Visiting The Iconic West End: A Guide to its Famous Landmarks

    7538316530_64cf1b084b_bIf you’re looking for London’s most iconic sights, establishments, structures and squares then you only need to visit the West End. At its broadest definition the West End includes Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Mayfair, Marylebone, Soho and Westminster, among others, and so encompasses many of the city’s most famous landmarks. From museums to shopping to galleries to theatres to restaurants and cafes, there really is something for everyone here.

    Here is a guide to London’s Iconic West End:

    –          Oxford Street and Bond Street

    Framing two edges of the West End area, and intersecting with each other, are these iconic and famous shopping streets. Oxford Street is well known as the centre shopping area in London – and is the busiest shopping area in Europe — with the wide, long street full of all the recognisable brands such as Debenhams, House of Fraser, Selfridges and much more. Bond Street is known as being the more exclusive shopping area, being the home of many of London’s expensive and fashionable establishments. It is also one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world!

    –          Piccadilly Circus

    Piccadilly Circus is difficult to miss, thanks to the features that give the area its fame. Large moving signs bearing the advertising on many different well-known brands and companies line the curved edge of one of buildings – including the long running Coca-Cola sign that has been there since 1954! Piccadilly Circus has been used for advertising since the 1900s, when many of the buildings were used to display signs lit by bulbs. Over the years, with technological improvements, the signs have moved to neon, to digital projectors and now LED displays. The number of signs has decreased over the years as rental costs rose until just the six we see today remained.

    –          Chinatown Gates

    Chinatown’s roots go far back in London’s history, originally beginning in the East End. The Chinatown that has grown and flourished to what we see today stretches back to the 1950s, when a few restaurateurs set up business in Gerrard Street in the West End – a street already known for its unusual menus and being home to London’s first European restaurants. When British soldiers returned from the far eastern countries after the Second World War they brought with them the taste for the regional food and so Chinese restaurants grew in popularity. The three gates located in Chinatown were built between 1985 and 1986 and are beautifully decorated with intricate designs and calligraphy, with roofs of coloured tiles.

    –          Theatreland

    For many the phrase “West End” has become synonymous for the wealth of theatres in the area: this has also caused its dubbing of ‘Theatreland’. Often people will say they are going to see a “West End musical” or a “West End play” and the area has become known for its variety of quality performances. There certainly is no lacking of choice, with dozens of venues ranging from the compact Donmar with a capacity of 250 to the huge London Palladium that can seat 2,300. See a full list of venues and what’s on at each here.

    –          Trafalgar Square

    There are certain landmarks that have become intrinsically ‘London’. Big Ben is one; the London Eye, though a relatively new addition, is another, and Trafalgar Square, at the edge of the West End, is certainly so. Of the statues and fountains and decorative structures found in the square, Nelson’s Column is by far the most famous – and arguably in the whole city. From the bottom of the pedestal to the tip of his hat, the column stands at a lofty 51.6m tall. It’s especially interesting to note that though the fountains of the square have a lot of aesthetic appeal, this was not their original purpose – they were designed to break up the large space to stop the risk of riotous assembly!

    What are your favourite landmarks of the West End?

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