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Piccadilly Circus is a famous road junction and public space of London's West End in the City of Westminster, built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with the major shopping street of Piccadilly. In this context a circus, from the Latin word meaning a circle, is a circular open space at a street junction. [1]Coordinates: 51°30′36″N 0°8′4″W / 51.51°N 0.13444°W / 51.51; -0.13444

It now links directly to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue as well as the Haymarket, Coventry Street (onwards to Leicester Square), and Glasshouse Street. The Circus is close to major shopping and entertainment areas in the heart of the West End. Its status as a major traffic-intersection has made Piccadilly Circus a busy meeting place and a tourist attraction in its own right.

The Circus is particularly known for its video display and neon signs mounted on the corner building on the northern side, as well as the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue of an archer popularly known as Eros (sometimes called The Angel of Christian Charity, but intended to be Anteros). It is surrounded by several noted buildings, including the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre. Directly underneath the plaza is Piccadilly Circus London Underground station.

Contents

History

Piccadilly Circus in 1896, with a view up Shaftesbury Avenue. London Pavilion is on the right, and the Shaftesbury memorial fountain on the left.
Piccadilly Circus in 1949.
Piccadilly Circus in 1896, with a view towards Leicester Square via Coventry Street. London Pavilion is on the left, and Criterion Theatre on the right.
Piccadilly Circus in 1962.

Piccadilly Circus connects to Piccadilly, a thoroughfare whose name first appeared in 1626 as Pickadilly Hall, named after a house belonging to one Robert Baker, a tailor famous for selling piccadills or piccadillies, a term used for various kinds of collars. The street was known as Portugal Street in 1692 in honour of Catherine of Braganza, the queen consort of King Charles II of England, but was known as Piccadilly by 1743. Piccadilly Circus was created in 1819, at the junction with Regent Street, which was then being built under the planning of John Nash on the site of a house and garden belonging to a Lady Hutton. The circus lost its circular form in 1886 with the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue.

The junction has been a very busy traffic interchange since construction, as it lies at the centre of Theatreland and handles exit traffic from Piccadilly, which Charles Dickens, Jr (Charles C. B. Dickens, son of Charles Dickens) described thusly in 1879: "Piccadilly, the great thoroughfare leading from the Haymarket and Regent-street westward to Hyde Park-corner, is the nearest approach to the Parisian boulevard of which London can boast."

The Piccadilly Circus tube station was opened March 10, 1906 on the Bakerloo Line, and on the Piccadilly Line in December of that year. In 1928, the station was extensively rebuilt to handle an increase in traffic.

The intersection's first electric advertisements appeared in 1910, and from 1923 electric billboards were set up on the facade of the London Pavilion. Traffic lights were first installed in August 3, 1926 at the junction.

At the start of the 1960s, it was determined that the Circus needed to be redeveloped to allow for greater traffic flow. In 1962, Lord Holford presented a plan which would have created a "double-decker" Piccadilly Circus, with a new pedestrian concourse above the ground-level traffic. This concept was kept alive throughout the rest of 1960s, before eventually being killed off by Sir Keith Joseph and Ernest Marples in 1972; the key reason given was that Holford's scheme only allowed for a 20% increase in traffic, and the Government required 50%.

The Holford plan is referenced in the short-form documentary film "Goodbye, Piccadilly", produced by the Rank Organisation in 1967. Piccadilly Circus has since escaped major redevelopment, apart from extensive ground-level pedestrianisation around its south side in the 1980s.

The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus was erected in 1893, to commemorate the philanthropic works of Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. During the Second World War, the statue atop the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was removed, and was replaced by advertising hoardings. It was returned in 1948. When the Circus underwent reconstruction work in the late 1980s, the entire fountain was moved from the centre of the junction at the beginning of Shaftesbury Avenue to its present position at the south-western corner.

A panoramic view of Piccadilly Circus from the southern side in front of Lillywhites.

Location and sights

Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by several major tourist attractions, including the Shaftesbury Memorial, Criterion Theatre, London Pavilion and several major retail stores. Numerous nightclubs and bars are located in the area and neighbouring Soho, including the former Chinawhite club.

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Neon signs

Neon signs of Piccadilly Circus by day.
Neon signs of Piccadilly Circus by night.
The Ballet of Change: Piccadilly Circus screening on the Coca-Cola Billboard, 19:30 Friday 23rd November 2007

Piccadilly Circus used to be surrounded by illuminated advertising hoardings on buildings, starting in the early 1900s, but only one building now carries them, the one in the north-western corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Glasshouse Street. The site is unnamed (usually referred to as Monico after the Café Monico which used to be on the site); its addresses are 44/48 Regent Street, 1/6 Sherwood Street, 17/22 Denman Street and 1/17 Shaftesbury Avenue, and has been owned by property investor Land Securities Group since the 1970s.

