If you are heading to the West End this summer and hoping to discover the cultural variations that mutate from street to street, then it’s best done over two days in a strong pair of trainers and an affordable, ideally placed base from which to operate.

The Piccadilly Thistle isn’t glamorous, but it’s jolly good for the money and sits snugly in between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. The rooms are huge, the beds are large and extremely comfortable and the staff very friendly and helpful. Perfect. The next thing you need to know is that by walking the entire route you not only avoid escalators crammed with files of sneezing people, but are more likely to bump into the many free attractions the West End is offering this summer.

Balancing progress with tradition has always been the way in The West End. London has always been the world capital of cool and now, in the twenty first century, the West End is still pioneering and steering different trends and fashions whilst maintaining its unique, centuries old traditions and architecture. It’s hip to buy your books from centuries old bookstores; buy your wine from the same St James’ off licence as Napoleon 111 and Churchill; eat at the oldest hotel in London and then interact in the latest digital immersive public art platform - W1Curates - in a high-end designer clothes store on Oxford street.

Here, in The West End, heritage homes stand alongside modern apartments and family run stores stand alongside the most up to date cultural playground of pop ups, gigs and exhibitions. Whilst nurturing its past, when everything was ‘swinging’, the West End embraces new generations, new ideas and is constantly reinventing itself in the face of a fast moving world.

And in our fast moving world we have curators - people who facilitate both an audience and an artist to enable a piece of art to speak to its public. Powerful art is brought to the public - for free - in the colossal basement of Flannels on Oxford Street, a place where top design mingles with the most recent creations of media and fast moving technology such as VR, holography and digital projection. Flannels plays host to some of the world’s hottest talent - from artists and musicians to designers. Here, for July and August, the digital creations of KidEight - who went from graphic designer to building his own empire with NFTs - are on display.

This is a 360 degree immersive experience of graphically exquisite bright images with an apparent randomness that draws you into the world of colour and speed and sound. It’s mesmerising. The outside of the store uses the same medium of displaying moving art as a taster to what is inside. It is an Art not Ads approach.

Ham & High: The exterior of Flannels London store has been transformed into a public art exhibitionThe exterior of Flannels London store has been transformed into a public art exhibition (Image: Newsquest)

Then a walk along Bond Street, past the shops that none of us will ever really enter or, if allowed to enter, will never really buy anything, and you come to another, totally different art experience. The Royal Academy of Art is where art is created, displayed and debated and every summer champions the practice, appreciation and understanding of art by hosting an exhibition which spans everything from a seven year old’s take on black and silver acrylic chicken nuggets flying through the universe and an eerily realistic bust of Donald Trump watching you as you move through the room. It’s a fascinating, eclectic display of real art and very much worth a visit when you are passing down Piccadilly. Held every year since 1769, it is the world’s oldest submission exhibition and over 1000 pieces fill the galleries submitted by artists, celebrities and the public - not, however, Banksy or John Constable who both had their submissions rejected by the judging panel. Better luck next time, boys.

While the group of 38 artists and architects were laying the foundations of The Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 and George 111 was coughing up the money to fund it, John Hatchard was putting the finishing touches to his premises at number 187 Piccadilly and creating a bookstore which would open in 1797. Spanning two centuries, Hatchards Bookshop remains the same as it did when Queen Charlotte walked through the door - possibly looking for a Bridgertonesque type book - for her husband, George. Holding three Royal warrants from our modern royal family and with eight generations of customers, the shop is unique.

There is an excellent choice of new and older signed first editions scattered around the nooks and crannies of this literary labyrinth and a strong collection of books on Royalty and Churchill (Churchill: A Collection of Wit and Wisdom being the store’s biggest selling publication). Authors from all genres will pop in to sign books, browse and buy books themselves. This is five stories of browsing heaven connected by a beautiful spiral staircase that sweeps its way to the top floor and the excellent range of second hand editions both current and rare. You could spend a whole day here and the staff, who have clearly chosen this work as a vocation, will happily help, advise and spend quite some time guiding you to what you are looking for.

Ham & High: Hatchards is London's oldest bookshop, having been established in 1797 by John HatchardHatchards is London's oldest bookshop, having been established in 1797 by John Hatchard (Image: The Crown Estate)

Move further along Piccadilly and left down to St James’ and you will find the off-licence first opened as a coffee shop by Widow Bourne in 1698. Changing from a coffee house to wine and spirits merchants over the centuries, it now oversees six offices world wide. The original shop still occupies the same premises and retains the original decor and surroundings since that time. The floors are uneven in the original shop and the giant scales used to facilitate the popular eighteenth century trend of weighing yourself still exist. Imagine this. George 111 has supped his vast supply of wine in the underground, vaulted chambers of St James ‘ Palace and, like any young chap on a Friday night, is looking for more. He pops over the road to the local offie at Nos:3 St James’ Street and stocks up, then bestows the first Royal Warrant on Berry Bros. & Rudd. This shop where Napoleon 111 drank, in exile, planning his return to France and the Emperorship that awaited him, has a fascinating history. When Edward V11 was looking for something ‘special’ to overcome cold car journeys, Berry Bros. and Rudd came up with a new tonic - The King’s Ginger - which is still produced and sold today at the shop ( and Amazon ) for an affordable £29. Cheapest wines start at £8 and go right up into the thousands.

