Situated in the heart of London’s West End, Soho has been one of the capital's coolest destinations for more than 100 years. Ninety streets packed into one incredible square mile, Soho is the kind of place where there is always something exciting happening and you’ll never be short of things to see and do. A magnet for famous artists and writers, actors and musicians, Soho has attracted everyone from Karl Marx to The Sex Pistols over the years and remains a buzzing centre of activity today with hundreds of independent shops, creative businesses, bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Bordered by Mayfair, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, and Covent Garden, it’s the ideal base for exploring the capital and perhaps surprisingly, a secret nexus of outdoor fun thanks to some of London’s best markets and most beautiful green spaces. Walking the streets of Soho is an attraction and activity in itself (especially seeing how many celebrities you can spot!), but you may not have guessed how many leafy parks and buzzing outdoor markets are within easy reach. Here’s our ultimate guide.
Where else could we start than with Soho’s most famous and long-standing outdoor market? Dating back to 1778, it’s one of the oldest markets in London and a foodie destination par excellence. Packed with mouth-watering food stalls, many run by Soho restaurants, you’ll also find fresh produce stands, and there’s a Record Store Day street party every April if you happen to be staying in the area at the time. Vibrant and colourful, the historic Berwick Street Market is a true sensory experience and almost like a microcosm of Soho itself.
This historic green space couldn’t be more central in Soho and is just minutes from the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. With four symmetrical lawn areas, large trees, shrubs, and a mock-Tudor building at the centre of the square (used by the gardener, apparently!), it’s almost hard to imagine how this idyllic green space could exist so close to one of London’s busiest shopping streets. Soho Square dates all the way back to 1681 and is overlooked by a number of historic buildings. Back in the Second World War, this picturesque square was the site of an air-raid shelter to protect residents. These days it’s still helping people in the area by providing a little oasis of calm.
This iconic market got its memorable name for originally selling clothes and footwear and has existed in one form or another for more than 400 years. How’s that for history?! Today, Leather Lane Market has transformed itself into a hugely popular weekday street food market serving nearby Holborn, Farringdon, and Hatton Garden, as well as visitors from further afield. Alongside foodie delights, there are also more traditional market stalls with clothes, books, bargains, and bric-a-brac that harken back to London’s past. Overseen by the Friends of Leather Lane, the whole area has a joyous community atmosphere, whether you’re new to the area or not, and you’ll find it very welcoming. Be sure to check out the likes of Old Spitalfields Market, Portobello Road Market (the world’s largest antiques market), and Petticoat Lane Market if you’re looking for bargains and oddities too.
A picture-perfect community garden between Soho and Covent Garden in the heart of London’s West End, you’ll find Phoenix Garden tucked behind busy Charing Cross Road. Filled with greenery as well as frogs and sparrows, this beautiful spot has been uplifted thanks to the enthusiastic community conversation. Londoners may use this spot for lunch, but you can also use it as a green getaway seconds away from the bustling West End.
Famously open every Sunday rain or shine, Marylebone Farmers’ Market is shaped by an incredible array of fresh seasonal produce from butchers, bakers, farmers, and fishmongers. As the seasons change, so do the food stalls! From root veg and wild garlic in January and March, to strawberries and asparagus in May, apples and plums in August to game and celery in October and November, you’ll find the very best fruit, meat, and poultry, from the finest local producers at Marylebone Market. Since its opening in 2003, it has grown to become London’s biggest farmers’ market and is a veritable paradise for foodies. Look out for the market’s famous breakfast oysters and the iconic mushroom sandwich, courtesy of The Mushroom Table. You’ll find the nearest tube station at Baker Street when it’s time to head back to your hotel with a full stomach.
While there are many small, secret green spaces hidden across London, St James Park is exactly the opposite. It’s big, famous, and definitely not shy. St James Park and the serene lake at its centre are within easy reach if you’re staying in the Soho or Holborn area and can’t be beaten for spectacular views. London’s oldest Royal Park, St James Park offers tranquil green space, calming water features, and local wildlife, combined with landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the London Eye, above the treetops. For a very different kind of green experience, try St Dunstan-in-the-East, the beautifully overgrown ruin of a bombed-out medieval church, The Story Garden behind the British Library near King’s Cross, or Postman’s Park near St Paul’s Cathedral, which got its name from the postal workers who visit the green space on their lunch. It’s also dedicated to those who lost their lives saving others. You’ll find St Dunstan’s near Tower Hill and Monument station while for Postman’s Park the nearest tube is St Paul’s.
The granddaddy of London food markets. While this famous market isn’t exactly on the doorstep from Soho, it’s easy enough to reach next to London Bridge. And let’s face it, Soho is so central and so brilliantly located, it’s connected to everywhere. Borough Market is also definitely worth the journey if you love food. It’s said that the market has existed since 1014 (meaning it really is the granddaddy) and brings together world-class street food with the best seasonal produce and covered communal dining space, The Borough Market Kitchen. Also, look out for the lesser-known but highly recommended Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey for more foodie treats nearby. It’s Borough Market’s quieter, calmer cousin!
With so much to see and do outdoors in and around Soho, you’ll need a centrally located base to call home. The NYX Hotel London Holborn on Southampton Row is within walking distance of Soho and Covent Garden and just five minutes from Holborn tube station. Laidback and luxurious, it’s the ideal place to relax and decompress after a fun day out exploring Soho’s markets and green spaces. With delicious food and drinks, stylish surroundings, and a touch of added glamour, NYX Hotel London Holborn will make your London stay extra special.
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