The earliest signs used incandescent light bulbs, these were replaced with neon lamps, as well as moving signs (there was a large Guinness clock at one time). From December 1998 digital projectors were briefly used for the Coke sign [1], while the early 2000s have seen a gradual move to LED displays. The number of signs has reduced over the years as the rental costs have increased.

As of 2008, the site has six illuminated advertising screens above three large retail units, facing Piccadilly Circus on the north side, occupied by Boots, and GAP and a mix of smaller retail, restaurant and office premises fronting the other streets. A Burger King located under the Samsung advert which had been previously a Wimpy Bar until the late 1980s had closed in early 2008 and has now been converted into a Barclays Bank.

Coca-Cola has had a sign at Piccadilly Circus since 1955. The sign dates from September 2003, when the previous digital projector board and the site formerly occupied by Nescafé was replaced with a state-of-the-art LED video display that curves round with the building. On November 23, 2007 the very first film was broadcast through the board. Paul Atherton's film The Ballet of Change: Piccadilly Circus was allowed five minutes to show the first non-commercial film depicting the history of Piccadilly Circus and the lights. The former Nescafé advert site had also been occupied by a neon advertisement for Fosters until about 1999 and for three months in 2002 between the display of the Nescafé advert and the enlarged Coca Cola advert this part of Piccadilly Circus had featured the quote "Imagine all the people living life in peace" by Beatle John Lennon. This was paid for by his wife Yoko Ono who spent an estimated £150,000 to display an advert at this location. [2]

Sanyo's sign is the oldest out of the six, having been installed in the late 1980s and remaining unchanged ever since. However, earlier Sanyo signs with older logos have occupied that position since at least 1980.

TDK replaced the space formerly occupied by Kodak in 1990. Their sign has remained almost unchanged since, although in 2001 the colour of the background lamps were changed from green to blue, and the words 'Audio & Video Tape' and 'Floppy Disks' under the logo was removed.

McDonald's added a sign in the mid-1980s, replacing one for BASF. In 2001 the sign was changed from neon to an animated LED screen, which was further changed to a bigger, brighter LED screen in 2008.

Samsung replaced a sign for Panasonic in November 1994 [3], and the sign was upgraded from neon to LED in 2005.

Piccadilly Lite was added on 3 December 2007, placed under the Samsung and McDonald's signs. This is an LED screen that allows other companies to advertise for both short and long term leases, increasing the amount of advertising space but using the same screen for multiple brands. It replaced Budweiser. [4]

The British mobile telephony company Vodafone used to have a neon sign installed on the roof of Coventry House, which diagonally faces Piccadilly Circus. In addition to the logo of the company, the sign displayed personal messages that could be submitted on a special website and displayed at a certain time and date. As of February 2007, this has been replaced by a new, larger LED video-advertising display for LGE, the British arm of South Korean electronics group LG. The new display also incorporates a scrolling ticker of Sky News headlines.

On special occasions the lights are switched off, such as the deaths of Winston Churchill in 1965 and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. On 21 June 2007 they were switched off for 1 hour as part of the Lights Out London campaign.[2]

Shaftesbury Memorial and the Statue of Anteros

Piccadilly Circus memorial fountain, with Anteros, popularly referred to as Eros or sometimes The Angel of Christian Charity, one of the first statues to be cast in aluminium.

At the south-western side of the Circus, moved after World War II from its original position in the centre, stands the Shaftesbury Monument Memorial Fountain, erected in 1892-1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, who was a famous Victorian politician and philanthropist.

The monument is topped by Alfred Gilbert's winged nude statue of an archer, sometimes referred to as The Angel of Christian Charity and popularly known as Eros after the mythical Greek God of Love. The statue has become a London icon: a graphical illustration of it is used as the symbol of the Evening Standard newspaper, and appears on its masthead.

The use of a nude figure on a public monument was controversial at the time of its construction, but it was generally well-received by the public. The Magazine of Art described it as, "...a striking contrast to the dull ugliness of the generality of our street sculpture, ... a work which, while beautifying one of our hitherto desolate open spaces, should do much towards the elevation of public taste in the direction of decorative sculpture, and serve freedom for the metropolis from any further additions of the old order of monumental monstrosities."

