West End of London

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Piccadilly Circus, the heart of the West End

The West End of London (more commonly referred to as simply the West End) is an area of Central London containing many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues (including the commercial West End theatres).

The use of the term 'West End' began in the early 19th century to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross.[1] For strategic planning, the area is identified as one of two international centres in the London Plan.[2] The West End is a large area, combining the boroughs of Westminster and Camden, which had a population of 468,138 in 2014.

While the City of London or the Square Mile is the main business and financial district in London, the West End is the main commercial and entertainment centre of the city. It is the largest central business district in the United Kingdom, comparable to Midtown Manhattan in New York City, the Shibuya district in Tokyo, Sol in Madrid or the 8th arrondissement in Paris and EUR in Rome . It is one of the most expensive locations in the world in which to rent office space, just behind Silicon Valley's Sand Hill Road.[3]


Lying to the west of the historic Roman and Mediaeval City of London, the West End was long favoured by the rich elite as a place of residence because it was usually upwind of the smoke drifting from the crowded City.[4] It was also close to the royal seat of power at Westminster, and is largely contained within the City of Westminster (one of the 32 London boroughs).

Developed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, it was originally built as a series of palaces, expensive town houses, fashionable shops and places of entertainment. The areas closest to the City around Holborn, Seven Dials, and Covent Garden historically contained poorer communities that were cleared and redeveloped in the 19th century.

The name "West End" is a flexible term with different meanings in different contexts. It may refer to the entertainment district around Leicester Square and Covent Garden; to the shopping district centred on Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Bond Street; or, less commonly, to the whole of that part of central London (itself an area with no generally agreed boundaries) which lies to the west of the City of London.

Ward of the City of Westminster

One of the local government wards within the City of Westminster is called 'West End'. This covers a far more narrow definition of Mayfair, Soho, and parts of Fitzrovia and Marylebone. However, in the United Kingdom, ward boundaries are generally familiar only to people involved in local politics and administration, and this ward carries little weight as an 'official' definition of the West End, and is not intended to do so.


Taking a fairly broad definition of the West End, the area contains the main concentrations of most of London's metropolitan activities apart from financial services, which are concentrated primarily in the City of London. There are major concentrations of the following buildings and activities in the West End:

  • Art galleries and museums
  • Company headquarters outside the financial services sector (although London's many hedge funds are based mainly in the West End)
  • Educational institutions
  • Embassies
  • Government buildings (mainly around Whitehall)
  • Hotels
  • Institutes, learned societies and think tanks
  • Legal institutions
  • Media establishments
  • Places of entertainment: theatres; cinemas; nightclubs; bars and restaurants
  • Shops

The annual New Year's Day Parade takes place on the streets of the West End.


Using the broadest definition, these are the inner districts of the West End, which were all developed by about 1815:

The districts to the south, north and west of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens were developed between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the late 19th century, in some cases based on existing villages. The more fashionable of them were generally regarded as being in the West End at that time, but the extension of the term to these areas west of Park Lane is less common nowadays. The last two listed especially are fringe cases:

Notable streets

Notable squares and circuses

The West End is laid out with many notable public squares and circuses, the latter being the original name for roundabouts in London.



The City of Westminster operates the Charing Cross Library with the Westminster Chinese Library.[5][6]

There are primary schools in Soho (Soho Parish Primary) and Mayfair (Saint George's of Hanover Square).


  1. Mills, A., Oxford Dictionary of London Place Names, (2001)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Greater London Authority, The London Plan: The Sub Regions
  3. "Venture Capital: Sand Hill Road Rules the Valley". Bloomberg News. 4 December 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Robert O. Bucholz and Joseph P. Ward: London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012, p. 333
  5. "Charing Cross Library." City of Westminster. Retrieved on 21 January 2009.
  6. "Westminster Chinese Library." City of Westminster. Retrieved on 21 January 2009. Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine

External links

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