London's West End is arguably the busiest area in the British capital. It's home to many theatres (Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera), famous tourist attractions (the British Museum, the National Gallery), retailers catering to all styles and budgets (Liberty, Marks & Spencer, Primark), and countless restaurants serving cuisines from all around the world (Chinatown is here too).
The east-west arterial road Oxford Street boasts more than 300 shops and claims to be the busiest shopping street in the whole of Europe. People may complain about the suffocating congestion in this part of town, but many still return regularly for the largest selection of anything you may possibly want or need - in shopping, entertainment, or gastronomy.
Art, however, is a much lesser known gem of the West End. For example on Bond Street, sandwiched between luxury retailers such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Tiffany, are a number of art galleries and auction houses with carefully curated exhibitions showcasing works by contemporary as well as traditional artists.
Just like most museums in London, these galleries are free and open to the public -- the only difference is that if you happen to fall in love with anything you see, you have the option to take it home (and tighten your belt for a few weeks... or months...or years!)
So, if you get tired of shopping in the West End or simply want to soak up some culture, why not pay a visit to some of the wonderful galleries listed below? In my experience they are almost never crowded (unless Banksy is the headliner), and I always discover amazing artists whose works are previous unknown to me. You can see some of my new favorites on my Instagram.
The West End art gallery scene is really like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're gonna get. :)
Halcyon Gallery - 144-146 New Bond St, London W1S 1SN
Opera Gallery - 134 New Bond St, London W1S 2TF
Richard Green - 147 New Bond Street, London W1S 2TS
Hauser & Wirth Gallery - 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET
Annely Juda Fine Art - 23 Dering Street, London W1S 1AW
Beaux Arts - 48 Maddox Street, London W1S 1AY
Blain|Southern - 21 Dering Street, London W1S 1AL
The Fleming Collection - 13 Berkeley Street, London W1J 8DU
Sotheby's - 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA
Bonhams - 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR
* Here's a useful interactive map of art gallery hotspots in London, courtesy of the Guardian.