The statue was the first in the world to be cast in aluminium and is set on a bronze fountain, which itself inspired the marine motifs that Gilbert carved on the statue.

The statue is generally believed to depict Eros, but was intended to be an image of his twin brother, Anteros, as confirmed by the contemporary records of Westminster City Council. The sculptor Alfred Gilbert had already sculpted a statue of Anteros, and when commissioned for the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, chose to reproduce the same subject, who as 'The God of Selfless Love' was deemed to suitably represent the philanthropic 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. Gilbert described Anteros as portraying 'reflective and mature love, as opposed to Eros or Cupid, the frivolous tyrant.' The model for the sculpture was Gilbert's studio assistant, a 16 year-old Italian, Angelo Colarossi (born 1875).[3]

Where Anteros originally pointed his bow is the subject of two urban myths. The first is that the Archer is aiming up Shaftesbury Avenue. Sometimes the story goes that this was a visual pun to commemorate the great philanthropist. If the archer were to release his arrow, its shaft would bury itself in Shaftesbury Avenue. The other is that the arrow is pointing to the Earl's country seat in Wimborne Saint Giles, Dorset. However the 1896 photographs (on this page) of the circus taken only three years after the statue’s erection clearly shows the arrow pointing in a different direction down Lower Regent Street aptly towards Parliament. This proven by the position relative to the statue of Shaftesbury Avenue, the London Pavilion and the Criterion Theatre.

When the memorial was unveiled, there were numerous complaints. Some felt it was sited in a vulgar part of town (the theatre district) and others felt that it was too sensual as a memorial for a famously sober and respectable Earl. Some of the objections were tempered by renaming the statue as The Angel of Christian Charity, which was the nearest approximation that could be invented in Christian terms for the role Anteros played in the Greek pantheon. However the name never became widely known, and the original name came back, erroneously under the shortened form Eros, signifying the God of Sensual Love; quite inappropriate to commemorate the Earl, but just right to signify the carnal neighbourhood of London, into which Soho had developed.

Criterion Theatre

The Criterion Theatre, a Grade II* listed building, stands on the south side of Piccadilly Circus. Apart from the box office area, the entire theatre, with nearly 600 seats, is underground and is reached by descending a tiled stairway. Columns are used to support both the dress circle and the upper circle, restricting the views of many of the seats inside.

The theatre was designed by Thomas Verity and opened as a theatre on March 21, 1874, although original plans were for it to become a concert hall. In 1883 it was forced to close to improve ventilation and to replace gaslights with electric lights, and was reopened the following year. The theatre closed in 1989 and was extensively renovated, reopening in October 1992.

London Pavilion

On the north-eastern side of Piccadilly Circus, on the corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street, is the London Pavilion. The first building bearing the name was built in 1859, and was a music hall. In 1885, Shaftesbury Avenue was built through the former site of the Pavilion and a new London Pavilion was constructed, which also served as a music hall. In 1923, electric billboards were erected on the side of the building.

Facade of the London Pavilion in 2002.

In 1934, the building underwent significant structural alteration, and was converted into a cinema. In 1986, the building was rebuilt, preserving the 1885 facade, and converted into a shopping arcade. In 2000, the building was connected to the neighbouring Trocadero Centre, and signage on the building was altered in 2003 to read "London Trocadero." The basement of the building connects with Piccadilly Circus tube station.

Major shops

The former Zavvi (formerly known as Virgin Megastore) flagship store, previously owned by Tower Records was located at Number 1 Piccadilly before it went into administration. Number 1 Piccadilly is empty, the unit is located on the west side between Regent Street and Piccadilly, directly facing Piccadilly Circus. Before being Tower Records this was the location of the Swan and Edgar department store. In June 2009, it was revealed by the current leaseholders of 1 Piccadilly Circus (Standard Life Investments) that the new retail tenant for the place will be The Sting, a fashion department store popular in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. They plan to open in Spring 2010.[5]

Lillywhites is a major retailer of sporting goods located on the south side, next to the Shaftesbury fountain. It moved to its present site in 1925. Lillywhites is popular with tourists and they regularly offer sale items, including international football jerseys up to 90% off. Nearby Fortnum and Masons is often considered to be part of the Piccadilly Circus shopping area and is known for its expansive food halls.[4]

Underground station and the Piccadilly Line

Inside Piccadilly Circus tube station.

