Things to See in Piccadilly Circus

This post will cover some of the most interesting things to do while visiting Piccadilly Circus, including free, family-friendly and nighttime activities.

 

 


WHAT IS PICCADILLY CIRCUS?

Many people wonder what is the origin of the unusual name of this public area. The​ ‘Piccadilly’ part of the name dates back to 1612 when a tailor named Roger Baker lived in the area, who made a fortune selling ​p​iccadils.

 
What is a Piccadil
 

Piccadils are stiff elaborate neck collars​ worn by fashionable people in the 17th century. Locals referred to the tailor’s house as ‘Piccadil Hall’,​​ which then over time became simply Piccadilly.

As for ‘Circus’, this word comes from the Latin word for ring or circle and was commonly used by Romans to refer to public areas like this. Though the ring over time morphed into a square, it’s original name remained.  

 

What is Piccadilly Circus

 

Piccadilly Circus is located in London’s West End, in the city of Westminster.  It has several notable sites and attractions and is one of the busiest junctions in London.

 

Where is Piccadilly Circus

 

You can reach this landmark easily by using the London Underground. There is a station bearing the same name.

If you are new to the London subway system, then take a read of our guide to use the Underground.

Or let us take you here. We offer numerous free and pay-what-you-wish tours of the area, including a Rock N Roll Tour and a Harry Potter Tour.

Alternatively, you can also get here using a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. All bus companies stop here. 

Due to its central location, Piccadilly Circus is also a popular hotel area. You can browse the highest rated on TripAdvisor and sort by price or best value.

 


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TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND PICCADILLY CIRCUS

1) See the Piccadilly Lights

Most people who visit this location will see the display of giant screens with various advertisements at least once while exploring the area.Piccadilly Circus at Night

The Piccadilly Lights can be found at the center of the circus, just across the street from the London Underground stop.

Although most people won’t care to stand and watch a bunch of ads for very long, it’s pretty difficult to miss this landmark, as it lights up the entire public circle throughout the night.

This activity won’t cost you a thing to enjoy, and it’s a great nighttime activity.

You can read more about these famous signs below in the Piccadilly Circus In-Depth section.


2) Check Out the Theatre District

There are a lot of beautiful theatres near Piccadilly Circus where you can see some of the most popular musicals in the world. See what’s playing.West End Theatre

Here are some of the most popular theatres in the area:

  • Prince of Wales Theatre
  • Leicester Square Theatre
  • Her Majesty’s Theatre
  • Prince Edward Theatre
  • Piccadilly Theatre
  • Queen’s Theatre
  • Apollo Theatre

Visitors who forget to purchase admission ahead of time can also head to TKTS in Leicester Square.

We also offer a pay-what-you-like London Theaterland Tour on Sundays and Wednesdays at 17:00 (5 pm).


3) Discover Harry Potter Locations

Fans of the Harry Potter series may want to keep an eye out while visiting Piccadilly Circus, as some of the locations nearby were actually used during the filming of the movie series.

As a matter of fact, we actually include some of these sites on our pay-what-you-wish Harry Potter walking tour which runs through the area.

 

 

We also have a self-guided tour of Harry Potter London locations that you can take for free!

After taking a tour, you might also want to check out the House of MinaLima, which features a variety of notable artwork and even a few props from the Harry Potter movies.

Needless to say, this is an excellent activity that the entire family will enjoy.

If you’re looking for even more family-friendly activities, take a look at our things to do with kids section.


4) Tour Piccadilly Circus

We offer a variety of pay-what-you-wish walking tours in the area which cover several different subjects.

If you’re looking for an overview of the nearby neighborhoods, consider taking our tour of Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Soho. We offer a free, self-guided version below.

This trek covers both traditional historic subjects and music history stretching from Mozart to Led Zeppelin!

Or take our Rock n’ Roll London Tour and discover where John Lennon met Yoko Ono or where Jimi Hendrix made his first appearance in town. 

Fans of theatrical history may want to consider our London Theatreland tour which takes place nearby in the West End.


