Soho is one of the most buzzing areas of London. It doesn’t have a lot of big sights to pull in the tourists, but it’s a must-visit if you want to try some of London’s best bars and restaurants – or, in our case, some of London’s more unusual and fun bars and restaurants. And, if that wasn’t fun enough, tucked around those are a few unusual Soho sights to check out. You might not book your trip to London solely for these unusual things to do in Soho (and nearby), but you will have some fun if you try them while you’re there.
1. Have a Booby Cocktail
Circolo Popolare is a Sicilian restaurant run by the Parisian Big Mamma team. It’s incredibly beautiful with leafy plants hanging from the ceiling and walls lined with over 20,000 bottles of booze – but what suddenly grabbed my attention away from the prettiness and pizzas was the sight of a pair of boobs with a straw in them being carried past our table.
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A quick look at the cocktail menu told me it was called the Look Me in The Eyes, it contains a blend of three different rums, almond hibiscus syrup, Triple Sec, lime and maracuja.
They also have a mermaid tail glass and a Little Mermaid painted glass I now need in my life. Should you wish to splash out, and have friends, 60 will buy you a giant booze packed strawberry and four straws.
You’ll find the restaurant at 40-41 Rathbone Place, slightly north of Soho Square. Technically, this means Circolo Popolare is in Fitzrovia, not Soho, but I’m not writing a post on Fitzrovia, and it’s super pretty so it’s staying in here!
2. Try a Gold Eclair
Patisserie Maitre Chou stopped me in my tracks as I wandered down Old Compton Street – a pretty impressive feat in a road full of shops selling small leather shorts with studs on, but oh my goodness they are pretty.
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And, even better, they are definitely not style over substance. My gold-covered stick was full of light fluffy pastry and filled with the most wonderful hazelnut cream.
At £7 each, they are pretty spendy but soooo good.
They also do savoury eclairs with toppings like feta and tomato or chicken and avocado if you’re looking for something really different to try. The official address is 60 Dean Street which is the corner of Dean and Old Compton.
3. Go See the Giant Plug
Way up high on the corner of Marshall and Ganton streets is this giant plug. I do not know how many times I must have walked around this corner and not spotted this – it’s been there for years apparently! How? How have I not noticed it considering it’s huge and surrounded by glowing lights!
4. Find The Seven Noses of Soho
This is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Soho.
Mystery surrounds exactly how these appeared stuck all over the centre of London but there are seven noses to be found in Soho (well, technically one is in Endell Street in Covent Garden).
For more clues on where to find them, check out my post on Hidden London. The D’Arblay Street nose is notoriously hard to find but I did get it on this trip….I think.
5. Pay Homage to Kirsty MacColl
This British singer and songwriter was killed in a speedboat accident in Mexico in the year 2000 but her memory lives on in the form of a bench in Soho Square marked with some of her lyrics.
And if you don’t think you know who MacColl is, that probably isn’t the case. If you’re from a country that plays Xmas tunes, chances are you have sung along with her at least once….she’s the female voice, alongside Shane McGowan of The Pogues on Fairytale of New York.
If you’re interested in hearing more, head onto YouTube and check out her cover of Billy Bragg’s New England (one of my favourite karaoke songs), They Don’t Know and Terry.
On a sunny day, this is one of the nicest open spaces in Soho to hang about it – and you’ll see heaps of locals out trying to catch some sun – particularly at lunchtime.
6. Detour into St Anne’s Court
There’s not a lot of street art in Soho, but a small corner in St Annes Court off Wardour Street is home to a few cool pieces. There’s a blue piece by Invader, famous for his tiled work, some cool paste-ups and, a red snail shell
The snail shells are a feature of the work of street artist Dr Cream called Rollin Fool – and it’s actually not a snail itself, but a jester-like figure doing forward rolls that kind of turns into a snail shell as he does them (look, that’s the best way I can describe it – the video here does a better job).
You’ll find the jester all over London in a variety of different rolling poses so keep an eye out for him.
7. Check out Some Music History
St Anne’s Court also used to be home to Trident Studios, where some of the most famous songs of all time have been recorded. The Blue plaque on the building honours David Bowie who recorded Space Oddity here, but a typed list in the window also talks about some of the other favourites including Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Crocodile Rock by Elton John.
Once upon a time, St Anne’s Court also used to be home to the record company of singer Marc Almond (from Soft Cell) and I spent more time than I would like to admit in my goth years hanging out in this alley waiting for my idol to appear.
Oh and talking of Bowie, you’ll also find another plaque to him fairly near Soho. 23 Heddon Street off Regent Street is where the cover of the album Ziggy Stardust was photographed. There’s a black plaque at the exact spot.
If music is your thing, you might also want to check out The Beatles London Walking Tour which takes place around Soho. Apparently, the term Beatlemania was coined after the group appeared at the London Palladium. This tour talks about the links to the group in this area – but also, covers a lot of other of Soho’s rock history. Click to see more about it here.
There’s also the more adult-orientated Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll bus tour that covers the history of some of Soho’s most famous music venues, nips up to Camden former stomping ground of Amy Winehouse and other stars – and ends up at the legendary Abbey Road pedestrian crossing.
8. Go the Harry Potter Shop
The House of Minalima is a shop dedicated to all things Harry Potter. The ground floor is souvenir central but the upper three floors contain all manner of cool artwork and props from the movies.
