
The theatre is split across four levels, with a bar located on each floor and 2 cloakrooms on the lower levels. At full capacity, the theatre seats 1,400 people. Since opening in 1891, the theatre has seen many popular productions ranging from opera to musicals and theatrical performances.
Originally intended as a grand opera house, the theatre was first opened under the name Royal English Opera House, before reopening as the Palace Theatre of Varieties a year later. The name was finally changed to Palace Theatre in 1911.
Some of the theatres most successful performances included Jesus Christ Superstar, which ran for 8 years from 1972, and Les Miserables which achieved a huge 19 year stint before moving to the Queen’s Theatre in 2004.
A rich and varied history accompanies this West End London theatre, a site which has housed a number of versions of the theatre since 1765. Located just off the strand on Wellington Street, the Lyceum site has had a variety of functions over the centuries, including a circus, chapel, concert hall and even a display for Madam Tussards’ waxworks in 1802.
The site also possesses a strong literary link, with many notable adaptations of Dickens’ works performed in the 19th century, and Bram Stoker worked as business manager here for 20 years. The theatre also showcased a number of Shakespeare adaptations in its earlier years.
In 1904, the original theatre was rebuilt and showcased music hall and variety performances until it was converted into a Ballroom in 1951. In 1996 it was finally reconverted into a theatre for large musicals and operas.
The Lyceum is today home to the highly acclaimed The Lion King musical, based on the Disney film. It has been running at the Lyceum since 1999.
Housed in a Grade II listed building in Covent Garden, London’s West End, the London Transport Museum takes us on an intriguing journey into the history of a system that shaped modern day London as we know it.
The museum is filled with interactive exhibits and interesting items that explain the importance of the London Transport System in social and culture development of the city. First opening in 1980, the museum underwent a major redesign and refurbishment in 2005. Highlights now include an iconic red bus, with the chance to play driver; the world’s first underground steam train; an under 5s play area and an intriguing look at the story behind London’s iconic underground map.
The museum also houses a café serving morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea, and a small picnic area located in the main gallery.
One of London’s busiest squares, Piccadilly Circus is located at the intersection of five of London’s major roads: Covent Street, Piccadilly Street, Regent Street, Shaftsbury Avenue and Haymarket. As such, it poses the perfect spot for advertisers, and its many electronic advertising displays give the square a Times Square feel.
Landmarks in Piccadilly Circus include the Shafetsbury Memorial Fountain, built in 1893 to commemorate charitable figure, Lord Shaftsbury; and the Eros Statue that stands atop the fountain.
The square is partly pedestrianised, and in easy reach of Piccadilly Circus Underground station.
Marking the North East Entrance to Hyde Park, and the beginning of one of the world’s busiest shopping street, Marble Arch is a dominating structure that once resided at the gates of Buckingham Palace.
Originally built in 1827 and designed by renowned architect of the time John Nash, Marble Arch was modelled on a 4th century structure in Rome: the Arch of Constantine. Marble Arch was originally used as the gateway to Buckingham Palace, however it was moved to Hyde Park in 1851. Until then, only the Royal Family and members of the Royal Horse Artillary and King’s Troop were permitted to pass through the arches.
Today Marble Arch stands as an iconic landmark in the centre of London, with many people happily snapping pics beneath the impressive arches.
For royalists everywhere, Buckingham Palace offers a real treat. One of the world’s last remaining working palaces, Buckingham Palace is the official home of the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. A flying flag on the flagpole on top of the Palace indicates when Her Majesty is in residence.
Every summer parts of the palace are opened up to the public whilst the Queen visits her Balmoral estate. Buckingham Palace’s 19 state rooms, ballroom and gardens are open during August and September, with free entry. Spaces are limited so booking is advisable.
Throughout the year the Changing of the Guard ceremony can be witnessed. Taking place every morning at 11:30am in summer (every other day in winter), the 45 minute ceremony is full of pomp as the New Guard marches to the palace, accompanied by the Guards band.
Buckingham Palace was originally built in 1702 by the Duke of Buckingham, and later added to by George IV. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to reside in the Palace in 1837.
The Palace is surrounded by stunning green spaces, adjacent to Royal Parks, St James’ Park and The Green Park.
One of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s more casual establishments, Maze is intensely popular for its Asian take on French dishes. Since the opening of the dedicated sushi bar in 2012, diners have enjoyed a full menu of sashimi and sushi, prepared before their eyes by top chefs.
With Michelin star service and an award winning menu, Maze offers a luxury dining experience, yet the simple modern surroundings and friendly demeanour of the staff maintain a casual, comfortable atmosphere.
Located close to Leicester Square, Ruby Blue offers a great place to start an evening out in the city or to enjoy a pre-theatre dinner. Offering stunning views over Leicester Square from its al fresco balcony, and providing a down to earth vibe, Ruby Blue is popular with younger crowds.
Later in the evening, the bar turns into a lively night club, playing the latest pop and party anthems for crowds to dance the night away until the early hours of the morning.
Easily accessible from Leicester Square Tube Station, and in the heart of London’s West End, Ruby Blue is an ideal base for night time entertainment.