Sophie recommends you:
24 hours in Soho with W London
When the W Hotel offered me the truly #aspirational experience of spending time at their #London hotel, I couldn't pass it up. Situated between Chinatown and Soho (my new favourite part of the city), it is the perfect location for #shopaholics!
London is this huge boiling pot of cultures that is centuries old and iconic all around the world. It’s a huge maze of a place that is constantly buzzing with life and things to do/see/eat, so sometimes a trip there can be quite intimidating. I mean, where do you start??
London is this huge boiling pot of cultures that is centuries old and iconic ...
All the different boroughs have different things to offer to a tourist, but if you wish to visit the place and enjoy some of the top areas of central London like a local, then don’t rush your visit. Focus on one area and explore it till your feet bleed, and you’ll leave confident in the knowledge that you have thoroughly explored an area of the Big Smoke.
When I have the time to do so, I would rather get to know one area really well than have a teeny taste of a wide expanse of a city. I’ve been to London way too many times to count and it’s always been in that fashion; being taken to various venues or locations in a short amount of time, and confusingly catching tubes to get to a certain place then head off again. The layout of the city had become a huge mishmash of bars, pubs, shops and markets that I couldn’t piece together in my mind!
When I got the chance to stay at the stunning W London Hotel, which is nestled smack-bang in the centre of London, I knew that I didn't want to jam-pack too much into my weekend, but just explore the immediate area really well ... and live it up a bit for the weekend.
Hotel W London Leicester Square
Houses of Parliament Guided Tours
I don’t normally get the chance to sleep so centrally in London, so by George, I was going to make the most of it!
The W London Hotel is this sky-high, white, futuristic blob of a building that sits between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. Those are the two tube stations closest to it, but it also literally sits right on the border of Chinatown and Soho. I now truly believe that Soho is by far, my absolute favourite area of central London.
When I arrived, Leicester Square Garden was decked out in all its Christmassy festive glory with market stalls, crepe stands, a carousel, some kind of DJ playing a huge mash-up of Christmas songs and general crowds getting merry! London goes all out with Christmas decorations so it’s hard not to feel festive at this time of year.
London goes all out with Christmas decorations so it’s hard not to feel festive at this time of year
The entrance to W London is hidden around the corner from the main strip of Coventry Street. It looks like the posh entrance to some kind of glitzy high-flying nightclub as it’s all black with a huge glittery ‘W’, but it does make sense as W London is described as a ‘striking modern hotel with a party vibe’. So basically, a nightclub styled hotel that is full of design.
a ‘striking modern hotel with a party vibe’
By the way, the flagship store of chocolate M&M’s lies beneath the hotel so the outside smells of chocolate. That is pretty cool for any chocoholic!
After leaving my bags in the disco ball reception (my eyes took a while to adjust to the sleek black interiors), I struck out to see the shops. You can’t go to London and NOT go shopping.
You can't go to London and NOT go shopping
Start by wandering through Chinatown, peering into all the restaurant windows at the delicious Peking Duck and Dim Sum dumplings on offer. My mother used to take me here for Peking Duck when I was young so this area has great stuff-your-face-till-you-burst memories! I love Asian food and if you’re not in Asia, London is where you’ll taste some mind-blowing Asian cuisine!
You will soon find yourself in the streets and alleys of Soho which are so much fun to explore, but it’s quite easy to get turned around. My favourite streets are Berwick Street and Carnaby Street. They are stocked full of boutiques, vintage stores, cocktail bars, and underground cafes; I could live here forever!
Berwick Street market is crammed full of delicious bites to eat and fruit and veg. It’s been around for years and you’ll hear proper cockney accents as the stall owners call out to passer-bys.
Foxcroft and Ginger is a lovely café with flawless coffee and affordable bites to eat. Flat White is also a good cafe spot to perch on the outside benches and people watch with your… flat white.
Fabric stores galore are here, and for shopping you can explore many vintage wares and clothing shops; it’s a vintage shopper's paradise. I would highly recommend Beyond Retro for coats, dresses and fur trim hats (I once saw Noel Fielding in there!).
I also love Reign Wear as everything they stock is sourced from various places in Europe and they are either utterly cool or immensely beautiful. Walk the length of Berwick street to see a heap more cool places, and then you’ll be in throwing distance of the shopping emporium; Liberty’s. This huge department store can’t be missed as the building is so HUGE and eye-catching. It is stocked full of everything you can think of. From stationary to fragranced beauty products, to their iconic fabrics to luxurious clothing. I usually walk around touching things and sighing, before leaving with whatever token that is small and affordable.
