Soho is one of London's liveliest and most energetic areas, packed with great bars, world-class restaurants, boutique shops, theatres and thumping clubs. It's long been the epicentre of scandalous London fun, with a sordid history of controversial art, film, LBGTQ+ culture, music, drugs and sex. These days, there's so much to see and do in this creative part of the capital and a lot you can pack into one day. From crate-digging for vinyl to dancing in a classic blues-only honky tonk, here's our guide on the best way to spend a day in soulful Soho.
How to spend a day in Soho
In this guide
- Where to grab some breakfast or brunch
- The best shopping spots
- Get stuck into the culture
- Dinner spots
- Post-dinner drinks
Where to grab some breakfast or brunch
Early morning or late night
Balans brings a unique breakfast and brunch scene to Soho, serving a creative food and drinks menu in a lively neighbourhood atmosphere. The food served is described as ‘contemporary local’, covering everything from fish and chips to pie of the day. It opens early and doesn’t close until the early hours of the following morning, so it also makes an excellent spot to grab a late-night, post-drink bite to eat.
A Scandi brekky
Enjoy a Swedish breakfast at the laidback Scandi café and coffee shop Söderberg. It’s all about the seriously tasty cinnamon buns and the open sandwiches here, like the avocado on toast with sesame seeds and crushed chilli. There’s also a variety of waffles and breakfast trays that come Swedish style with a little bit of everything, like yoghurt, fruit and granola and Serrano ham with sourdough bread.
The best shopping spots
Shopping in the iconic Tudor-style building
Liberty London may be in most Soho guides, but that’s because it’s one of the most famous shops in the city where contemporary fashion sits side-by-side with design classics. This designer department store stocks a full range of luxury fabrics (including their famous floral prints), designer clothing, beauty products and trendy homewares inside its iconic black and white Tudor-style building.
A music mainstay
If you’re a keen record collector or like to rummage through crates of classic vinyl, check out Phonica Records, London’s leading vinyl record specialist based in Soho. They stock everything from old-school classics to the newest 12″s from across the spectrum. This independent record shop has been instrumental in London’s music scene, hosting in-store events, record day parties and live streams with big-name DJs and music producers.
Sustainable, pre-loved treasures
Sustainable Kings and Queens rejoice; second-hand bargains come by the hundreds at this vintage shop on Argyll Street in Soho. This sustainable brand is a leading vintage retailer in the UK and Sweden and is a staple in the city’s pre-loved shopping scene. It started in a London warehouse before evolving into a big-name brand across the UK and Sweden. Today, you can pick up reworked treasures and one-off pieces that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Street food from around the world
Berwick Street Market is one of the oldest markets in London, dating back to 1778, and is known for its traditional fruit and veg stalls and delicious street food. Feast on classics from around the world, including Mexican burritos, Jerusalem falafel wraps, Afghan rice boxes and Spanish paella.
Lunch from Vietnam
Fill up on mouthwatering Vietnamese classics at Banh Mi Keu Deli in Soho, serving everything from noodle and rice dishes to classic banh mi sandwiches. Their sandwiches are their main draw; a freshly-baked, crusty baguette filled with pátê, terrines, meats, pickled veggies, fresh herbs and homemade mayonnaise. You'll be thinking about this one for days after.
Indian-inspired paratha wraps
This cosy eatery in Soho serves a simple menu of filled paratha wraps loaded with things like mashed potato, veggie patties and fragrant chicken tikka. Grab a roll to go in between your Soho musings, or perch on a seat inside and take a break from Soho’s busy shopping scene. Be sure to order an authentic lassi or masala chia to round off your lunchtime Kati roll experience.
Get stuck into the culture
One for photography enthusiasts
The Photographers' Gallery opened in 1971 and was the country’s first-ever art gallery dedicated entirely to photography. Inside, you’ll find exhibitions, a bookshop (considered to be one of London’s best and most-loved independent centres for photography book lovers), a café for refreshments and meeting like-minded people, a print sales gallery for purchasing prints, and an archive documenting the gallery’s rich history where you can learn all about the art photography.
For artists by artists
This elegant gallery has been around for over 250 years and houses an incredible collection of global art. It’s independently run for artists by artists and includes a range of curated exhibitions, including everything from cultures, drawings, paintings and architecture. It’s an excellent spot for those interested in art and a great space to soak up local culture.
Step into the wizarding world
This award-winning Soho gallery is filled with intricate works of art and displays from the iconic Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. This design studio is responsible for the graphic art in the films and is chock-full of original props and designs. Their socials usually give a heads-up when Mira and Eduardo will drop by, so be sure to check in before visiting if you’re hoping to meet them face-to-face.
Sri Lankan classics
This buzzy restaurant on Frith Street’s menu is filled with authentic Sri Lankan dishes with a contemporary twist. People flock here for the bone marrow varuval dish, an aromatic Hoppers classic served with flaky roti, but everything is delicious. You’re also located minutes from some of the best bars in the city, so you can enjoy dinner here before heading to Ronnie Scott’s for a dose of late-night smooth jazz.
Typical roadside Thai
The food at Kiln is inspired by a typical roadside restaurant found in rural Thailand, hence the name kiln. It’s another venture by acclaimed chef Ben Chapman, the mastermind behind the award-winning Smoking Goat restaurant in Shoreditch (which is also well worth a visit). The food here is pretty spicy; favourites include clap pot-baked glass noodles with brown crab meat and fragrant curries, and the wine list is also chock-full of unusual bottles. The restaurant is small and cosy, with seats all placed along the bar.
This plant-based restaurant in an 18th-century townhouse in Soho is the brand’s first restaurant and is an intimate dining space to enjoy a vegan breakfast, lunch or dinner. The 100% plant-based menu includes things like sweet potato and leek tortellini, shiitake tempeh noodles and caramel cookie cheesecake. It’s also great for those with dietary requirements, with separate menus for dishes without onion, garlic, gluten, nuts, sulphates, and more.
A sophisticated Soho spot
Dean Street Townhouse is a trendy hotel in the heart of Soho with an elegant restaurant bar perfect for a pre-night out tipple or late nightcap. Slump in the comfortable wingback armchair with a whiskey or Picante (spicy margarita) in hand. If you get hungry, they also serve an all-day menu of comforting British classics, like steak, fish and chips and mince and potatoes.
Booze, blues and boogie
Get your best honky tonk dancing shoes at the ready and head to Aint Nothin But The Blues Bar on bustling Carnaby Street. This blues-only bar hosts local and American acts with a keen crowd snuggled around the stage on close-knit tables. The drinks are reasonably priced and span everything from beers and wines to spirits and soft drinks.
A low-key natural wine bar
Ducksoup is a low-key, natural wine bar and restaurant in Soho kitted out with white tiles and rustic, minimalist decor. Natural wines come without sulphites, which minimises the chances of enduring a hangover the following day. The food menu is handwritten daily and posted on the restaurant website, usually featuring dishes made with top-quality British seasonal produce.