London's West End is quite rightly world-famous. Crammed with iconic sights and buildings, an abundance of theatres, shops, restaurants bars and hidden gems, there is no other place like it in the world.
A little bit of history
It was English author Samuel Johnson who said 'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. We couldn't agree more, although think it could easily apply to the West End alone.
Need to know
The West End offers something for everyone; exclusive Mayfair, eclectic Soho, village life in Marylebone, leafy squares and academia in Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, market shopping in Covent Garden and the museums of Holborn.
As you would expect in the nation's capital, there's a plethora of shops to discover. Oxford Street is home to several 'flagship' stores. At 1.5 miles long it is Europe's longest and busiest shopping street. Soho has a number of great record shops including Sister-Ray and Soul Jazz Records. For clothes and jewellery, the famous Carnaby Street and Newburgh Quarter have a number of independent stores and boutiques.
There are plenty of supermarkets in the area, but for fresh organic produce head to Piccadilly Whole Foods. Covent Garden Market (Thurs-Sun) is a great place to pick up lunch, while the rest of the Covent Garden Piazza (open all week) is ideal for gifts and niche items. Berwick Street market has a variety of goods available, from fish to handbags, depending on where you look.
Thankfully, traditional butchers can also still be found among the big name supermarkets, and Mckanna Meats in Theobalds Road offers high quality meats and friendly advice. Smithfields Market, in nearby Clerkenwell, also boasts a number of impressive butchers.
There are plenty of off-licenses in the area but for something special, head to Gerry's, Royal Mile Whiskies or for wine connoisseurs, Planet of the Grapes, where you can also organise private tastings for you and your friends.
Come Christmas time, Oxford Circus comes alive with lights and decorations; the display at Selfridges and the Liberty Christmas shop are not to be missed.