Carnaby and Soho are a must when spending time in the capital – whether you’re a visitor from afar, or a Londoner playing tourist in your own city. One of London’s most famous districts, with a rich musical history rooted in the swinging sixties, these days the area is home to independent brands, experiential shopping, hidden-gem restaurants, and a thriving cultural scene, with a roster of events and exhibitions popping up across the famous streets all year round.
From eclectic boutiques and unmissable restaurants, to cutting edge beauty treatments and Soho’s original rock ‘n’ roll hotel, here’s how we spent a twenty-four hour staycation in Carnaby and Soho (and why you should too).
Start With Shopping
We’re all agreed that Carnaby is the centre of London’s shopping scene, but the sheer variety of unique stores is deserving of spending time in the area to truly explore them all. With over 100 international and British heritage labels, independent boutiques, one-off concepts, cult beauty emporiums, and bespoke jewellery specialists, there’s heaps of retail therapy to be had – and luckily, the best part about a staycation in Soho is that your hotel is never too far away to store your shopping haul.
We shopped at the likes of Annie’s Ibiza for a mix of eclectic, one-of-a-kind pieces loved by the likes of Rita Ora, Kate Moss and Maya Jama; Dunno Curated, for handpicked vintage apparel and hard-to-find trainers; and Stine Goya, a brand that’s driven by sustainability, inclusivity and (unusually for a Scandinavian brand) incredible colours and print.
For vinyl shopping, we also popped into Third Man Records, a retail store and live music venue conceptualised by Jack White. The coolest part? There’s an in-house recording studio with a vintage-style microphone and Fender Malibu where members of the public can record their own song straight to vinyl.
Sticking to the area’s musical theme and paying homage to its legendary past, one of our favourite stores is RS No. 9 Carnaby – the world-first flagship store from rock legends The Rolling Stones.
As well as exclusive clothing collections and branded accessories (think headphones, sunglasses and Baccarat Crystal x Rolling Stones wine glasses), the store is experiential retail at its finest. There’s album art on the changing room walls, a glass floor featuring the band’s lyrics, a red metal soundwave installation of ‘Paint It Black’, and tons of photo opportunities.
The best part about a Soho staycation? Your hotel is never too far away to store your shopping haul.
Check Out The Art Scene
It’s not all shopping though – the galleries, pop-ups and street art that pepper the area are another reason why Carnaby and Soho are world-renowned. Our favourite pop-up, the iconically pink TEA, has recently turned into a permanent fixture, set across three levels with a brand new aesthetic.
The gallery pays tribute to Sophie Tea Art’s history, even boasting a brand new NFT booth showcasing the artist’s latest venture into digital art. Similar to their previous Carnaby pop-ups, there are plenty of snap-worthy opportunities. Expect immersive rooms, dreamy aesthetics, beautiful art, and plenty of pics for the ‘gram.
Make A Pitstop At Zahter For Lunch
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to lunch options in Soho, but we’d go as far as saying that Zahter is our new favourite. Turkish cuisine and countertop seating in the heart of Carnaby, it’s one of those hidden foodie gems that’s hidden in plain sight, perfectly located for a post-shopping pitstop and a people-watching window seat.
Made for sharing, the menu is home to hot and cold mezzes and platters. To share between two, we opted for the Muhammara, a roasted red pepper dip with pide bread; Cop Sis, a lamb shishkebab served on pita bread; Tavuk, a platter of marinated chicken thigh, pide and spring onion; and woodfired potatoes – all of which were equally delicious, if slightly too much for lunch.
Utterly stuffed and suitably satisfied, it’s time for a facial.
Get Glowing At Skin Laundry
Ever wonder where A-lister celebs get their glow? This is it. A well-kept secret in Hollywood for years, Skin Laundry is changing the way we treat and transform our skin through safe and effective laser facials that rejuvenate skin cells, boost collagen production and improve clarity.
The appointment starts by meeting your registered nurse who’ll prep your skin, review your medical history, and perform your Signature Laser Facial. In just 15 minutes, the laser deep cleans below the first layer of skin, while stimulating collagen and blending discolouration. The whole appointment takes just 30 minutes and results are immediate – we had noticeably closed pores and reduced redness on skin that felt tighter and younger than it did on arrival. One of the best parts (which suits busy Londoners perfectly) is that there’s zero down time, which means you can pop down in the middle of the day and still have the ability to apply makeup for dinner that evening.