The Piccadilly Circus station on the London Underground is located directly beneath Piccadilly Circus itself, with entrances at every corner. It is one of the few stations which have no associated buildings above ground and is fully underground. It is itself a Grade 2 listed building.

The station is on the Piccadilly Line between Green Park and Leicester Square, and the Bakerloo Line between Charing Cross and Oxford Circus.

Metronet, until 2008 one of the two private maintenance companies for the London Underground under a public-private partnership arrangement, refurbished Piccadilly Circus station with work starting in March 2005 and completed in spring of 2007. Major improvements included new floor and wall finishes, a new CCTV system, new help points, a new public address system, new electronic information displays and clocks, improved platform seating, waterproofing measures, measures to assist visually impaired passengers and improved lighting. Escalators were also replaced.

In popular culture

Painting of Piccadilly Circus

The phrase "it's like Piccadilly Circus" is commonly used in the UK to refer to a place or situation which is extremely busy with people. It has been said that a person who stays long enough at Piccadilly Circus will eventually bump into everyone they know. Probably because of this connection, during World War II, "Piccadilly Circus" was the code name given to the Allies' D-Day invasion fleet's assembly location in the English Channel.[5]

Piccadilly Circus has inspired artists and musicians. Piccadilly Circus (1912) is the name and subject of a painting by British artist Charles Ginner, part of the Tate Britain collection. Sculptor Paul McCarthy also has a 320-page two-volume edition of video stills by the name of Piccadilly Circus.

"Piccadilly Circus" is the name of Swedish singer Pernilla Wahlgren's hit song from 1985. Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers had a different song of the same name from their 1981 album Go for It, a true story about a friend of theirs migrating to London to escape The Troubles of Belfast only to be stabbed by strangers in Piccadilly Circus. A compilation album from the British pop/rock band Squeeze released in 1996 was titled Piccadilly Collection and showed a picture of Piccadilly Circus on its cover.

The Dire Straits song "Wild West End" is about the area around Piccadilly. The Morrissey song "Piccadilly Palare" from the album Bona Drag recounts the life of male prostitutes by employing the use of "palare" (alternatively spelled 'polari'), argot used by this subculture and by gay men generally. A lost verse: "Around the centre of town/is where I belong/am I really doing wrong?" Jethro Tull mention Piccadilly Circus in "Mother Goose" on the album Aqualung: "And a foreign student said to me/was it really true there are elephants and lions too/in Piccadilly Circus?"

Bob Marley makes mention of Piccadilly Circus in his song "Kinky Reggae" on the album Catch A Fire. The Sundays mention Piccadilly Circus in their song "Hideous Towns" on their 1990 album Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

Stormbreaker, the first novel in the bestselling Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, featured many major landmarks in London, one of them Piccadilly Circus. The main characters race down the circus on horseback.

In the film Wayne's World 2, Wayne and Garth made a trip to London and were disappointed to find out that Piccadilly Circus was not an actual circus.

In the film Austin Powers, Piccadilly Circus is the location of Dr Evil's lair during "the swinging 60s". Austin Powers confronts Dr Evil at the "The Electric Pussycat" nightclub which hides a rocketship in the shape of a Big Boy statue on the rooftop of a Piccadilly Circus building.

Piccadilly Circus was the final action scene in John Landis' 1981 werewolf classic, An American Werewolf in London. David Naughton's character, David Kessler aka the werewolf, makes his final transformation in an adult theatre in Piccadilly Circus and shortly after, chaos erupts when he escapes the theatre and sets off a chain reaction of car crashes.

In the film 28 Days Later, main character Jim is seen walking past Piccadilly Circus and noticing a board with "missing persons" flyers over it. The board is located around the memorial fountain.

In Doctor Who episodes, Rose and Last of the Time Lords, Piccadilly Circus is seen.

See also

References

  1. ^ "circus", Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition 1989
  2. ^ BBC NEWS | England | London | London lights out for environment They were also switched off as part of Earth Hour from 8.30pm til 9.30pm on 28 March 2009.
  3. ^ "Eros", National Conservation Centre
  4. ^ Piccadilly London
  5. ^ The Editors of American Heritage (1962). D-Day, The Invasion of Europe. New York, New York: American Heritage Publishing Co, Inc.. pp. 36. ". . .the ten mile (16 km) circle in the Channel nicknamed Piccadilly Circus, where the troop convoys would meet . . ."  

