Things to See and Do in Leicester Square

This post covers things to do in Leicester Square, including attractions to see, restaurant recommendations, and tips on getting theatre ticket discounts.

WHAT IS LEICESTER SQUARE?

Leicester Square is in the heart of London’s West End Theatre District. 

It’s where world premieres of films take place and fans camp overnight hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite movie stars. 

It’s also a great place to attend West End shows, eat authentic Chinese food, watch street performers, and people-watch.

And in case you are wondering, it’s pronounced as though you are saying Lester Square.
 

Leicester Square

 

The Square was named after Robert Signey, 2nd Earl of Leicester who built his house here in 1635.

By the late 19th century, after fashionable, wealthy people and members of the royal family moved in, Leicester Square had become a public space and hub of entertainment.

Soon the square was surrounded by several hotels and daily performances and events took place, making it a destination for visitors. 

Centuries later, people still flock to Leicester Square to enjoy entertainment, dine and drink, visit attractions and take in the vibrancy the area offers to everyone.

You might want to consider staying here on your trip. See your options from TripAdvisor’s list of hotels around Leicester Square.




GETTING HERE

 

Leicester Square Map

 

Nearest Underground Stations:

  • Leicester Square
  • Covent Garden
  • Piccadilly Circus

TIP: Read our post on navigating the Underground for tips on getting around London.

Nearest Rail Station: Charing Cross

Bus Routes: 12, 19, 24, 29, 38, 88, 94, 159, 453, 176

Tour Buses

Leicester Square is also accessible from the Piccadilly Circus stop on London hop-on hop-off bus routes like The Original Tour and Golden Tours.

 


TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO

This section lists the top things to see and do in Leicester Square.

 

See Street Performers 

Leicester Square is well known as a hot-spot for street performers and street entertainment has been happening here since the 19th century.

 

 

Most of them are set up on the north side of the Square and specialize in magic tricks and music.

Also, this is a great place to get yourself drawn on paper either as a chalk portrait or a cartoon!


Catch a Movie or a Film Premiere

Because of its location in the centre of town, as well as its history as an entertainment hub, Leicester Square is the site of many film world premieres. 

There are three cinemas in Leicester Square: Odeon, Vue, and Cineworld. 

 

 

This means it’s totally possible for members of the public to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars here in the Square. 

To find out which films premiere while you’re visiting, check out the upcoming schedules of major cinemas in Leicester Square and other places in London.


Attend a Sing-Along

The Prince Charles Cinema is tucked on a side street just to the north of Leicester Square and this venue is well known for its showings of cult classics and sing-a-longs! 

Whether it’s the Sound of Music, Lion King, or Rocky Horror, the Cinema always provides a great night out. 

 

 

Most visitors dress up to match with the film being shown so don’t be afraid to don your glad rags for your visit!

Find out what’s playing at the Prince Charles Cinema when you’re in town.


Get Cheap Theatre Tickets

If you want to get your hands on discount tickets for London’s famous West End shows, then the TKTS Booth in Leicester Square should be your first stop. 

TKTS sells discounted tickets to a wide array of shows. They offer tickets for shows on the day-of, the day after and the day after that.

The TKTS website gives you up-to-date information on which tickets are being sold, and how big the discounts are. 

 

 

Note that you must go to TKTS in person so make sure to get down to Leicester Square to snap them up!

TKTS is open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 – 19:00 (7 pm) and Sunday 11:00 – 16:30 (4:30 pm).

Find out more about saving money on a night at the theater from our post on how to get cheap theatre tickets in London.

 

Take a Walking Tour

If you really want to get to know the West End and Leicester Square, come along on a tour with us!

We offer a pay-what-you-wish Covent Garden and the West End Tour that covers the history of the area surrounding Leicester Square, the evolution of London’s theatre scene, and tips on the best shows to see and how to get discounted tickets!

 

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We also offer a number of other pay-what-you-wish walking tours nearby like our Soho, Piccadilly Circus and Chinatown Tour.

You might also be interested in our pay-what-you-wish walking tours of Westminster Tour, our Harry Potter Tour, and our Rock n’ Roll Tour which finishes just nearby Leicester Square.


Explore Chinatown

Tucked just behind Leicester Square and billed as ‘China in the Heart of London’, Chinatown is a small enclave of Chinese restaurants, shops, grocery stores, bakeries, and other Chinese-run businesses. 

A great place to eat delicious food and also a great place for late-night revelry, Chinatown will keep you entertained. 

 

 

Use our self-guided food tour of Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus and SoHo to find the best authentic flavours in the area.

Read more about what to do in London’s Chinatown.


Meet Your Favourite Film Characters

Leicester Square hosta a charming collection of interactive bronze statues commemorating some of cinemas’ most iconic characters. 

Titled “Scenes in the Square” the work is a commemoration of Leicester Square’s rich movie history. 

 

 

Spanning over the past 100 years of movie magic, some of film’s most iconic faces are represented here: Laurel and Hardy, Bugs Bunny, Gene Kelly, Mary Poppins, Mr. Bean, Batman and Wonderwoman, and, of course, Paddington Bear!


Visit M & M World

Officially opened in June 2011, this is the world’s largest candy store, spanning an incredible 35,000 square feet – or 3,250 square metres! 

 

 

There are over 100 types of M&Ms available for purchase inside and there is also a small display outlining the history of M&Ms over the decades.

TIP: Holders of the London City Pass tourist discount pass get 15% off their purchase! Read more below.

 

Hear The Swiss Glockenspiel

On the north-west corner of Leicester Square is an odd-looking clock: the Swiss Glockenspiel. 

