The West End of London (commonly referred to as the West End) is an area of Central and West London in which many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues, including West End theatres, are concentrated.
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, Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, Shibuya in Tokyo, Sol in Madrid or the 8th arrondissement in Paris. 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.
Over time these cities came to form the centre of modern London, although each also kept its own distinct character and in a number of ways also their separate legal identity (for example, the City of London still has its own police force and is a distinct county).The City of London came to be a centre for the banking, financial, legal and professional sectors, while Westminster came to be closely associated with the leisure, shopping, commerce, and entertainment sectors, the government, and home to universities and embassies. The modern West End is closely associated with this latter area of central London.
Lying to the west of the historic Roman and medieval 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. It was also close to the royal seat of power at the Palace of Westminster (now home to Parliament), 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.
As the West End is a term used colloquially by Londoners and is not an official geographical or municipal definition, its exact constituent parts are up for debate. Westminster City Council's 2005 report Vision for the West End included the following areas in its definition of the West End: Covent Garden, Soho, Chinatown, Leicester Square, the shopping streets of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, the area encompassing Trafalgar Square, the Strand and Aldwych, and the district known as Theatreland. The Edgware Road to the north-west and the Victoria Embankment to the south-east were also covered by the document but were treated as "adjacent areas" to the West End.
According to Ed Glinert's West End Chronicles (2006) the districts falling within the West End are Mayfair, Soho, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Marylebone. By this definition, the West End borders Temple, Holborn and Bloomsbury to the east, Regent's Park to the north, Paddington, Hyde Park and Knightsbridge to the west, and Victoria and Westminster to the south.
One of the local government wards within the City of Westminster is called "West End". This covers a similar area that defined by Glinert: Mayfair, Soho, and parts of Fitzrovia and Marylebone. The population of this ward at the 2011 Census was 10,575.
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 and many types of legal services, which are concentrated primarily in the City of London. There are major concentrations of the following buildings and activities in the West End:
The annual New Year's Day Parade takes place on the streets of the West End.
The New West End Company (NWEC) is a business improvement district and runs services including street cleaning and security on Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street. NWEC also runs the Red Caps service.
London Underground stations in the West End include:
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