Ham & High: Berry Bros. & Rudd has a fascinating historyBerry Bros. & Rudd has a fascinating history (Image: Newsquest)

Fast forward just a hundred years to the architect John Nash with his vision of grandeur and neoclassical colonnades and you have the Regent Street of today. Marrying the traditions of this environment with their own unique culture are the design team behind Aesop, taking its name from the great storytelling Greek fable writer, revealing the story that lies behind each unique face. Customers can select from a complete range of vegan and botanical skin, hair and body products in a truly refined and gracious space with subdued and soft furnishings chosen for their patina and touch. Aesop’s dexterous facial therapists are trained and knowledgeable and you trust them straight away.

Across the road from the Piccadilly Thistle is Leicester Square where there is another free display of art in the form of bronze statues of famous film characters created to remind us that Leicester Square is the home of The Premiere. The statues are dotted randomly around the Square where children - and adults - stand proudly with Harry Potter, Mary Poppins and, a recent addition, Henry Jones Junior from Indiana Jones, to have their photograph taken. I actually ended up sitting on a bench next to a very friendly and polite bear from Peru. ‘In London,’ he whispered to me in the dulcet tone he used in That Jubilee Sketch, ‘everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in,’ (A Bear Called Paddington). Indeed they do.

Along from Leicester Square is Crepeaffaire. Situated in Cranbourne Street it is a really great spot to stop for a quick lunch of savoury pancakes and shakes and watch the hoards of people making their way to the Square or Chinatown. The pancakes are delicious, reasonably priced and fill the gap before dinner, which on this occasion was had at Aqua Kyoto on Argyll Street, just off Regent Street. In fact you can hear and see this street from the lovely rooftop terrace and bar. This is a Japanese restaurant with subtle lighting and impressive furnishings which bode well for a comfortable evening of sushi, tempura, wagyu, pan-fried duck breast, sour cherry teriyaki, truffle pak-choi & yukari veil. This innovative Japanese cuisine cooked over open fires in front of you is reasonably priced and affordable. With stunning views of London, a large seating area designed for cocktails and a pre-theatre menu, this is a perfect place to meet on any occasion but especially when heading off to one of London’s many theatre offerings.

There has to be at least one show in any itinerary concerning the West End, and we chose the wonderfully spirited Mamma Mia at The Novello. This funny ABBA musical contains the music that we all know and love and focuses on friendship, love and a search for identity. This is an extremely uplifting show. Crikey do you feel good coming out of this one.

Selfridges and the Brasserie of Light - a glass and mirror, double height style space which serves great food at reasonable prices is another trendy yet affordable place to eat. It has a sort of American diner feel to it with comfortable high chairs at high tables and staff dressed in monogrammed matching jackets. There is the busy noise of people meeting up for lunch and the sounds travel high up into the atrium and bounce off the glass roof that extends upwards through several floors.The range of food is excellent - we had avocado, sourdough, hollandaise eggs and duck breast with pak choi, which was all well prepared and tasted very good.

Finally, the Pearl of the West End. Brown’s Hotel, built in 1837 and the oldest hotel in London, sits graciously in Albemarle Street, Mayfair and dining at Charlie’s at Browns is a good and fitting way to end a West End jaunt. I always worry about this sort of venue. Is there a dress code? Will I have enough money for a starter and a main course? No and Yes. This five star, chic and elegant hotel is already at the top of its game and doesn’t need to set rules about the way people should look if they want to enjoy a taste of luxury. Neither is it expensive.

Ham & High: Dining at Charlie’s at Browns is a fitting way to end a West End jauntDining at Charlie’s at Browns is a fitting way to end a West End jaunt (Image: Rocco Forte Hotels)

In the opulent and luxurious newly decorated dining room wrapped in oak panelling bordered by exotic flowered wallpaper and birds that rise as an extension of the wood below, with tables well spaced to avoid the ‘bums on seats’ philosophy of other restaurants, I had a crab starter (£22) with sourdough bread and proper flakes of salted butter, followed by Baked Cornish Plaice and Brown Shrimp (£30) and a large sculptured portion of mash (£5). I’ve had takeaways that cost more. The food is just delicious. Our Maitre D’, Paul, made sure we were comfortable and unobtrusively ensured that our fine dining experience was a good one whilst filling us in with snippets of the hotel’s history. There’s something about a Maitre D’ that makes you feel you are the only person in their restaurant, and Paul, along with our waitress, did this with ultimate professionalism and expertise. I will always go back there whenever I am in The West End of London. You should, too.