Books

  • Mills, A. D. Dictionary of London Place Names. Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-860957-4.
  • Harris, C. M. What's in a name? The origins of the names of all stations in current use on the London Underground and Docklands Light rail with their opening dates. Midas Books and London Transport, fourth edition, 2001. ISBN 1-85414-241-0.
  • Lange, D. The Queen's London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis. Cassell and Company, London, 1896.
  • Dickens, Charles, Jr (1993) [1888, 1879]. "Piccadilly (online copy)". Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1888 (facsimile ed.). Devon: Old House Books. ISBN 1-873590-04-0.  
  • Greater London Council, Piccadilly Circus: From Controversy to Reconstruction. 1980. ISBN 0-7168-1145-6.

Articles

Web sites

15 May 2009 The Eros Project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtzvMlzX358

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to London/Leicester Square article)

From Wikitravel

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square

The area around Leicester Square, often called West End, is the entertainment heart of London. The area also includes Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square.

Understand

Chinatown

Chinatown is centrally located in the West End, along and around Gerrard Street off Leicester Square. It spreads into Wardour Street at one end and Newport Place at the other. London's Chinatown may not be quite as large as those in San Francisco or Vancouver but it is still a great place to dine out in the evening, authentically Chinese and definitely different from anywhere else in London.

Leicester Square

This smallish London square is the site of most British film premieres and the square itself is surrounded by terrifyingly-expensive cinemas - tickets for an evening screening will cost upwards of £10. At night, Leicester Square becomes exceptionally busy with tourists, visiting the surrounding clubs and bars. In the north-west corner of the square is the Swiss Centre - unaccountably popular with tourists, the building is nowadays home to Sound nightclub, and boasts a carillion in the corner which depicts a Swiss mountain scene and plays tinny versions of Beatles hits on the hour throughout the day. The TKTS half price ticket booth is on the south side of Leicester Square for cheap tickets for theatre performances.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a large public square commemorating Lord Horatio Nelson's victory against Napoleon's navy at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The central monument within the square is a single tall column on which the figure of Nelson stands gazing over London and is one of the great iconic images of London. His monument is surrounded by four colossal lions and a series of large fountains. Much more than just an open plaza, Trafalgar Square is famous as the location of a large number of important buildings and institutions that surround the square and fill the streets surrounding it. Trafalgar Square also marks the northern end of Whitehall, the centre of British government.

In 2003 and 2003 Trafalgar Square was renovated and expanded to link up directly with the National Gallery on the north side of the square - a great improvement to the traffic which once completely encircled this, the largest public square in the West End. The early 18th century church of St Martins in the Fields stands at the north-east corner of the square. Just by the church, Charing Cross Road gives access to the fabulous National Portrait Gallery, and leads on further to Leicester Square, Soho and the famous collection of bookstores on the road itself. To the south, Whitehall leads to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and 10 Downing Street.

Christmas time sees the erection of a large Christmas Tree within the square, the annual gift of the people of Oslo, capital of Norway, as a token of gratitude for Britain's help in WWII. Trafalgar Square is also traditionally the scene of lively celebrations for Londoners on New Years Eve, though an increasingly heavy police presence has meant that some antics (drunks leaping into the fountains) have all but disappeared. More recently, Trafalgar Square has served as an outdoor venue for concerts and VIP appearances, courtesy of the Mayor of London's Office, which is keen to see Londoners use their public spaces better. Visitors to the square on an ordinary day may also discover small-scale demonstrations and public speakers - the Square is a convenient gathering place near to, but not threatening, the seat of British Government down the road at Westminster.

By tube

Leicester Square is served by a tube station of the same name actually located just off the north east corner of the Square on Charing Cross Road. The station is on both the Northern and Piccadilly Lines and acts as a convenient place to start any exploration of London's West End.

Chinatown is a short walk from both Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines) — walk east along Shaftesbury Avenue, before turning right at Wardour Street, watch for the ornamental gates — and Leicester Square (Piccadilly and Northern Lines) stations.

The nearest tube station to Trafalgar Square is Charing Cross on the Northern and Bakerloo Lines.

Piccadilly Circus is served by a tube station of the same name.

By train

Charing Cross mainline station serves the south-eastern region of England.

Get around

Walk. This is a small district which lends itself perfectly to exploration on foot.

