If you’re looking for the heartbeat of London, then Piccadilly Circus is in many ways its epicentre. Today, Piccadilly is a place where different worlds collide, where tourists mingle with workers and the well-heeled tip toe around hen nights. Yet, all are welcome.
A bygone era
With its small characterful streets and hidden archways, Piccadilly reflects the 1819’s when it first came to be known. The ‘Georgian era’ was an important one for London as it marked the beginning of the Industrial revolution, confirming London’s status as a destination for both work and play.
Today many places remain the same, including Piccadilly Arcade. This boutique luxury shopping experience first opened in 1910 and will take you back to a bygone era. Around this area you can get your shoes shines, caricatures sketched and grab your free copy of the London Evening Standard. Nearby Regent Street is a great place to shop too.
Eat, drink, be merry!
Bustling Soho is not to be missed, welcoming a large LGBT community and media luvvies often seen lighting up outside Soho House! Vibrant, buzzing and a tad risqué, Old Compton Street is a destination in itself. As one of London’s most famous streets, it is a mecca for the LGBT community with lots of gay friendly bars and shops.
A few streets away bordering Leicester Square, is China Town – one of the rare places where tourists and locals dine together enjoying oriental cuisine.
Other notable eateries include – The Hawksmoor (Air Street), which is super hip and the place for a good steak, Fortnum and Mason (42 Jermyn Street), iconic for afternoon tea (it’s said to be one of the Queen’s favourites), and fashionable ‘La Bodega Negra’ (16 Moor Street) for upscale Mexican street food. When you’re ready to wash it all down, Jewel (4-6 Glasshouse Street) is a fun place for a cocktail or Lucky Voice (Poland street) for karaoke.
Most significant of all, people flock to the West End because of its famous ‘Theatreland’, with theatres dotted around Shaftesbury Avenue, Leicester Square, Aldwych and Haymarket. Les Miserables, Aladdin, Mamma Mia and Thriller are just some of the most popular, and you can get some great deals on Love Theatre.
It would be wrong not to mention the iconic Windmill theatre on Windmill Street, which has been around since 1932 and is a stalwart in London’s history.
And finally, a photo opportunity not to be missed is the illuminated neon sign as you come out of Piccadilly Circus tube station on the Piccadilly Line. It has been around since 1908 and the lights have only been turned off during World War II and for the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.
While it’s undergoing renovation at the moment, you can still see the curved wall of adverts that light up the streets. While some compare it to Times Square, in reality it’s much smaller, but arguably with just as much character. That’s Piccadilly for you!
Did you know that Charing Cross, on its outskirts, is the point from where all travel distances to and from London are measured? It goes back to the days of King Edward I, who erected a plaque in its place to mark the death of his wife, Queen Eleanor. Since then all distances to and from London are measured from that point, and the memorial can still be found where King Charles statue stands.