5) Visit Trafalgar Square

Head South of Leicester Square to reach yet another popular public area which features a variety of statues, monuments, and memorials amid two very large fountains at the centre.

 

 

Trafalgar Square is also where you will find both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Admission to both museums is entirely free, so anyone is welcome to visit during opening hours.

This is also the home of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a historic church where you can enjoy free concerts at various times throughout the week.


6) Shop on Regent Street

Regent Street runs Northwest from the center of the circus and includes a lot of popular shopping destinations.

 

 

Here are just a few of the stores you may want to visit:

  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Timberland
  • Anthropologie
  • POLO Ralph Lauren
  • Coach
  • Bose

Regent Street runs all the way up to Oxford Circus and beyond. You’ll find several great shops to visit along the entire stretch of this road.


7) Go to Leicester Square

Located just a few blocks east of Piccadilly Circus, this public square is a popular stop for families and history buffs alike.

In addition to the statue of William Shakespeare at the center of the square, there are also a lot of great family-friendly attractions nearby such as the Lego Store and M&M’s World.

 

 

This is also where you will find the Swiss Court, formerly the site of the Swiss Centre, a building that showcased the culture of Switzerland.

All that remains is the Swiss Glockenspiel, a large clock with 27 bells and several interesting figurines that circle the clock when the bells ring at 12 pm, 5 pm, 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm.

See our guide to Leicester Square for more details.  


8) See Memorials & Statues

There are a lot of great memorials, monuments, and statues located in the general vicinity of Piccadilly Circus.

  • Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
  • Equestrian Statue of Charles I
  • The Horses of Helios
  • Swiss Glockenspiel
  • Nelson’s Column
  • King George IV Statue
  • King William III Statue
  • William Shakespeare Statue
  • Trafalgar Square Fountains

These are just a handful of the interesting historic sites to see in this neighborhood, and they’re all free to enjoy.

Take a look at our free things to do section for even more great activities that won’t cost you anything.


9) Visit St. James’s Square

St. James’s Square is just a few blocks from both St. James’s Church and St. James’s Palace, two very important and historic locations in London. 

In addition to these notable locations, there are also a lot of wonderful examples of Georgian architecture at this square.

This is where you will find such sites as the London Library as well as the headquarters of Rolex, BP, and several other famous and popular businesses.

After looking at all the buildings surrounding this garden, make sure to check out the statue of King William III at the centre of St. James’s Square.


10) Save Money with a Tourist Attraction Discount Passes

Several of the most notable sites at Piccadilly Circus are actually included with one or more London tourist passes.

 

 

These discount passes could save you up to 55% off ticket prices by bundling them all together. 

These passes could also save you time as many attractions offer skip-the-line privileges.

Here are a few of the locations where you can save money with a discount card:

  • Curzon Cinema in Soho/Mayfair
  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • The Cartoon Museum
  • Benjamin Franklin House
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • West End Theatres
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Wellington Arch
  • Apsley Hous
  • M&M’s World

While you can use a tourist pass for free admission to some of the attractions listed above, most of the restaurants only offer discounts on food and other items purchased.

Even so, if you plan to take your family out to eat, this could be a great way to save money on your bill!

For more details, check our London tourist pass section.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO

In this section, we will cover some of the best things to do at Piccadilly Circus which won’t cost you anything to enjoy.

Take a look at our other sections for even more great ideas like a self-guided Harry Potter tour.

 

 

If you’re looking for more fun and complimentary activities, check our full post covering free things to do in London.


Go to a Free Museum

There are several museums near Piccadilly Circus that offer free admission to all visitors.
 

 

The National Gallery

Admission is free every day, and they are open until 9 pm on Friday nights. Donations are welcome whenever possible.

National Portrait Gallery

Entry is free throughout the week, but donations are welcome. This museum stays open until 9 pm on Friday nights.

The Royal Academy of Arts

Admission is always free, but exhibits and special events may cost more. This museum keeps its doors open until 10 pm on Friday nights.

