If you travel to central London, in the City of Westminster, you will find the area that has been the centre of night life and the sex industry for the last 200 years. Soho has earned a solid reputation since the late 1800s when writers, poets and artists began to populate the area and music halls, theatres and working girls moved in. They were attracted by the large amount of cheap eateries and diverse characters, but soon were seduced by the public houses and caused the local landlords to flourish. Most of the creative types failed to achieve success as they were not sober for long enough; folklore says that from the 1930s, all of the pubs were packed full of drunkards every night.
Since the 1980s, Soho has become much more upmarket with the introduction of offices and restaurants, yet it has maintained its thriving nightlife. There are still several cafes and bars that are open all night, giving the area a party atmosphere.
It is said that Soho inherited its name from hunters, when the area was historically a hunting ground. When riding out into the field, they would cry ‘So ho!’. When the district was first built up, it was a rich residential area; however, all of these families moved out after the outbreak of Cholera in 1854. A water pump still remains as a landmark dedicated to Dr John Snow, who identified it as the source of the disease.
Soho is bordered by Regent Street, Oxford Street and Leicester Square – each a popular commercial area drawing many tourists on a daily basis. Oxford street offers many high street clothing stores, whilst Regent street is more upmarket and expensive. Leicester Square is home to several theatres, cinemas, restaurants and bars. On the edge of Soho is Chinatown, an area which has claimed to be in several different areas of London over the years but has now settled on Gerrard Street. Vibrant street festivals take place throughout these streets, particularly during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
There has been a strong music scene in Soho since the early 1950s, especially for jazz and blues in the beginning. Cafes began to branch out into poetry and other styles of music, kept alive by the prevalence of creative types frequenting the area.
Today, Soho is a residential area for both the rich and poor, as well as providing commerce, entertainment and culture. The population is diverse and multicultural, and also attracts a large amount of homosexuals due to the gay village in the west of Soho. The red light district is still prominent, though not as much as it was back in the early 1900s when working girls filled the streets. Soho’s is still famous for the thriving industry it once housed, with endless strip joints, brothels and showgirls. Combined with the drunken poets, artists and writers Soho once was a haven for debauchery, but now any illicit goings on that remain are conducted much more discreetly.
People still travel from all over the UK to visit the infamous red light district; if you know where to look, every need can still be met. However, people now also visit Soho for the culture, the art and the general night life. Soho is easily accessible from London Underground, with tube stations at nearby Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus. There are also buses and taxis lining the busy roads.