Cool Places - The best places to stay in the UK

The Best Places to Stay in the UK


At the heart of central London, Soho is probably the capital’s buzziest neighbourhood – and one that has managed to keep an appealing bohemian edge despite rampant gentrification and regular clean-up initiatives. Long the boozy haunt of intellectuals, writers and artists, media types and musos, Soho can be sleazy, but it’s an old-fashioned kind of sleaze, the saucy strip clubs and ‘naked models’ signs evoking another era. Its lively restaurants and bars, meanwhile, along with its huge gay scene and crop of cinemas around Leicester Square, are all firmly rooted in the present. It’s got something for most people, as well as many quirky surprises for those who know where to look, and it’s endlessly diverse, from the dim sum joints of Chinatown to the secondhand bookstores lining Charing Cross Road.


Soho was named for the hunting cry that rang through the area when it was a 16th-century hunting ground. In the 1700s it became a fashionable residential neighbourhood, but soon slipped into decline, and by the end of the century London’s immigrants  – Chinese, Italian, and French Huguenots among them – had made it their home. This lively mix, along with the ragbag community of writers, intellectuals and brothel-keepers, set the tone for the Soho we know today. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries it was a rollicking, rowdy place, known for its pubs and its sex industry, and the 20th century saw an influx of film technicians and musicians, record stores and music venues. In the 1950s Soho became the centre of the jazz and folk scene; in the 60s it was one of the hubs of swinging London; in the 1970s the punks took over; and in the 1980s it was the haunt of the New Romantics, all hairspray and cheekbones. The 1990s saw the blossoming of the gay scene, with Old Compton Street at its core, and although Soho is undeniably more mainstream today, its raffish spirit remains. It’s certainly hard to think of a district in central London where you can have a better night out.

Five london restaurants original large


Soho has a boozy, bohemian vibe
that’s hard to resist.
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