From Liberty’s, walk a touch further and you’re at London’s shopping mecca; Oxford Circus and Oxford Street. I could spend a week and a half in the Oxford Circus Topshop flagship store. You can even get your hair done, your nails polished and your nose pierced as well as pick-up some lovely clothing. Their vintage section in here is great, although a heck of a lot pricier than the backstreets of Soho.
OK, ENOUGH SHOPPING!! Once I’d pounded the streets to the Nth degree, it was time to head back and check-in. It’s such a luxury not to have to travel far to get to your accommodation in London. My boyfriend had just flown into London from a solo surf trip in Morocco, and had encountered the epic flash floods that had devastated areas of the country. He was dirty, stinky and tired, so W London was this shining beacon of comfort! And comfort was exactly what we got.
Up on the 7th floor, we hauled our stuff into our ‘Fabulous’ Room. Immediately we were like, ‘Where the hell is the bathroom??”. It turns out that two of the many mirrored walls pull out to reveal a tucked-away toilet and a spacious rainforest shower room.
...to reveal ...a spacious rainforest shower room
All the surfaces were super shiny and glitzy making it feel like you were at the make-up counter of some deluxe shopping department! Of course this isn’t a negative aspect as the perfect lighting and mirrors means that make-up and pampering can easily be done.
No expense was spared in the fit-out; from the lovely designed chair to the funky lamp, and from the soft pillows to the range of reading material left out for you. Although we were on the 7th floor and were on the side facing out to Leicester Square, the way the windows are decorated for privacy means that you have to squint to see through the patterned dots to see a view. But hey, we weren’t here for the view so it was time to get out and about in Soho on a Saturday night.
First off, it really pays to think ahead and book a table at a restaurant that has rave reviews. W London offers a pretty special service called Whatever/Whenever. Press the special button on your room’s phone and you can request absolutely anything: “Nothing is too big or too small, just make it legal!”
You could, for example, request a range of vinyl records handpicked by DJ Annie Mac to be delivered to your room through Whatever/Whenever – W London boast the World’s first vinyl room service record collection, which is incredibly cool! I can imagine that celebs who stay here take full use of the Whatever/Whenever service… however we were failed when they couldn’t tell us about a cool Japanese restaurant in Soho that we could book a meal at.
Once your dinner reservation is in the bag, head down to the W Hotel Bar & Lounge for a cocktail. Dimly lit with fires and candles, it’s a great spot to sip a Gin Apple Sour with chilli & ginger.
As there’s Asian food galore in the vicinity, we forego W’s Spice Market Restaurant and hit up Dozo Sushi on Old Compton Street for some delicious food that was more in my price range. As we’d booked ahead, we flounced past the long-queue-out-the-door and spent way too long getting lost in their delicious menu! They have a huge range of sushi, sashimi, bento boxes and Dozo rolls so it’s hard to decide what to order when you’re real hungry. I ate the most amazing Bento Box ever, which had soft shell crab and teriyaki salmon.
Time for more cocktails (turning into a cocktail friend in London). My favourite place in Soho has to be Barrio Central on Poland Street. The atmosphere is always tip-top and it’s full of kitsch Mexican decor, picket fences and flowers. If you fancy a nibble here, they have a range of Mexican dishes, but their cocktails are fab! They do a freakin’ great mojito.
They do a freakin' great mojito
If it’s full to capacity (which happens often on the weekends) then head down the road to B-Soho: equally good cocktails that you can also get in a jug, a younger crowd and pizza on demand. Plus, they have live music which can either be a win or lose, depending on who’s got the mic.
By this time, it was pushing the wee hours of the morn and my wallet and willpower was weak. Stumbling back to W London (yay, no need for a tube or taxi!) had us weaving through the chaos that unleashes on the streets of London late on a weekend. You’ll see a huge queue for Wyld Bar by the entrance, as it’s a hot spot for disco dancers, but we zipped by and headed up to our little retreat.
My weekend in London was totally fabulous, and staying in one of the coolest areas of central London in a hip hotel really made it one to remember. The hangover the next day was pretty intense but breakfast in bed from the epic range of room service helped ease the pain… And so did another visit to Beyond Retro.
London was totally fabulous, and staying in one of the coolest areas of central London in a hip hotel really made it one to remember
As we left the reception with the disco balls winking farewell to us, I felt like I had had comfort and decadence whilst staying at the W London. I left the city with the feeling I’d had a star-studded weekend of luxury and extravagance; the way London should be experienced!
*All photographs by Sophie Saint. Many thanks to W London for the stay!