  • Chinese arches (Paifang), at each end of Gerrard Street and at the entrance to Macclesfield Street. The three ornamental Chinese arches are worth a look.  edit
  • Chinese culture. The main sights to see in London's Chinatown are the expressions of Chinese culture and Eastern ambience in Chinatown, and for a good Chinese meal. There are few souvenir shops for tourists and no museums or temples.  edit
  • Chinatown phone booths. Chinatown does incorporate some entertaining combinations of British and Chinese culture, such as the phone booths with pagoda-style sloping roofs.  edit
  • Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin's Place WC2 (just off Trafalgar Square). Statue in honour of the World War I nursing heroine.  edit
  • Leicester Square Garden. Relax and unwind in the garden, and gaze at the activity going on all around, while listening to the buskers, street entertainers and preachers performing in the area.  edit
  • National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2 5DN, +44 )20 77472885, [1]. 10AM- 6PM daily, Fridays to 9PM. Houses the British national collection of western European art dating from the 13th to 19th centuries. A truly awe-inspiring collection, notable works include Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors, Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Constable's The Haywain. The vast majority of art is free of charge to visit. Temporary exhibitions are generally fairly costly, but invariably well researched and presented. The audioguides are very comprehensive, have comments on most of the paintings in the museum, and are free though this fact is not advertised. A donation is suggested. In addition to courses, workshops, lectures and other events, the National Gallery has free talks and tours every day. Free.  edit
  • National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE, +44 20 73060055, [2]. Daily 10AM-6PM, Thu and Fri until 9PM. The National Portrait Gallery is just around the corner from the National Gallery and is an entertaining way to learn about British history since the Tudors. Visitors walk around the gallery chronologically, viewing portraits of notable figures from British history - from Henry VII, painted by Hans Holbein, to Blur, painted by Julian Opie. Free except some non-permanent exhibitions.  edit
The National Gallery, London
The National Gallery, London
  • Piccadilly Circus, (tube: Piccadilly Circus''). At the junction of five major roads, Piccadilly Circus is the home of the famous aluminum statue of Eros, which sits atop a fountain. The north side of Piccadilly Circus holds an enormous display board of electric advertisements, including Britain's biggest illuminated display (the widest in the world), advertising a popular soft drink.  edit
  • St Martins in the Fields, 8 St Martin's Pl, WC2, [3]. A classical church that stands opposite the National Gallery. Since WWI, the homeless have sought shelter at this church, a tradition that continues to this day.  edit
  • Trafalgar Square, (Nearest tube: Charing Cross). The main, central square of London, Trafalgar Square is associated with celebration and demonstration - it is the site of London's lacklustre New Year celebrations, and in 2003 was the site of the triumphant homecoming of the British Rugby team from the World Cup, and a center for demonstration against Britain's involvement in the Iraq War. In recent years, the square has been associated with the many hundreds of pigeons that used to be found here, but London's Mayor Ken Livingstone passed a bylaw in 2003 making it illegal to feed them. Nelson's Column, surrounded by the four bronze lions can be found here, on the south side of the square. The north-west plinth in the square has been vacant since 1841, and controversial contemporary sculpture has been displayed here in recent years.  edit

Do

Cinemas

Leicester Square square hosts most high-profile London cinema premieres, on which occasions it is fenced and crowded beyond comfort by people desperately trying to take a look at their celebrity of choice.

Mainstream

  • Empire, 5-6 Leicester Sq, WC2 (tube: Leicester Sq), +44 20 7437 1234. M-F until 5PM £5, M-F after 5PM £7.50, £8.00, £9.00, Sa Su - £7.50, £8.00, £9.00.  edit
  • Odeon Leicester Square, Leicester Sq, WC2 (tube: Leicester Sq), [4]. Also includes the Odeon Mezzanine and Odeon West End M-F until 5PM £5.00, £6.00, £6.50 M-F after 5PM £10.00, Sa Su £11.00.  edit
  • Warner Village West End, Leicester Sq, WC2, +44 20 7437 4347, [5]. F-S £10.00, M-F until 7PM £7.00, M-Su after 5PM £10.00, Sa Su until 5PM £10.00.  edit

Arthouse

  • Curzon Soho Cinema, 99 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 5DY, [6]. Voted "London's Number 1 Cinema" by Time Out readers, great bar and a fantastic art-house program.  edit
  • Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Pl (Down a side street to the north, just up from the Häagen-Dazs), [7]. The cheapest and in some ways most interesting cinema in the area. They do not screen the latest films but usually have an interesting selection, including foreign and art house films and often have theme nights. Get hold of the program at the door or on the internet and consider buying the discount-granting yearly membership if you plan to come back a few times. M £1.99, Tu-F £2.50, Sa Su £3.50.  edit
One of the ornamental gates or paifang located at the entrance to Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown
One of the ornamental gates or paifang located at the entrance to Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown

Along with neighbouring Covent Garden this is the capital of London's theatreland and the most famous London theatres are in this district. Check individual theatre websites of the official London theatreland website [8] for current programmes and never neglect the official half price ticket booth in Leicester Square itself:

  • TKTS (half price ticket booth), Leicester Square (tube: Leicester Sq. Booth is on the south side of the square in the clock tower building), [9]. M-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 11AM-4PM. Tickets can only be bought in person so do not try to contact by telephone. At times, there may well be long queues, so be prepared.  edit

Please note that most of the booking office numbers given below will only work from within the United Kingdom. If you want to make a booking from overseas, use the relevant website.

