The West End of London holds some of the city’s most famous attractions, best known shops and restaurants, and largest hoards of tourists. If you’re visiting London, the West End a fantastic place to explore with sites like Leicester Square, the National Gallery, and Regent Street. This bustling neighborhood is a must-see, but can be frustrating if you’re not keen on sharing your tourism experience with every other tourist in the city. To ensure a stress-free and enjoyable trip, check out these tips and tricks to navigate the West End like a local.
Choose your mode of transportation
If London does anything well, it’s public transportation. The city has no shortage of ways to travel around with options like buses, bicycles, trains, tubes, taxis, trams, and even river buses.
The West End streets tend to get very congested, especially during rush hours so you may want to avoid buses and taxis that travel on the main roads. Try something new like renting a bike to get around – you’ll skip the traffic and help London cut down on fuel emissions. Or travel like the majority of Londoners and hop on the Underground to get from point A to point B. If none of those options suit your fancy, you can always choose to…
London is extremely walkable – especially if you’re sticking around the West End. Lace up your walking shoes and travel from Trafalgar Square to Chinatown to Oxford Street. You’ll experience much more of the city than you could in a car, like uncovering your new favorite hidden café or catching a street performer in action. If you want to avoid the masses and hubbub of the main routes, turn off the beaten path and take a smaller side street parallel to your original. Lost? Don’t hesitate to ask a local for directions – if they aren’t in too much of a hurry, they’ll surely take a moment to help you find your way.
Tips for taking the Tube
The West End is home to multiple Underground stations that cover several Tube lines, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding your perfect route. When planning your trip, remember that the distances shown on the Tube map aren’t always as far as they appear; many of the central stations are very close together. Instead of changing lines, it may be quicker to head above ground and walk – Leicester Square station to Piccadilly Circus station is about a five minute jaunt. Plan your trip to avoid busier stations like Covent Garden, there are likely less-crowded stations nearby.
Shop till you drop
London has been named as one of the top 10 global fashion capitals because of its innovative fashion trends, countless famous designers, and prestigious fashion schools. It’s no wonder then that the city is home to all the shops you could possibly need – and most of them are in the West End. Head to Oxford Street to snag some high fashion looks or just window shop. Regent Street is lined with global fashion brands and international flagship stores. If you’re looking for some quirkier shops, Carnaby is the place for you. Buy something name brand of shop local and support London’s small businesses.
Treat yourself to some British food and drink
When in the West End you have to indulge in some famous London-fare and a pint of beer – you’re in England, after all. The West End is full of world famous restaurants and a few hole-in-the-walls, too. Sit for a spell and order a plate of fish and chips, bangers and mash, or Sunday roast. If you’re not much for traditional British food, the West End has many restaurants featuring dishes from all over the world. Wash down your dinner with a drink or two and one of London’s numerous bars and pubs.
See a show
The West End is known for many things, but probably the most notable is the theatre. There are over 35 theatres sprinkled throughout the West End area, so you’re guaranteed to find your favorite form of entertainment from classic plays to musicals to comedy shows. Score last minute London theatre tickets and experience the magic of live theatre. Let the lights and production transport you to a new world for a few hours and you’ll leave the theatre dancing around those once unknown West End streets like true local.
Now you’re ready to take on London’s West End like you own the place. Avoid the crowds or jump right in and take in the full London experience. Walk the streets and window shop or settle in with a nice book at a small café. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll fit right in with the locals while still hitting all of the top tourism sites.