West End & Marylebone
From the opulent streets of Mayfair to the winding alleys of Soho, there is plenty to explore in London's West End.
Ivy's Guide to the West End & Marylebone
A Historical Look
It's hard to imagine that the streets of Mayfair and Marleybone weren't always lined with smart restaurants and boutique shopping. But once, it was the royal hunting park of Henry VIII. In fact, the word 'SoHo' is an old hunting cry used by the Duke of Monmouth, who lead a rebellion against his uncle, the King of England, and was beheaded for treason in 1685. Before his unhappy end, he lived at Monmouth House, which still stands in SoHo square.
Harley Street has long been famous for attracting specialist healthcare (and cosmetic treatment) professionals. The rich and famous have come here since 1828, when a Mr St. John Long succeeded in making money off wealthy female clients by making up an odd 'specialist' treatment. Long would offer 'massage' sessions, first asking his clients to breathe in a pink gas from a test tube. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter and fined a considerable sum after the death of two of his lady patients.
The West End was established in 1666, after the Great Fire of London destroyed the city. The area was rebuilt with wide streets and large Georgian houses. Within, Trotsky, Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin met and conspired. Lenin organised secret debates at the Anglers' Club on Charlotte Street, under the imaginative guise of, 'The Foreign Barbers of London Association'. Mayfair's famous Claridge's hotel has hosted Mussolini, as well as General Eisenhower, who didn't think much of his hotel room's decoration, "It's like a goddamn fancy funeral parlour decorated in whorehouse pink". The decor has since changed, and world leaders continue to flock through its famous doors.
Many a celebrity has taken a fancy to Marleybone's rich townscape; Lord Byron was born here, Admiral Lord Nelson lived here, and in the swinging 60s, Sir Paul McCartney was said to have written 'Yesterday', the worldwide Beatles smash hit, from his tiny apartment at 57 Wimpole Street. His fellow band members John Lennon and drummer Ringo Starr also had homes here, as did rock superstar Jimi Hendrix.
Musicals, dramas, comedies... it's all on offer at London's answer to Broadway, our much-loved Shaftesbury Avenue.
This area is home to The National Gallery and, walking East to the river, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. You'll also find Westminster Abbey, where William and Kate - the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - were married. The British Museum, and its priceless collection of the world's most valuable artefacts, is a quick 15 minute walk east of Soho. With plenty to see, you'll appreciate a home just round the corner from it all.
The aromatic Chinatown's is a maze of authentic eateries. We've tried them all (nearly), and Kyoto Sushi comes trumps. Its small, private and informal - and the sushi is wonderful. If you're not keen for Asian food, go French: Brasserie Zedel offers all the old-world glamour of Paris in the 60's, at a reasonable price. Le Garrick has a more intimate restaurant layout, but also serves a fantastic, authentic French pre-theatre menu. Vegetarians (and meat eaters) across London flock to Mildred's for fresh and flavoursome meat-free food.
Bars and Pubs
Enjoy the highlife at Radio Rooftop Bar, and sip a martini against a view that stretches across the River Thames.
The Experimental Cocktail Club does some of the best cocktails you'll find anywhere. Some are served in jam jars, others in medicine bottles in the style of Alice in Wonderland.
The boutiques of Marylebone High Street are a shoppers paradise. From British classic Margaret Howell to contemporary jewellary designer Cox and Power. Take a break in between stores and head to modern day English tea house, Amanzi. The friendly staff will make you a bespoke cup of tea from its 150 different varieties of loose tea leaves.
Minutes from Oxford Circus, famous Carnaby Street is another shoppers paradise. At Christmas, you'll find the prettiest lights in London strung up above the boutiques.
Covent Garden and it's enduringly enticing market, are still buzzing year-round. With street performers and arts and craft market stalls, the area is perfect for a laid back daytime stroll.
Museums & Galleries
Baker Street is a children's paradise. Capture their imaginations at Madame Tussauds, where they can pose next to their favourite actor/celebrity/superhero. The Planetarium next door is now home to the Marvel Superheroes 4D attraction. A 4 minute walk down the road is the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Investigate the history of Britain's biggest detective personality. The Wallace Collection was the private home of Sir Richard Wallace, and has an astonishing display of art by Canaletto, Titian and Rembrandt.
One of London's most expansive parks, which holds the city's biggest green sports area. It's also home to a variety of wildlife: spot one of the 100 species of wild birds that nest in the treetops above the canal. Here is our favourite park walk.
A host of child-friendly activities can be found in the Regent's Park. Visit London Zoo and the Gorilla Circus trapeze school, both hidden within the park's woodlands. The zoo has a host of friendly animals, including chinchillas, lovebirds and baby hedgehogs.
If your children have ever dreamed of escaping to the Circus, the Gorilla Circus trapeze school is a good opportunity to give them the chance to fly under your watch. They take students from the age of 8 to 78. Booking necessary.
Regent's Park's many trees and hidden spots also make it the perfect location for building your very own tree house.
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