The Institute of Contemporary Art

Although entry isn’t free every day if the week, all visitors are granted admission on Tuesday.

This museum is open until 11 pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

For more locations that don’t charge an entry fee, make sure to read our full post on free museums in London.


See the Fountains Near Piccadilly Circus

There are a lot of great fountains to see in the neighborhoods surrounding this public circle.

If you love the sound and experience of these artistic structures, consider going to one of the following locations:

Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain

Located near the centre of Piccadilly Circus, this fountain was built in the late 1800s and it remains one of the most beautiful landmarks in the area.

Trafalgar Square Fountains

There are two giant fountains at the centre of this public square. Although they’ve been here since the 1800s, a 2009 restoration added LED lighting for extra special displays after dark.

The Horses of Helios

Found on the corner of Coventry and Haymarket, this fountain depicts four bronze horses rearing and bursting from the water.

You’ll find even more great monuments and sculptures throughout the surrounding neighborhoods and we cover some of these sites on our lists of Memorials & Statues near Piccadilly Circus.


Visit the London Library

Located on the Western side of St. James’s Square, the London Library is one of the most interesting locations in the entire city.

In addition to all the books you can read, there are also other activities and events available depending on when you visit.

Best of all, most of their services won’t cost you a thing.

One of the most popular events you can attend is their evening tour, which is offered on the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month. This tour runs for about an hour, and it’s entirely free!

The London Library is open until 9 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, which means this could be a great place to visit after dark.


See Street Performers

Chances are that you’ll see at least a few street performers while walking around Piccadilly Circus.

This public circle is a popular location for performance artists who want to show off their skills!

While street performers do accept donations, you don’t have to pay anything to stop and watch the show.

In the past, performances have included break dancers, living statues, musicians, magicians, gymnasts and more.

There are no specific schedules for these shows. You’ll find more street performers near public squares and circles than you will on the side of the road.


Take in the View at Waterstones

Although it isn’t an observation deck, the cafe at Waterstones has one of the best views at Piccadilly Circus – and it’s entirely free to enjoy!

Located on the fourth floor, the Waterstones cafe is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and more. While you don’t need to buy anything to take in the view, they do have a lot of great food to eat. (video review)

From this location, you can see sites such as Westminster Abbey, St. James’s Palace and many other historic buildings in the distance.

There is also a restaurant on the 5th floor if you want to have a nice meal with an excellent view.

If you’re looking for more fun and complimentary activities, check our full post covering free things to do in London.

 


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NIGHTTIME ACTIVITIES

This section will cover some of the more entertaining things you can do at Piccadilly Circus after dark.

Don’t forget to check our other sections for even more ideas like seeing the Piccadilly Lights or a West End Show.

For additional activities, you can enjoy when the sun goes down, read our full post about what to do at night in London.

 

 


Go to a Museum After Dark

Most of the museums in the area offer late hours, so you can visit them even after the sun goes down.

The Institute of Contemporary Art is open until 11 pm most nights, but they actually extend their hours to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery keep their doors open until 9 pm on Friday nights, while the Royal Academy of Arts closes up at 10 pm on Fridays.

As if that weren’t enough, the London Library also stays open until 9 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, and they offer free tours after dark twice a month!


See a Movie At Night

In addition to all the theatres hosting musicals near Piccadilly Circus, there are also several movie theatres in the area.

There are actually two venues right next to Leicester Square and a few locations just down the street from the Piccadilly Lights.

If you’re trying to save money on tickets, keep in mind that you can use the London Pass to get into the Curzon theater in Soho and Mayfair, both of which are within walking distance of this public circle.

This could also be a great activity for families who are looking for something fun to do.


Attend a Live Musical

As we mentioned in the top 10 section, there are a lot of great theatres near Piccadilly Circus that host all kinds of musicals, ballets, plays and more.

Many of these venues will have shows at 7 pm – 8 pm, making this a great activity to enjoy after dark.

From Off-Broadway productions to original plays, there are a lot of great shows to see in this part of the city.