  • Apollo Theatre, 39-45 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 7EZ, +44 870 890 1101, [10].  edit
  • Comedy Theatre, 6 Panton St, SW1Y 4DN, +44 0870 060 6637, [11].  edit
  • The Criterion Theatre, 2 Jermyn St, SW1Y 4XA, +44 0844 847 1778, [12].  edit
  • Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0HH, +44 0870 890 1104, [13].  edit
  • Gielgud Theatre, 39-45 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 6AR, +44 0844 482 5130, [14].  edit
  • Her Majesty's Theatre, 57 Haymarket, SW1Y 4QL, +44 0844 412 2707, [15].  edit
  • Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Pl, WC2H 7BX, +44 0844 847 2475, [16].  edit
  • The Lyric Theatre, 29 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 7ES, [17].  edit
  • The Palace Theatre, 109-113 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 5AY, +44 0870 890 0142, [18].  edit
  • The Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0JP, +44 0870 060 6629, [19].  edit
  • Piccadilly Theatre, Denman St, W1D 7DY, +44 0844 412 6666, [20].  edit
  • Prince of Wales Theatre, (Coventry St, W1D 6AS), +44 0870 850 0393, [21].  edit
  • Queen's Theatre, 51 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 6BA, +44 0870 950 0930, [22].  edit
  • Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk St, SW1Y 4HT, +44 0845 481 1870, [23].  edit
  • Wyndham's Theatre, 32-36 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0DA, +44 0844 482 5120, [24].  edit
  • Chinese New Year Festival. Worth seeing, though Gerrard St can get unbelievably crowded, as the dragon dancers pass along the street to collect goodies hung from windows above the shops. In recent years, the festival has expanded south into Leicester Sq and Trafalgar Sq to try to alleviate the congestion.  edit

Buy

Books

Charing Cross Road and the tiny Cecil Court which leads off it, have long been the centre of the specialist and antiquarian book trade in London. There are less outlets than previously as spiralling rents pushed out a lot of the traditional booksmiths but a lot still remain. Any booklover will be in heaven here.

  • Any Amount of Books, 56 Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0QA (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7836 3697, [25]. Rare and second-hand books. Specialise in scholarly academic works and art-related titles.  edit
  • David Drummond at Pleasures of Past Times, 11 Cecil Court WC2N 4EZ (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7836 1142. Specialises in books and other memorabilia related to the performing arts and old children's books.  edit
  • Paul J Hilton, 12 Cecil Court WC2N 4HE (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7379 9825. Antiquarian and general books, especially first edition English literature.  edit
  • Henry Pordes Books Ltd, 58-60 Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0BB (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7836 9031 (), [27]. Secondhand, antiquarian and all out-of print books.  edit
  • Quinto Bookshop & Francis Edwards, 48a Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0BB, +44 20 7379 7669 (), [28]. Huge collection. Francis Edwards have been in business here since 1856.  edit

Eat

All sorts of food are available. While London's Chinatown boasts some of the city's best Chinese food, quality and value vary enormously between individual restaurants. While some consistently win awards, others seem to be regularly being refurbished following visits from the local Environmental Health department. Unless you're on an extreme budget, it is worth paying a little more for quality food and service. Be careful especially with the common all you can eat deals.