I particularly liked the fireplaces full of envelopes all addressed to a certain Mr H Potter of Privet Drive.
If you love Harry Potter, you might also want to check out one of London’s Harry Potter tours that take you to filming sights for the movies and places that inspired sights like Diagon Alley in the books. Click to check out one of the most popular Harry Potter tours here.
9. Get Gruesome on the Murder Mile Tour
East London might be famous for Jack the Ripper, but Soho has its own cast of murderous characters – including serial killer Dennis Neilson – all of whom you’ll learn about in this two-hour Sunday walk around Soho.
It covers 18 of Soho’s murders – which include gangland killings, love stories gone wrong – and, the story of the Blackout Ripper who may even have killed more people than the infamous Jack.
Tour leader Michael is knowledgable and funny and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the hidden history of buildings I must have walked past hundreds of times..
You’ll never look at the Golden Lion pub on Dean Street in the same way again. See more and book the tour here.
10. Go on a Pub Crawl
Apparently there are 43 pubs in Soho, so, how do you know which are any good?
Well, you could get a feel for things by taking a pub tour.
One tour takes place on Sunday lunchtime and visits four popular Soho, Chinatown and Covent Garden watering holes and ends p with a fish and chip lunch (5 small beers and lunch are included in the price). Click here to check times and availability.
If you’d rather keep the cost down and buy your own drinks, then this afternoon tour also checks out five Soho pubs – you’ll also learn all about the area’s history from Karl Marx to Bowie.
11. Get Your Barbie On at The Friendly Society
This has to be Soho’s most fabulous decorated bar and it was here long before many of the quirky chains like Mr Foggs.
Walk down the stairs and you’ll be greeted gnomes, disco balls, Barbies, Kens and probably a screening of the Sound of Music on the walls (sadly with the sound off!).
Hidden in tiny Tisbury Court, this is in the middle of Soho’s gay area and it is a gay bar, but, as their name suggests, they’re friendly to all…please be nice back.
12. Check out the Art Loo
It’s only open to the general public on a few special days of the year but this toilet in St Anne’s Churchyard displays a mini art exhibition within its walls.
At night the railings outside turn into an art piece called The Wall of Light.
The tables and chairs in the gardens were also specially designed to encourage groups and parties into what was once a no go area in Soho.
13. Treat Yourself to an Alternative Ice Cream
There’s a couple of fun ice cream shops in Soho.
Gelupo on Archer Street have a reputation for getting a bit creative with their flavours – at one point they were selling cannabis oil ice cream. Whereas Yorica at 130 Wardour Street is the place to stop if you want vegan or dairy-free ice cream blends.
If chocolate is your sweet treat of choice then Choccywoccydodah on xxx should be your first port of call – it’s the most amazing shop and the milkshakes are amazing.
14. Step Back in Time at Cahoots
No guide to unusual things to do in London is complete without a mention of this 1940s themed bar created to look like an underground train. It’s immensely popular so do try and book in advance if you can – and when you get there, don’t forget to tell them that you’re there to see The Captain.
Their popularity has led to the opening of their sister venture opposite, the Ticket Hall and Control Room. Check them both out here.
15. See The Walking Girl
This piece of art by Julian Opie is on the corner of Broadwick Street and Carnaby Street. It’s officially known as Shaida Walking. The local business group have competitions to try and work out how far she’s walked since she arrived in 2016.
16. Say Thanks To John Snow
No, not the brooding one in the furry cape, but the one who saved London from cholera.
Snow was an anesthesiologist and when cholera broke out in London he suspected that water to was to blame. Specifically, the stuff coming from this water pump on Broadwick Street. He broke off the handle, and the outbreak stopped.
The pump has moved a bit from its original location but it’s close enough… the local pub is also named after Snow which is appropriate as one reason that Snow narrowed down the source was because none of the local brewery workers who drank beer rather than water had gotten sick.
If you’re interested in the history of Soho, this tour by Babylon Tours covers the cholera outbreak and lots of more of Soho’s rich history. Check out times and booking details here
17. Try Quirky Cocktails at the Blind Pig
This cocktail bar located above the chic Social Eating House at 58 Pollen Street has a seriously inventive cocktail list – and they like to have some fun with it.
The menu changes by season but the day I went, the quirkiest one on the menu was the tequila-based 5-A-Day complete with added jelly worms.
And yes, I know there are even more bars than normal in this post, but hey – that’s Soho.
Where to Stay in Soho
Staying in a hotel in the middle of Soho is never going to be cheap so why not push the boat out and stay at The Soho Hotel.
It couldn’t be better located. The bar is lovely – and every time I’ve been in there I’ve seen a celebrity. David Mitchell from Peepshow held the door open for me once! Okay, so it’s not Brad Pitt, but I was impressed by his manners!
If that’s a bit too spendy, you might want to look at the Karma Sanctum Soho which just steps away from Regent Street. I’ve been to an event on the rootop here and it’s a lovely place to chill out on a summer evening. It seems they have a hot tub up there now too.
I might also be a little bit obsessed with the sparkly underlights around the baths in some of the rooms! Click to see those – and check rates and availability.
I admit I was a bit surprised to see that there’s a hostel right in the middle of Soho. But there is and it’s smack bang in the middle of Dean Street. They have dorm rooms – or, if you’re like me and sharing a room with anyone is just not happening, they also have private doubles for a very cheap price considering the location. Click here to see what’s available for your dates.
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