As of writing this (in 2019), musicals such as Aladdin, The Lion King, Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof and many others are playing in London.

See what’s playing when you are in town. You can also head to Leicester Square and pick up last minute tickets at the TKTS booth.

This area is also known colloquially as Theatreland, and we offer a pay-what-you-wish walking tour of the neighborhood for anyone interested in musicals.


Go Out to Dinner

There are a lot of great restaurants in the area of Piccadilly Circus. Whether you’re looking for a romantic night out or you want somewhere to go with your family, there are several great places to eat!

If you’re trying to save money on your bill, you can use a London tourist pass to get discounts at several popular restaurants.

Use the London Explorer Pass for a free meal at Planet Hollywood.

Alternatively, you can also get either a 3-course lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. or a 2-course lunch at Hard Rock Cafe with the iVenture Card.

Check our list of restaurants at Piccadilly Circus for even more great locations to have dinner!


Head to a Casino

If you’re in the mood to play a hand of poker, there are quite a few excellent casinos within walking distance of Piccadilly Circus.

Here are some of the closest locations:

  • Empire Casino
  • Horizons Casino
  • Grosvenor Casino
  • Genting Casino
  • Lola’s Underground Casino
  • The Hippodrome Casino

Most of these businesses are very close to Leicester Square.

While this might not be a great activity for families, adults will probably love the opportunity to play a few slot machines.

The best part about these casinos is that most of them are open 24 hours, so you can stay as late as you want!

For additional activities, you can enjoy when the sun goes down, read our full post about what to do at night in London.

 


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THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS

In this section, we will provide a selection of family-friendly activities that children will enjoy at Piccadilly Circus.

If you’re looking for even more things to do with the kids, check our other sections for ideas like going to a musical, seeing a movie, watching street performers, and taking a Harry Potter tour.

Make sure to read our post about visiting London with kids for more great things to do with the family.


Visit the House of MinaLima

Harry Potter fans will jump at the opportunity to visit this special little shop which houses artwork and artifacts from the film series.

 

House of Minalima

 

Located just a few blocks East of Piccadilly Circus, this interesting little store has exhibitions which include a variety of art from throughout the Wizarding World.

Although they do have a lot of interesting things that fans may want to buy, no purchase is required to see everything they have on display!

The House of MinaLima is close to some of the sites we visit on our pay-what-you-wish Harry Potter walking tour


Cure Your Sweet Tooth at M&M’s World

What kid would turn down a trip to a store that exclusively sells M&M’s candy and merchandise? This place is like candy heaven!

Located near Leicester Square, M&M’s World is the perfect stop for families who want to celebrate their love of these chocolate-filled treats.

 

 

Not only does this shop have the distinction of being the world’s largest candy store, but they also have a giant chocolate wall with over 100 M&M’s selections to choose from.

Even if you don’t want to spend too much money here, it’s worth noting that more than one tourist pass offers a discount on purchases made here. Use either the London Pass or the Turbo Pass to save 15% on everything.


Build Something at the Lego Store

When you’re done at M&M’s World, chances are your kids will be pulling you across the street to what has been confirmed as the biggest LEGO store in the whole world!

In addition to all the great toys they have for sale, this store also has a gigantic LEGO model of Big Ben. Standing 6.53 metres tall, this structure is actually a working clock that lights up after dark.

 

 

This location also houses the LEGO Mosaic Maker, a photo-booth machine that produces LEGO mosaic portraits that will give you instructions on how to recreate the picture with LEGO bricks!

Every now and then, this LEGO store will host special events and offer giveaways to the fans. There are also areas where kids can play with LEGO bricks for free.


Check Out the Cartoon Museum

Although it’s North of Oxford Circus, you might want to consider visiting this family-friendly museum full of exhibits about classic British cartoons.

 

Cartoon Museum London

 

In addition to all of the cartoon art they have on display, they also have a lot of comic strips from throughout the history of the art form.

They even have some examples from as far back as the 18th century!

There is also a store you can visit which offers a variety of merchandise and books based on the artwork at the Cartoon Museum.