Before M&M’s world existed, this location was the site of the Swiss Centre – a building which showcased Swiss products and culture, constructed in the 1960s. 

 

 

Rescued from the demolished building and restored in 2011, the glockenspiel here holds a staggering 27 bells and showcases figurines that appear, circling the clock, when the bells ring. 

Now, the glockenspiel “performs” at 12 pm, 5 pm, 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm Monday to Friday with extras at 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm on the weekends/public holidays so try to see it if you can!


Hit The Casinos

For anybody wanting a bit of glitz and gambling, Leicester Square is home to two casinos: the Empire and the Hippodrome. 

The Hippodrome has been standing in Leicester Square since 1900 and has been an entertainment venue ever since.

 

 

Today it boasts four floors of gaming, a top-quality steak house, and six bars. Not to mention the cabaret and circus performances that take place here weekly. 

Find out what’s on at the casinos when you are in London.

 


NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

This section lists attractions and places of interest that are easily accessible from Leicester Square.


Trafalgar Square

Just to the south of Leicester Square sits Trafalgar Square, a hub of art and culture in London. 

Trafalgar Square has been London’s ‘common room’ ever since it was the 19th century.

It’s where Londoners for public celebrations, gatherings, and other events throughout the year.

 

 

To the north of Leicester Square are two of London’s most magnificent – and FREE – art galleries: the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.

It’s also a popular spot to get selfies with the famous lion statues!

Learn more about visiting Trafalgar Square in our blog post.


St Martin-in-the-Fields

St Martin-in-the-Fields sits on the western edge of Covent Garden, overlooking Trafalgar Square.

Built in the 1720s by James Gibbs, it’s a beautiful example of Neoclassical design and is the burial place of Nell Gwyn, John Parkinson, Sir John Birkenhead, and Robert Boyle.

The crypt below the church is charming and actually has a cafe inside.

Today the church is more popularly known for its orchestra and near-daily free musical performances and lectures.

Also, there is also a kid-friendly brass rubbing centre below the church.

Find out what’s on while you’re visiting.

 

Covent Garden

The former site of a fruit-and-vegetable market, Covent Garden today holds a modern market as well as boutique shops, restaurants, and bars. 

The courtyard is a popular site for street performers and holds a Christmas tree in December. 

Covent Garden is also known for its great nightlife, cobbled streets, high-street shops, and excellent restaurants.

Our post on Covent Garden can tell you more about the must-see part of London.


St Martin-in-the-Fields

St. Martin-in-the-Fields sits on the western edge of Covent Garden, overlooking Trafalgar Square. 

It was built in the 1720s by architect James Gibbs and it is a superb example of neoclassical design. 

Today the church is more popularly known for its orchestra and near-daily musical performances and lectures.

The crypt below the church is charming and actually has a cafe inside.

Also, there is also a kid-friendly brass rubbing centre below the church!


Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is in the heart of the West End and is known for its huge advertisement signs. The iconic statue in the middle is a popular spot to get great photos!

Check out our post on Piccadilly Circus to find out more. 

Consider exploring with us on our Soho, Piccadilly, and Chinatown Tour or Rock n’ Roll Tour!


Regent Street

Starting at Piccadilly Circus and running up to Oxford Circus, this beautifully designed avenue is home to some of the largest and best-known brands in the world. 

The street itself is gorgeous all year long but is especially spectacular during the Christmas season with some of London’s best light installations decorate the road. 

 

Soho

Originally a playground for the London rich, today Soho is the entertainment hub of the city. There are theatres, restaurants, shops, and cocktail bars on nearly every street. 

In the swinging ’60s, Soho was the heart of the action and was the stomping ground of many musicians like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. 

Soho is still the heart of London’s nightlife scene with pubs, restaurants, and bars staying open well into the wee hours, making it a popular destination for visitors who want to dance the night away.

Read more about things to do in Soho here.


National Gallery

The fourth most visited art museum in the world, the National Gallery, flanks the north side of Trafalgar Square and is free to visit!

Inside are works by masters such as Van Gough, Monet, Holbein, and Turner. The gallery runs numerous talks for guests, as well as tours for groups of 4 people or fewer.

If you’re part of a group. contact us as we can help you arrange a private tour with one of our knowledgeable guides!

Find more information on the National Gallery


National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery houses significant works depicting historic British figures, as well as some universally recognized names and faces.

For those traveling with kids, the Gallery has special activities for children and kids can enter all exhibitions without charge!


Photographer’s Gallery

Founded in 1971, the Photographer’s Gallery was the first London public gallery entirely dedicated to photography. 

With rotating exhibitions and works by photographers like Juergen Teller and Taryn Simon, this is a wonderful gallery.

You can see the calendar, hours, and other information at the Photographer’s Gallery website.

 


PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

The restaurants in the middle of Leicester Square tend to be a bit ‘touristy’ although there are a few worth keeping in mind:

 

Casual Sit Downs

Pubs

Cocktails 

Great Views

 


AREA DISCOUNTS AND DEALS

If you plan on seeing a lot of sites, you might want to think about getting a London tourist attraction discount pass, which can save you up to 55% off of retail ticket prices.

Passes include fast-track entry to many popular attractions, discounts on shopping, dining, and theatre shows.


These Leicester Square attractions are included in some passes:

  • London Transport Museum
  • London Brass Rubbing Centre
  • Curzon Cinema Soho
  • Body Worlds
  • 15% off purchases at M&M World

 

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Here are some other attractions included in one or more of the various  London tourist discount passes:

Check out our post on London Discount Passes to see if a pass is right for you.

 


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About the author

An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 15 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries.