West End shows its spirit with a summer of fun
Bright lights, big city London is back with a bang this summer.
Article by Cliff Edwards
After two years of travel restrictions and dread-full national lockdowns, the West End has emergedfrom the darkness to sparkle once again.
It seems like every street is bedecked with the Union flag - more than 4,500 are fluttering above thethoroughfares and byways.
It seems like the eerily empty, dulled walkways of the pandemic period are once again glittering,paved with gold.
What sacrifices were made, what angst was lived through by the hardy - but creative - souls who bring us the heady mix, we’ll never know.
But to see the life and bustle and feel the excitement once again is something else.
As a seasoned visitor, I sense something has changed from the pre-lockdown years.
Perhaps I sense that people no longer take for granted what they get handed on a perfect plate inthe West End.
The typically jaded visitor, who does the rounds of restaurant and bar and theatre and lovely shops as if ticking them off, is no more. There is a new light in the eyes we encounter.
Coming to the West End is once again a celebration. Of life.
Many of us feared in the worst of recent times, the theatres, shops and bars would never bounce back. So, now we appreciate them even more.
Leaving no stone unturned, over 100 streets and destinations across the West End have come together to run a stunning summer campaign to remind the world in general and the British in particular of what is on offer.
Check out our 50 best things to stay and do in the West End.
And here are a few of my personal favourites.
St Martins Lane Hotel London, 45 St Martin's Ln, London WC2N 4HX
Location, location, vacation. Perfectly placed, Very close to Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Mayfair, Leicester Square and Seven Dials. Surrounded by theatres, superb restaurants, great pubs and bars.
A truly beautiful hotel, designed by Philippe Starck. With surrealist undertones in the lobby, a lustrous dining and bar area and rooms that make you want to linger within. Our thanks to the engaging Joao and the front desk team for their incredible welcome and unstinting attention to detail.
Leicester Square, Westminster, London, WC2H 7NA.
The must-see attraction is Scenes in the Square where you will find iconic characters from the worlds of film and entertainment in an interactive statue trail.
Mayfair Bar, Berkeley St, London W1J 8LT
The May Fair Bar nestling within the Mayfair Hotel on Berkeley Street has the most sophisticated drinks menu - try the exquisite rums. The bar’s opulence reflects the unique atmosphere and contemporary design of its namesake district. A social destination where everyone is genuinely welcome.
Try the superb selection of small plates and bespoke cocktails inspired by Hendrik’s Neptunia gin.
Ave Mario 15 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8QG
From an unassuming frontage on Henrietta Street as you walk up towards Covent Garden, the Ave Mario is breathtaking within draws a young clientele attracted to its fine food and drinks, wide menu, mirror walls and art deco styling - and its reasonable pricing.
The restaurant and its red cushioned booths is bathed in natural sunlight with a bar at its centrepiece, truly delightful in its design. But then you find more floors and two gigantic terraces.
I had the light, melt-in-the-mouth, wafer thin Cheatwave Beef Carpaccio with watermelon, goat cheese, frisee salad and toasted hazelnuts,drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Plus an extra side salad. And the largest gin and tonic I’ve ever encountered.
Mercato Mayfair St. Mark's Church, N Audley St, London W1K 6ZA
Looking for something still less formal? Try one of London’s cultural hubs of sustainable, authentic food. Two floors of worldwide cuisine, a rooftop terrace, wine cellar and community space.
All ingredients are fresh, artisanal and sustainably sourced as far as possible.
Hotel Café Royal –Cakes & Bubbles experience 8-10 Air Street, London W1B 5AB. More formal.The experience has a parade of exceptional desserts which include the renowned Tickets “cheesecake” and other classics such as egg flan and airwaffles..
A wide selection of Champagnes and sparkling wines complete the offering. All set in the most elegant of venues.
Life of Pi, Wyndham's Theatre, Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0DA
Quick turnaround after a tough old day of unrelenting fun? Take in a show… We visited one of the biggest in London at the moment, Life Of Pi at Wyndham’s Theatre. Winner of 5 Olivier Awards, including 'Best New Play'.
Cahoots, 13 Kingly Ct, Carnaby, London W1B 5PW
Open until early for us theatre goers. Cahoots is a 1940s-themed bar located in the heart of London’s Soho.
Set inside an old underground station. It has the vibe of a speakeasy - so feeling exciting and a little illicit from the off. Low lighting, expert cocktails, old tunes and discreet but friendly staff make it a romantic destination.
Indeed, the Cahoots newspaper left on the tables suggests all who enter are good hearted scoundrels - it is in that spirit that the fun proceeds, seven days a week. Made up of three spaces: The Underground, Ticket Hall and Control.
Royal Opera House Backstage Tour, Royal Opera House, Bow St, London WC2E 9DD
And how about the classic Royal Opera House tour, designed to give both an overview of the building and an insight into the state-of-the-art theatre technology.
Explore our stunning building, learn about its colourful history and what it takes to stage a production in one of the world’s leading theatres.
Concours on Savile Row Saville Row, Mayfair London.
This was a sight to behold. Roadster and parlour style combined in this event celebrating the collaboration between the Savile Row tailoring houses and the automotive world.
The event showcased more than 30 world-class cars displayed along the street, which had bwe enclosed to all other vehicles.
Other experiences coming up in the West End
The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition [21 June-21 August], the In A Mayfair Fashion AR Trail, Art in Mayfair [20 June - 31 July], shopping the best of British designer fashion on Mount Street, enjoying Covent Garden Piazza’s Ice Cream Festival [19 August – 4 September] and Summer in Square [21 – 31 July], visiting Underbelly Festival and the Seven Dials Summer Sessions [30 July], shopping at the oldest toy store in the world Hamleys.
The West End iconic destinations taking part in the summer of celebrations from June-September 2022 include Bond Street, Carnaby, Soho, Chinatown, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Mount Street, North Audley Street and the whole of Mayfair, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Piccadilly & St James’s, Regent Street, Seven Dials, Shaftesbury Avenue plus surrounding streets.
Michelle McGrath, spokesperson for London’s West End: “London’s West End is the most globally recognised city destination in the world.
Following the last two years of restrictions, visitor numbers and bookings are bouncing back. Nowhere else offers the diversity, energy and creativity of the West End; from the most spectacular summer festivals and thrilling theatre shows to an incredibly varied music, arts and culture scene and, of course, unrivalled shopping and dining.
All of this can be found surrounded by open green, safe spaces, historic streets, rich heritage and al fresco dining around every corner”
Our top 50 things to do Only in the West End this Summer:
1. Enjoy over 1,000 seats of alfresco dining in Covent Garden
2. Enjoy All things British at John Lewis to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee [2-6 June]
3. Visit Apricity, the new socially conscious restaurant in Mayfair
4. Experience fashion in collaboration with art during Art In Mayfair on Bond Street [20June - 31 July]
5. Visit The Art of London Season as the West End is transformed into a canvas of colourful art [August – October]
6. Take an electrifying ride back in time and visit Back to the Future – The Musical at the Adelphi Theatre on The Strand or be thrilled at 2:22 A Ghost Story at the Criterion Theatre
7. Shop the best of British Designer on Mount Street
8. Indulge to a spot of luxury living with a visit to The Biltmore Royal Stays in Mayfair
9. Head to Bond Street to explore the Queen and the history of style: a right Royalhistory audio tour from June
10. Indulge in a delicious array of sweets and savouries at Browns Hotel Tea Party
11. Visit Bugingham Palace at Berkeley Square Gardens [2-5 June]
12. Head to Carnaby where you will discover over 100 independent and international brands to shop with.
13. Dine out at Carnaby’s iconic Kingly Court, the three-storey alfresco dining destination.
14. Immerse yourself in the UK music history with the Carnaby Echoes audio tour and explore Carnaby’s music stores including RS No.9 and Third Man Records.