If you’re trying to save money, note that admission to this attraction is actually included with the London Pass.


Read a Book at Waterstones

If your kids are avid readers, you might want to take them to one of the biggest bookstores in all of London.

There are actually two Waterstones in the area – one right down the street from Piccadilly Circus and one near Trafalgar Square.

Both locations offer a lot of books to choose from, but the main shop near the public circle is six floors tall with eight miles of shelves containing over 200,000 titles.

The children’s section is actually circus themed, and it takes up 2/3rds of the second floor. In addition to books, there are also a lot of toys and other kid-friendly items available for purchase.

Don’t forget to check out the cafe on the fourth floor for one of the best views in the neighborhood!


Go to Gosh! Comics

Even kids who don’t like reading won’t turn down a good comic book!

Thankfully, there is an absolutely fantastic comic book store just a few blocks from Piccadilly Circus with a wide variety of comics and graphic novels available.

Gosh! Comics has been around for over 30 years, and their selection is second to none. Some even say that their collection of comic books is much better than what you’ll find at Waterstones.

Whether your kids are interested in Manga, Marvel, DC, or something else, chances are that they’ll find something great to read at this local favorite.

 


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DISCOUNTS AT PICCADILLY CIRCUS

There are a lot of ways to save money on attractions at Piccadilly Circus. This section will cover some of the best discount options in the area.


Use a Tourist Pass

London tourist passes provide some of the biggest discounts for some of the best restaurants and attractions in the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

 

Here’s a look at how you can use these services to save both time and money while you’re wandering around Piccadilly Circus.

The London Pass

  • Save 15% at M&M’s World
  • Save 25% on Theatre Tickets
  • Includes admission to Wellington Arch
  • Includes admission to Apsley House
  • Includes admission to the Cartoon Museum
  • Includes admission to Benjamin Franklin House
  • Includes admission to Curzon Cinema Soho/Mayfair
  • Includes Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour

iVenture Card

  • Includes meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • Includes meal at Hard Rock Cafe
  • Includes meal at Planet Hollywood
  • Includes Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour

London TurboPass

  • Save 15% at M&M’s World
  • Includes Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour

London Explorer Pass

  • Free meal at Planet Hollywood
  • Free Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour

For more details on everything included with these discount cards and how to use them, make sure to read our post covering London tourist passes.


London 2 For 1

In addition to all the tourist passes you can use to save money, there is also a 2 for 1 program which offers B1G1 deals on several popular attractions throughout London.

Here are a few of the more notable locations and attractions near Piccadilly Circus that take part in this promotion:

  • Benjamin Franklin House
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Rainforest Cafe
  • Wellington Arch
  • Apsley House

For even more great discounts, check our post covering the 2 for 1 program.


Discount Theatre Tickets

If you want to see a musical near Piccadilly Circus, there are two excellent ways to save money on last minute tickets.

The first option is TodayTix, which often provides limited time offers for tickets as low as £10 – £15 per seat.

If all else fails, you can also go to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. This location offers discounted last-minute theatre tickets throughout the week.

All you have to do is walk up to the ticket booth and ask them about which seats are available!


Discount Sites

Don’t forget to check popular discount sites such as Groupon and Discount London for even more great savings on attractions and restaurants in the neighborhoods surrounding Piccadilly Circus.

At times, these services actually offer some of the best deals available in the area!
 


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RESTAURANTS NEAR PICCADILLY CIRCUS

There are a lot of great places to eat in the neighborhoods surrounding this public circle.

Whether you’re looking for a good family-friendly restaurant or a nice place for a romantic dinner, consider one of the following locations:

Don’t forget that you can get free meals at some of these locations by using a London tourist pass.

These are just a handful of the best-rated restaurants near Piccadilly Circus.

To learn about more food in the area, consider taking our Soho, Piccadilly and Chinatown food tour.

 


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SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF PICCADILLY CIRCUS AND LEICESTER SQUARE

This self-guided walking tour includes Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and St. James’s Square. It begins at Leicester Square and finishes at Berkeley Square in Mayfair.

