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London Neighborhood Guide
London, or what is considered the larger London area is a huge collection of neighborhoods that can grossly be divided into West End, East End, South Bank, The City, and a very loosely defined Central London.
Popular Neighborhoods in London
West End is considered the heart of London and is likely an accurate sample of quintessential London. Historic quarters meet the contemporary in a seamless mix of both grand pieces of the past London and the busier and at times irreverent elements of the modern. West End is where you'll find most tourist attractions, as well as shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues.
Past home to the Bloomsbury Group, a group influential of artists and writers, like Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, during the early 20th century. Touted for forging modern London's spirit of open expression and scholarly debate, Bloomsbury is known for Russell Square, packed with beautiful gardens, great for reading and quiet relaxing day retreats. Some blocks north, past Euston Road, you'll find the British Library, also worth a glance.
Another haven of renowned artists, the neighborhood at one point housed George Bernard Shaw, James McNeil Whistler, Ezra Pound, and George Orwell. These days a little more on the commercial side, Fitzrovia is a great spot to shop, dine and drink. It's also where you'll find the quizzical BT tower. A communications tower who's odd design has made it a modern landmark.
Covent Garden & Strand
Historically a monastery's market garden, Covent Garden went from a from being a fruit and vegetable market to a major part of London's bustling theater scene. Anchored by Covent Garden Piazza, the neighborhood is an epicenter of shopping and entertainment, jam-packed with designer boutiques, hip cafes and a string of theaters, including the Royal Opera House. Just south of here is also the Strand, a major thoroughfare where you'll find the landmark Somerset House.
Preserving what today is best described as an urban village feel, Marylebone is an upscale neighborhood where you'll find a number of shops and boutiques with everything from artisanal foods to designer wears. Take up tasting at Cadenheads Whisky Shop, tour the spots of Marylebone popularized by the famous Sherlock Holme novels and visit the Wallace Collection for a look at one of the best art collections in Europe.
An architectural sampling of 18th-century mansions and the residential hotbed of London's elite, Mayfair is also where you'll find some the most luxurious stores and hotels in the city. And despite being bordered by some of London's busiest streets, the residential neighborhood is surprisingly void of crowds and traffic and is a beautiful place stroll around and delight in some opulent bourgeoisie feels.
The bustling and fashionable neighborhood hosts an active LGBT community, numerous bars, art galleries, a thriving nightlife and some of London’s hottest Michelin star restaurants. Also known as London's entertainment district, Soho was once known for its seedy sex shops, burlesque shows. And although much of its grittier elements are gone, you'll still find enough of it to enjoy the best of both. Also, the nearby Chinatown has some great food too, if you're in the mood.
The former stronghold of British aristocracy, St James's palace-like structures are now populated with posh boutiques, exclusive gentleman's clubs, corporate headquarters, theaters and grand hotels. Historically rich and naturally grandiose, this neighborhood is a tourist favorite. Map your visit accordingly and you'll get a staggering view of Buckingham Palace and the Palaces of Whitewall when you stand at the bridge over the lake at St James's Park.
Also called the City of London, this independent country is the financial center of London and a mesmerizing conflation of the city's past heritage and its now stunning modern development. Located along the river Thames, The City is host to some of London's most renowned landmarks like St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and the iconic Tower Bridge, as synonyms to London as the city itself. The City is also responsible for developing the contemporary London skyline, like the Lloyds Building or The Gherkin, a towering curved glass structure.
The rebel child of London neighborhoods, this largely alternative scene is teeming with punk and vintage clothiers, live music and ethnic cuisine stalls that spill in terraces from the markets and onto the edge of Regent’s Canal. Favored by edgy rock stars like the late Amy Winehouse, and the home to Abbey Road Studios of The Beatles fame, Camden is a fun place bursting with energy, lively local crowds and a buzzing nightlife.
Beginning at Sloane Square, Chelsea is one of the most stylish and fashionable neighborhoods of London. So much so that the term ‘Sloane Ranger’, used to describe upper-class people who led distinctive posh lifestyles, originated here. Notable residents include the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Mick Jagger along with other notable writers, artists, and celebrities. Surfeit with endless restaurants, bars clubs and the famous Exhibition Road, quick walk over to South Kensington, and lined with some of the best museums of the world.
Clerkenwell was once home medieval religious orders, like the Knights of the Hospitallers, and was later the epicenter of influential movements like industrial revolution and a political radicalism that saw the likes of young Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin. Although not much of a weekend destination, Clerkenwell has its share of trendy boutiques, restaurants, and even some bars. Not a bad spot to escape the bustle of the main districts, but don't expect much action.
Hoxton & Shoreditch
These popular boroughs on London's East End are at the heart of London's innovative art and media scene. Best describe this neighborhood is an eclectic mix of art galleries, designer stores, funky cafes and traditional pubs. On the weekends you'll find warehouses are turned into antiques and vintage markets, hip restaurants and art galleries like Dennis Sever's White Cube. This is a worthwhile visit in London no matter where your tastes lie.
This historic are is a purely sightseeing destination. Visit the are and explore the Royal Observatory, where you can locate and snap a picture the meridian, visit the planetarium and head over to the National Maritime Museum, a recount of Britain’s fascination with the sea, and or find a unique souvenir at the antiques and crafts markets that open on the weekends.
The south of Thames from Covent Garden has not had a great past but in recent years, it has been transformed into one of leading hotspots. Head on over on your way out of Greenwich and check out the National Theatre, Southbank Centre, Tate Modern, HMS Belfast. Stroll past the beautifully lit Houses of Parliament and basque at the sight of the Big Ben from this side of town.