15.Enjoy the Carnaby Summer Festival, a summer full of music, fashion, food and art
16. Enjoy an authentic East and South East Asian delicacy at Chinatown’s dessert alley
17.Visit Covent Garden’s Beauty Quarter, home to one of a kind beauty boutiques from Tom Ford, Chanel, Dior, Penhaligons and many more
18. Dive inside The Crystal Maze Live Experience on Shaftesbury Avenue
19. Visit the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason
20. Take the kids to see ‘Disney On Stage’ at Covent Garden [8 July-4 September]
21. Check out the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition in Covent Garden
22. Be immersed in rich fashion history on the In A Mayfair Fashion AR Trail
23. Take a trip to Jermyn Street Jubilee Fete [4 June]
24.Sample a Jubilee’ cocktail at The Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair
25. Introduce your family to the magic of live theatre with incredible ticket deals during Kids Week [1-31 August]
26. Enjoy Mayfair’s The Connaught Hotel very British street party with a brass band, strawberries and cream, afternoon tea sandwiches and artisan ice cream [5 June]
27.Visit The Mayfair Jubilee Street Party, a celebratory street party and communal, fashionable feast [2-3 June]
28. Visit Mayfair’s Summer in the Square in Grosvenor Square for a celebration of music, entertainment and wellness [21 – 31 July]
29. Be tempted at the May Fair Hotel with an exclusive Charbonnel et Walker AfternoonTea
30. Marvel at the latest installation of flags by Paul Huxley RA on Piccadilly [16 June-July]
31. Snap a colourful selfie by the Pride flags on Regent Street [June-July]
32. Visit Raphael at the National Gallery [until 31 July]
33. Discover the newest global flagships from Fabletics, Uniqlo and Theory on Regent Street
34.Visit the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition for a taste of culture [21 June-21August]
35. Visit the iconic Royal Opera House in Covent Garden theatre for a cultural fix
36. Sample a new flavour at the Ice Cream Festival in Covent Garden [19 August – 4 September]
37. Get a slick new look at the Saville Row Contours
38.Treat yourself to the famous Savoy Afternoon Tea that has been a key feature of the Savoy Hotel since it opened in 188
39.Visit Scenes in the Square in Leicester Square, an interactive statue trail
40. Head to London’s iconic Selfridges – the world’s best department store - for a spot of shopping
41. Visit Seven Dials Market for London’s best food hall and DJs every weekend.
42. Have some fun at Seven Dials Summer Sessions [30 July]
43. Be dazzled by surprise pop-up performances from West End Shows on iconic London rooftops during Sing it From the Rooftops [June]
44. Go on a hunt for a new summer wardrobe at the Soho Fashion Market
45.Watch daily screenings of BAFTA masterclasses, Q&As and more from leading film, games and TV professionals, whilst enjoying a meal or cocktail at St James’s Market restaurants [6-12 June]
46. Delight the kids at the Toy Soldier Marching Parade at the oldest toy store in the world, Hamleys
47.Check out the Union Jack flags taking over the skies above Regent Street & St James’s and Oxford Street and enjoy an al-fresco meal at Heddon Street’s terraces
48.Indulge at the Verve Clicquot and Whispering Angel Terrace Takeover at The Hotel Café Royal
49. Get your musical fix at West End LIVE in Trafalgar Square [25-26 June]
50. Enjoy Wimbledon al fresco at Wimbledon in the Gardens [Brown Hart Gardens, Mayfair], in the Piazza in Covent Garden or the big screen in St James’ Market [27 June – 10 July]
51.Websites and social handles:
Art of London www.artoflondon.co.uk @theartofldn
Bond Street www.bondstreet.co.uk @bondstreet
Carnaby www.carnaby.co.uk @CarnabyLondon
Chinatown chinatown.co.uk @chinatownlondon
Covent Garden www.coventgarden.london @CoventGardenLDN
Leicester Square www.leicestersquare.london @discoverlsq
Mayfair London www.mayfairldn.com @mayfairldn
Oxford Street www.oxfordstreet.co.uk @oxfordstreetw1
Regent Street www.regentstreetonline.com @regentstreetw1
Seven Dials www.sevendials.co.uk @7DialsLondon
St James’s www.stjameslondon.co.uk @stjameslondon
Underground Stations – the West End is right in the centre of London will all main undergroundlines taking you into different parts of the West End. Key stations include:
- Oxford Street
- Bond Street
- Green Park
- Covent Garden
- Leicester Square
- Tottenham Court Road
(photos: Cliff Edwards unless otherwise stated)