This tour should take you approximately 90 min to 2 hours to complete. The map below is interactive. Click on it and scroll around. You can also use this link to the map.

 

 

(A) Leicester Square

One of London’s best-known locations, Leicester Square is in the centre of the city, in the heart of the West End Theatre District.

The square is named for Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, built his home here in 1635. By the 1700s, the area was a posh residential district. Even Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of King George II lived here.

By the late 19th century, Leicester Square had evolved from a fashionable neighbourhood into a hub of entertainment.

Hotels and theatres were built around the square and the area became a tourist destination.

In the centre of the square is a statue of William Shakespeare, a nod to the origins of English theatre, now so popular in this area.

Leave Leicester Square through the NORTH-WEST corner, along the path known as SWISS COURT.


(B) Swiss Court and M&M’s World

M&M’s World opened in 2011 and is the world’s largest candy store, spanning an incredible 35,000 square feet (3,250 sq. m.)!

There are over 100 types of M&Ms available for purchase.

TIP: London Pass holders are entitled to 15% off of purchases at M+M World.

Outside the shop is an odd looking clock, the Swiss Glockenspiel. This is a remnant of the Swiss Centre Building that was here before M&Ms World was built.

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.

The glockenspiel ‘performs’ at 12 pm, 5 pm, 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm Monday to Friday with extra times on the weekend at 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm.

Continue along and cross over Wardour Street, leaving Leicester Square behind you. Continue along Coventry Street until you get to the statue at PICCADILLY CIRCUS.


(C) Piccadilly Circus

Boasting some of the first electric lights seen in London, the glitz and colour of vibrant Piccadilly Circus has been attracting visitors here for decades.

With a somewhat confusing name, there has never been a circus at this location in the way modern visitors know it (acrobats, lion tamers, etc.) but instead, circus is the Latin word for “circle.”

Essentially a large traffic junction, Piccadilly Circus is where Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street, Piccadilly and Haymarket all come together – four of the busiest and most famous streets in the capital.

One of the gems located here is the Criterion Restaurant – an opulent building dating from the 1870s and is the setting of a scene in the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet.

For Sir Conan Doyle fans, Sherlock lovers, or those who fancy a bit of a treat, it’s worth stopping in for a glass of champagne in the ridiculous gorgeous art nouveau bar.

The state of the angel in the middle of the junction is the most famous monument here. Known commonly as the Statue of Eros, the official name of this piece of art is actually the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain.

It commemorates the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, a Victorian philanthropist, and politician.

The figure on top is the Angel of Christian Charity and it is on the steps beneath him that thousands of tourists come every year to sit and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Piccadilly Circus.

Keep going in the direction you were heading before and walk onto Piccadilly itself, crossing Regent Street in the process. Walk along until you pass Eagle Place on your LEFT. Thereafter you will come to Waterstones Book Store.


(D) Waterstones

You are now standing outside the largest bookstore in Europe! The sheer number of books contained in this building is almost beyond belief.

The top floor has a café/bar with wonderful views over the Piccadilly area if you’re looking for a quiet place to take a break, away from the hustle and bustle of the streets below.

Continue on Piccadilly until you reach Church Place. Turn LEFT down Church Place. Follow to the end and then you will be standing on Jermyn Street. Take a RIGHT and then an immediate LEFT onto Duke of York St. Follow until you get to ST. JAMES SQUARE.


(E) St. James Square

St. James Square is a perfect example of Georgian architecture, including the beautiful semi-private garden in the centre.

It was in 1662 that King Charles II leased the land here to the Earl of St. Albans, Henry Jermyn, who soon began building property on the area, primarily reserved for London’s elite.

Today the area is home to the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), the East End Club, the Naval and Military Club as well as holding the headquarters of numerous businesses such as BP.

In the centre of the square is a statue of King William III (1650 – 1702) sitting on horseback.

Have a walk through the park, which is open to the public during daylight hours.