They also offer a skincare line with simplified daily essentials to help you achieve radiant skin at home so, naturally, we took some home with us.
Stroll The Iconic Streets After Dark
The winter nights are drawing in and that means London lights up earlier – and it wouldn’t be a trip to Carnaby without meandering beneath their famous signs and light installations.
There’s the iconic ‘Welcome To Carnaby Street’ arches that bookend the street, the giant Union Flag that shimmers with 30,000 red, white and blue shimmer discs, and the Ganton Street giant light bulb installation where you’ll witness 51 oversized light bulbs dangling from the sky in a rainbow of colours.
Indulge In Small Plates At Ember Yard
On a rainy night in Soho, there’s really nothing better than a cosy restaurant to hunker down in until late – even more so when that restaurant involves low-lit lighting, delicious tapas and a wine list.
Ember Yard is a new-style tapas bar, taking inspiration from Italian and Spanish techniques by cooking over charcoal and wood. Dishes are influenced by travels around Spain and Italy, resulting in a menu of cleverly curated tapas options, charcuterie and puddings. Share a selection of small plates next to the open plan kitchen and watch the glowing embers as your food cooks, or drink cocktails in the cosy bar below. It’s the perfect Soho date night spot.
Be A Cocktail Connoisseur At Nightjar
With an iconic reputation for breathing new life into forgotten cocktails, Nightjar’s Carnaby location doesn’t disappoint. A hidden basement bar just off Kingly Court, you’d be forgiven for missing it if you didn’t know what you were looking for (and if there wasn’t a lengthy queue of people outside hoping to get in). Book ahead, and you’ll go straight in to be seated in front of a live band. With a nightly schedule of jazz, blues, ragtime, funk and swing, you’ll never fall short of a great live music spot in Soho.
Helpful waiters guide you through the impressive menu, which is divided into four sections spanning the history of the cocktail, from Pre-Prohibition and Prohibition to Post-War, and Nightjar Signatures. Standout drinks were The Filmograph, a spicy and citrusy mix of cognac, rum, lime and ginger beer, topped with caramel popcorn served in a roll of film; and The Honeymoon – a decadent mix of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Grand Marnier Louis Alexandre liqueur, geranium leaf syrup, Nightjar forbidden fruit liqueur, Cynar, mead wine and fresh lemon.
Stay At Soho’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel
Bed down at Karma Sanctum Soho and expect hedonism at its finest as you channel your inner rockstar. Soho’s original rock ‘n’ roll hotel, the boutique hotel was designed as a home away from home for music industry insiders.
Open your ‘diamond’ encrusted door handle, and enter a sumptuous suite filled with edgy glamour, where every detail is catered for. Think only the most comfortable beds, LED-lit bathtubs, and a fully stocked bar. And when we say full, we really mean it – boasting full sized bottles of every spirit you can think of, including a £150 bottle of tequila that could perhaps make it too easy to get carried away with the rockstar lifestyle.
The hotel is also home to Wild Heart, an inventive restaurant where framed photos of rock legends line the walls and Japanese street food dishes line the menu. However the hotel’s best kept secret is its rooftop bar, boasting a 24/7 hot tub that hotel residents can use at their leisure. Fancy a 3AM dip under the stars?
Start The Next Day With A Bombay Breakfast
Is there ever a better way to start the day than with Dishoom’s famous Bacon Naan Roll? We think not (and it’s double bacon for us, thanks). Their famous dish is made up of smoked streaky bacon with cream cheese, tomato-chilli jam and coriander, wrapped in a freshly baked naan. You’ll also find other Indian-inspired breakfast staples like The Big Bombay with akuri, char-striped smoked streaky bacon, peppery Shropshire pork sausages, masala beans, grilled field mushrooms, grilled tomato and buttered, home-made buns.
Wash it down with a cup (or five) of chai tea and there really isn’t any better way to start your morning. The best part is that it’s refillable, so they’ll just keep ‘em coming until you’re simply about to explode. Just part of the reason why this is one of our favourite Carnaby breakfast spots.
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