London is a city of villages. Each neighborhood has its own personality, and together they form one of the world’s most exciting metropolises. This phenomenon can be seen in the city center, where small distances lead to distinct differences in style.
From the West End and Soho to Mayfair, Marylebone and Fitzrovia, Central London’s neighborhoods reveal their uniqueness in everything from art galleries to entertainment venues. If you have 24 hours, you’ll be able to experience each of these villages and their individuality.
Start in Soho, one of the city’s best areas for nightlife, dining and theater. Carnaby Street is the place to begin, as the pedestrianized stretch is lined with shops and restaurants. Don’t miss Kingly Court, a hidden world off Carnaby Street that’s packed with places to eat and drink. Cahoots is an underground speakeasy with vintage train carriages and makes for a classic night out.
But Soho has more to entertain. Walking down streets like Shaftesbury Avenue and Frith Street will reveal everything from theaters showing the latest musicals to live jazz venues like Ronnie Scott’s.
If you can tear yourself away, head west to Regent Street. This curved beauty with its historic architecture has some of the best shopping in London, and it’s easy to spend hours indulging in retail therapy.
Just west of Regent Street, Mayfair is a world away from Soho. It’s one of London’s most upscale neighborhoods, and everything from the tailors on Savile Row to the art galleries on New Bond Street shows it. The Royal Academy of Arts hosts some of London’s most impressive art exhibitions, too.
Walk along Conduit Street and you’ll pass Sketch, one of the most design-led restaurants in London (it’s hard not to stop for afternoon tea in its pretty-in-pink Gallery). Conduit Street turns into Bruton Street, where The Coach and Horses is one of London’s most attractive historic pubs.
From Mayfair, make your way to Marylebone. Crossing Oxford Street will transport you into another distinct part of London. It’s more low-key than its neighbor but every bit as nice.
Walk through skinny St. Christopher’s Place to get a feel for Marylebone’s charm. The street has shops and squares, not to mention colorful buildings.
To the north, the Wallace Collection is one of London’s best small museums. It has everything from art to armor and an airy café that’s perfect for tea and cake.
But the high street is Marylebone’s real treat. Daunt Books is one of the most beautiful — and famous — bookstores in London, and visitors and locals alike come to see its interior.
West of Marylebone, Fitzrovia centers around Charlotte Street. It has culinary treats galore, and side streets like Rathbone Place are home to some of London’s best coffee (think Lantana). It’s also worth seeking out Crazy Bear, where the subterranean atmosphere is glam.
By the time you emerge from its underground glow, your day will be complete. But it will feel like you’ve spent more than a day, what with getting distinct experiences in each village. And given there are a lot more to see, you might want to extend your stay and explore the rest.
Originally from San Francisco, Julie Falconer moved to London in 2007 and runs A Lady in London, a blog about all things lovely London and beautiful travel.