Notable houses to look out for are:

  • No. 1 – BP Head Office
  • No. 10 – Former home of Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder
  • No. 19 – London home of the Dukes of Cleveland from 1720 to 1894
  • No. 31 – London residence for the Dukes of Norfolk and also where U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters during WWII.

Once you have walked around St. James Square, go back up Duke of York Street. At the top you will come to ST. JAMES’S PICCADILLY CHURCH.


(F) St. James’s Piccadilly

This unassuming church is the work of noted architect Sir Christopher Wren, and was completed in the 17th century.

The courtyard of the church also holds Piccadilly Market – originally and arts and crafts market, but now holding various goods which alternate depending on the various days of the week.

The inside of the church is wonderful to view, the market in the courtyard provides good shopping, and the fact that the church was designed by Christopher Wren means it’s definitely worth a look.

Facing the church, continue left down Jermyn Street. Turn RIGHT into Princes Arcade. When back onto Piccadilly, turn LEFT until you get to FORTNUM & MASON with the ROYAL ACADEMY across the road.


(G) Fortnum & Mason

Originally founded as a grocery store, Fortnum & Mason was established in 1707.

Today it’s known around the world for its’ high-quality goods and representation of ‘British’ tradition, food, and design.

Fortnum & Mason holds the Royal Warrant which means that it provides goods to the Royal Family themselves!

The store itself is worth exploring – stunning goods are arranged in delightful displays and their teas, coffees, and chocolates are surprisingly affordable and always delicious.

For those hoping to take in a traditional British Afternoon Tea, Fortnum & Mason is our top recommendation – but be sure to book in advance!


(H) Royal Academy of Arts

Just across the street from Fortnum & Mason stands the imposing structure of the Royal Academy.

The building itself is Burlington House, constructed in 1768. The Royal Academy of Arts is an institution which is funded privately by top artists and architects throughout the country.

You can enter the gallery to see some of the Royal Academy’s impressive holdings including work by Michelangelo, one of Gilbert Scott’s original London telephone boxes, and a constantly changing display of art in the massive centre courtyard.

With Fortnum & Mason on your left and the Academy on your right, continue down Piccadilly until you get to PICCADILLY ARCADE. Walk down the Arcade until you get to the statue of the dandy at the end, on Jermyn Street.


(I) Jermyn Street Dandy / Piccadilly Arcade

Piccadilly is known for its luxurious shops, houses, and restaurants.

The statue of the dandy here typifies Georgian top-class society and is a nod to the fact that London’s wealthy have been outfitting themselves from goods purchased in this neighbourhood for centuries.

The shops here are expensive but provide some of the highest quality goods you can find in the United Kingdom.

Piccadilly Arcade itself used to house showrooms for Waterford Crystal and Wedgwood.

Today the arcade holds numerous shops, some of which sport the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth II or Charles, the Prince of Wales. This means that the Royals themselves shop at those particular locations!

With the statue on your left, and Arcade on your right, continue down Jermyn Street until you get to St. James’s Street. Take a left and then cross St. James’s Street onto Bennet Street. Walk down Bennet Street until you get to Arlington Street then turn RIGHT. At the corner is THE RITZ.


(J) The Ritz Hotel

Opened by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz in 1906, the hotel typifies English silver-service and hospitality. It serves an expensive, but smashing, afternoon tea!

Walk along Piccadilly under the awning of the Ritz Hotel, keeping the Hotel on your left. At the pedestrian crossing on your right, walk across Piccadilly and then up Berkeley Street until you get to BERKELEY SQUARE.


(K) Berkeley Square

Laid out in the 18th century, Berkeley Square was originally surrounded by residential properties for those with the largest bank accounts in town.

Today, the buildings that surround the square are mostly business, although they still maintain the appearance of Georgian houses.

For such a small piece of London, the number of notable names who are associated with this neighbourhood is impressive, such as Charles Rolls, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, who was born here in 1877.

Notable buildings are:

(L) Berkeley Square No. 11 – Home to Horace Walpole, the UK’s first Prime Minister who moved here in 1779 and died 20 years later.