  • Café in the Crypt, Trafalgar Sq, [29]. In the basement of St Martin-in-the-Fields church is the Café in the Crypt which offers reasonably-priced cafe food that you can eat amongst the brick-vaulted ceilings, pillars and gravestones.  edit
  • The Portrait Restaurant, at the National Portrait Gallery, +44 20 7312 2490. Offers spectacular food accompanied by spectacular food on the 5th floor of the National Portrait Gallery. A must do dining experience.  edit
  • Tokyo Diner, 2 Newport Place (At the eastern end of Lisle St, near the Prince Charles Cinema). noon-midnight. Offers excellent and well-priced Japanese food.  edit
  • Zipangu, 8 Little Newport St (Just around the corner from the Tokyo Diner). Japanese restaurant, serving good sushi and sashimi. Quite small, so you might want to book if you are going in a large group, but the little nooks on the ground floor are great for an intimate dinner. £10 main.  edit
  • China China, 3 Gerrard St, +44 20 7439 7502. At the budget end of the scale, China China at the eastern end of the north side of Gerrard Street offers Hong Kong diner style meals of cold meat on hot rice. around £5 for a generous portion.  edit
  • Friendly Inn, 47 Gerrard St, +44 20 7437 4170, [30]. Offers cheap fare on the southern side of Gerrard Street. The restaurant lives up to its name with very enthusiastic serving staff, but unless you stick to the set menus, the cost of the meal can soon increase.  edit
  • Lee Ho Fook, 15-16 Gerrard St, +44 20 7492 1200. The best known restaurant in Chinatown, as immortalised in Warren Zevon's song Werewolves of London. The restaurant plays on this tiny crumb of fame, displaying a much-faded image of the singer in its window. Meals here are relatively costly by local standards, and generally not reported to be outstandingly good.  edit
  • Luxuriance Peking Cuisine, 40 Gerrard St, +44 20 7734 0262. This family-owned business that started up in 1980 is famous for its freshly cooked crispy aromatic duck, seafood banquet and pork spare ribs. The interior is comfortable, relaxed and modern.  edit
  • New World, 1 Gerrard Pl, +44 20 7734 0396. A well-decorated and plush-looking restaurant which serves excellent dim sum on trolleys from midday until around 6PM. Good quality evening food is available thereafter, and the service is very good overall.  edit
  • Wong Kei, 41-43 Wardour St, W1 (opposite the western end of Gerrard Street), +44 20 7437 3071. A Chinatown institution. Popular with Londoners and visitors alike and possibly the best value Chinese restaurant in the whole of London. Spread across four floors, this restaurant is infamous for its surly, abrupt service and this has become part of the experience of dining there. Depending on how drunk you look, the higher up the building you will be sent. Tea is complimentary, though somewhat bland. Set meals present excellent value for money, some being under £5. The sweet and sour pork is remarkably good.  edit

Drink

There are relatively few decent places to drink in this district and visitors would do better to head north into Soho or east in Covent Garden, for a better selection of bars and pubs. However, if your legs are weary, there are a number of convenient drinking places:

  • 1997, 19 Wardour St. Cosy place to visit if you are not feeling in an alcoholic mood. They provide a good selection of iced and pearl tapioca teas which are often hard to come by outside of Hong Kong.  edit
  • Cork and Bottle Wine Bar, 44-46 Cranbourn St, +44 20 7734 7807. More of a wine bar than a restaurant, the extensive wine list featuring selections from Australia and California. They offer reasonable cuisine to wash down this full bodied wines.  edit
  • De Hems, 11 Macclesfield St, W1D 5BW (North from halfway along Gerrard Street). Dutch-themed pub with an excellent selection of beers. It is often crowded, but has a good atmosphere and a comedy club.  edit
  • Geisha Bar, 75 Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0NE, [31]. A well-known wine bar that also features an extensive and imaginative cocktail menu.  edit
  • Trash Palace, 11 Wardour St W1D 6PG, +44 20 7734 0522. Fantastic small gay bar, mixed music and a laid back mixed crowd.  edit
  • Waxy's O'Connor's, 14-16 Rupert St, W1D 6DD. Irish themed pub with a fibreglass tree inside it. It is almost invariably unbearably crowded. The smaller Waxy's Little Sister opposite it, however, is generally quieter and more relaxed.  edit

Sleep

Very few visitors actually stay in this district and the options which are available are not particularly good value. This is a district to visit, not to stay in.

  • Radisson Edwardian Leicester Square Hotel, 3 St. Martins St, WC2H 7HL, +44 20 7930 8641 (), [32]. Small hotel furnished in a sleek, contemporary design. From £148.  edit
  • Thistle Picadilly, Coventry St, W1D 6BZ, +44 845 3058330, [33]. Affordable and centrally located but a tired property. From £159.  edit
  • The Trafalgar, 2 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2TS, +44 20 774 1500, [34]. Hilton's first boutique hotel in London. From £240.  edit
This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Etymology

Piccadilly + circus.

Proper noun

Singular
Piccadilly Circus

Plural
-

Piccadilly Circus

  1. a traffic intersection in the West End, having connections with Piccadilly, Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Haymarket, Coventry Street and Glasshouse Street

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