(M) Bruton St. No. 17 Queen Elizabeth II was born here!

(N) Berkeley Square No. 28 One of London’s most exclusive private members’ clubs, Morton’s Club.

(O) Berkeley Square No. 48 – Childhood home of Winston Churchill

(P) Berkeley Square No. 50 – Maggs Brothers Antiquarian Booksellers, known to be the most haunted house in London. The ghost stories here date back to the 18th century.

TIP: If you like ghost stories, check out our post about London Ghost Tours that you can take.

THE TOUR ENDS HERE.

The nearest Underground station is Green Park. You can walk to Bond Street and Oxford Street if you fancy a bit of shopping!

 


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PICADILLY CIRCUS IN-DEPTH

The word ‘circus’ is often associated with acrobats, trained elephants, and canvas tents but Piccadilly Circus displays none of those attributes! This is because the word ‘circus’ in Piccadilly is being used in the Latin sense – meaning circle.

This means Piccadilly Circus is really just a circular open space at a street junction in the heart of London!

It is quite a glamorous street junction, however, and is famously surrounded by video displays and neon signs, a famous ‘statue of Eros,’ as well as notable buildings such as the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre.

Today Piccadilly Circus is so busy with traffic, pedestrians, and tourists, that the phrase, “It’s like Piccadilly Circus” is used in popular British lexicon to refer to a place which is exceptionally busy.

It is said that if a person stays long enough in Piccadilly Circus – they will eventually bump into everybody they know!

 

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Piccadilly is a thoroughfare in London that has been in existence since the early 1600s. Named after piccadills (a fancy type of neck collar), the road meets with Regent Street in a junction that was designed by John Nash in 1819.

The Circus was expanded to connect to Shaftesbury Avenue in 1886, transforming it into one of the largest and most important road junctions in London.

In 1879, Charles Dickens described Piccadilly Circus as follows: “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.”

One of the most famous landmarks in London, the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (often referred to as the Statue of Eros – as this is the name most associated with the statue that is famously perched on top of the fountain) was erected in 1893 and still stands today. However, it was moved in the 1980s.

On the statue’s creation, it was considered somewhat risqué since the figure was entirely nude! Now it has become so synonymous with Piccadilly Circus and London in general that the outline of the statue is actually the symbol for the Evening Standard newspaper.

It also just so happens that this statue was the first in the world to be cast in aluminum – and it is also worth noting that, despite its’ popular name, the statue is not actually of Eros, but of his brother, Anteros (the God of selfless love) – chosen to represent the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury.

Piccadilly Circus Underground Station was opened in 1906, servicing both the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines. This station is one of the very few on the London Underground to have no buildings on street level – everything here is subterranean.

Not long after the Station opening, in 1910, the first electric advertisements in London appeared at the Circus and in 1923, electric billboards were erected – providing the famous lights that visitors now travel from all over the world to see.

World-Famous Lights

Piccadilly Circus has been notoriously surrounded by illuminated advertisements for over a century now. Today, there are only six illuminated advertising screens left.

On significant occasions, the lights are switched off. This was the case at the passing of Winston Churchill and also Diana, Princess of Wales.

The six signs are:

  • TDK – Here since 1990 and now an LED screen.
  • McDonald’s – Displayed since 1987 and is also LED.
  • Hyundai – The most recent addition from 2011. Replaced Sanyo, which had been here since the 1980s.
  • Samsung – Twenty years old this year, originally installed in 1994.
  • LG – Added in 2007, also displays a rolling feed of Sky News headlines.
  • Coca-Cola – has had a sign here since 1954! Also, it displays information about line closures and delays on the London Underground. In 2002,  it displayed a quote of John Lennon, “Imagine all the people living life in peace,” paid for by his widow, Yoko Ono at a cost of £150,000.

Trivia: Piccadilly Circus was the code name given to the Allies’ D-Day invasion fleet’s assembly location in the English Channel.

To learn more, take our pay-what-you-like walking tour of Soho, Piccadilly, and Chinatown

 


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