The road junction connecting Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, The Haymarket, Coventry Street and Glasshouse Street is called Piccadilly Circus, having originally been built to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. The name “Circus” refers to the round space formed by the street junction and comes from the Latin word for circle. A popular tourist attraction, the Circus is linked to the important entertainment and shopping areas in London’s West End. The place is also known for its lit neon signs advertising various companies, much like Times Square in New York City.

Highlights

  • Criterion Theatre – With a seating capacity of 600, the building was originally designed by Thomas Verity to be a concert hall. The entire building is underground, with a descending stairway from the box office area. It first opened as a theatre in 1874, but was soon closed to undergo improvements and replacements; fortunately reopening the next year. The next time it was renovated was between 1989 and 1992.

piccadilly-circus-criterion-theatre

  • London Pavilion –The London Pavilion is situated on the corner between Coventry Street and Shaftesbury Avenue – originally having a different location. When it opened as a music hall in 1859, it had been built on the site of the present Shaftesbury Avenue, and had to be relocated at a later date. The famous electric billboards were mounted on the side of the building in 1923. It served as a cinema starting in 1934 after undergoing some changes in structure, and was rebuilt almost entirely in 1986 to be turned into a shopping arcade. The only part of the old building that was kept was the or iginal façade from 1885. It was eventually connected with the Trocadero Centre in 2000 and was renamed in 2003 to London Trocadero.

piccadilly-circus-london-pavilion

  • Shaftesbury Memorial and the Statue of Anteros – Built between 1892 and 1893 in what is today the centre of the Circus, the Shaftesbury Memorial was meant to commemorate Lord Shaftesbury and his philanthropic work. It features Anteros, the Greek god, also known as The Angel of Christian Charity, who is often taken to be Eros. After World War II, the memorial was moved from its place to where it stands today, at the southwestern side of the Circus.

piccadilly-circus-shaftesbury-memorial

Tips

  • Illuminated Advertising Billboards –One of the most iconic features of Piccadilly Circus is, of course, its many neon advertisements that draw an instant similarity to New York City’s Times Square. The first billboards were put up in the early 1900s, making use of incandescent light bulbs, which were later substituted for neon lights and moving signs, followed by digital projectors, LED displays and finally neon lamps. The signs once surrounded Piccadilly Circus, but are now only featured on one building and have decreased in number, due to the high cost of rent.

piccadilly-circus-illuminated-signs

  • Shopping – A lot of people, especially tourists, visit Piccadilly Circus for the complete shopping experience, as it’s a prime place for retail and also dining. Gap, Boots, The Sting and Lillywhites are available for anyone seeking the former. Fortnum and Mason are also great if you wish to stop for a bite to eat.

Transport

  • London Underground – The Underground station at Piccadilly Circus is one of the only stations that is entirely underground. It is on the Bakerloo Line between Oxford Circus and Charing Cross, and the Piccadilly Line between Leicester Square and Green Park.
  • Railway – The Charing Cross Railway Station is a 10-minute walk away, while Victoria Railway Station is a 20-minute walk away.
  • Car – There are car parks available at Leicester Square Masterpark and Brewer Street NCP, both about three minutes’ walk away, but it is not recommended to travel to Piccadilly Circus by car, because the traffic is very dense and parking spaces extremely scarce.

History

Piccadilly is a street that connects to Piccadilly Circus and which gave the square its name. The name of Piccadilly comes from a house on this street that was owned by a tailor named Robert Baker, who sold piccadills (collars). Piccadilly Circus appeared in 1819, when it created a junction only with Regent Street. It lost its circular shape that gave it the name of Circus when Shaftesbury Avenue was introduced in 1886.

The junction became busier and busier as time went by and traffic increased. The number of pedestrians visiting the area also grew, especially tourists, who have always been attracted to this part of London, thanks to its popular shopping and entertainment areas.

Redevelopment was considered in the early 1960s in order to facilitate traffic flow, and the plan consisted of creating an upper level for pedestrians only and a lower one for vehicles. This design also proposed the demolition of the Criterion, Trocadero and the “Monico” buildings (the latter having taken its name from the Monico café that was hosted here long-term, and building three 240-foot towers instead. The plans fell through, because the traffic flow would have not been increased as much as needed and no other major remodeling has occurred since.

Interesting Facts

  • Charles Ginner, a British painter, has a work named Piccadilly Circus, which was executed in 1912 and pertains to the Tate Britain collection.
  • Another artist who chose the Circus as his subject was L.S. Lowry R.A, and his painting was worth over 5 million GBP in 2011.
  • Citizens of the UK have adopted the name “Piccadilly Circus” to represent a very crowded place, busy or with very many people.
  • The lights are switched off on special occasions, the most notable being the deaths of important figures such as Winston Churchill, in 1965 and Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. The Lights Out London campaign also called for a one-hour complete switch-off in 2007.

13 Reviews

  1. Jillibeankc6
    Jillibeankc6 49 Comments
     -  02 May 2018

    Busy and Exciting

    Despite the crowds, our visit to Piccadilly was a lot of fun. There were vendors on the sidewalks everywhere selling knockoffs and cheap trinkets. We got most of our souvenirs here. It felt like Times Square in New York, but a little more civilized. I wouldn’t recommend getting a meal here, as everything was overpriced.

  2. cointoss
    cointoss 25 Comments
     -  05 Mar 2018

    Not a good experience

    Its basically a place bustling with tourist. There isn’t much to see other than people. Would not recommend going there unless you have to.

  3. karlykowala
    karlykowala 26 Comments
     -  12 Jan 2018

    Fantastic attraction

    Always seem to end up in this district when visiting London. Not just because of its vibrancy and liveliness but because I feel that it’s a good point to walk from many other of Londons attractions and districts. From here you are able to walk to Carnaby Street, Oxford Street, Covent Garden and enjoy the restaurants in Chinatown.
    There are many big department stores and big high street shops in this area to take advantage of.

  4. dzammit
    dzammit
    Canada 60 Comments
     -  03 Aug 2017

    It was good

    It is literally a Circus! My first time to London I was excited to see Piccadilly Circus, I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t as much of a draw as I thought it would be. A smaller version of Time Square with equally expensive restaurants and crowds.
    I’m glad I saw it, I always wanted to, but…been there, done that.

  5. Nemanja Popović 45 Comments
     -  28 Jul 2017

    It was good

    Piccadilly circus is a world of its own. It’s very lively and noisy and crowded. If you enjoy that kind of stuff than Piccadilly will be a great place to visit. It’s packed with shops and restaurants which are quite pricey.
    Sincerely that’s not my cup of tea since I enjoy more peaceful and quiet places.

  6. lilytravel
    lilytravel
    Morocco 16 Comments
     -  18 Jul 2017

    It was good

    One of the busiest neighborhoods, Piccadilly circus is probably the most crowded places I’ve been to in London. A lot of adverts as well. For a person who prefers quieter places. Probably it is not the place I would recommend to visit. I must say that it is a spot for the young generation where they usually gather around the statue to have a fun time while having a meal. It is, after all, a very expensive area with many expensive restaurants.

  7. Uswa Shamail
    Uswa Shamail 14 Comments
     -  15 Jul 2017

    It was good

    Its probably worth a visit if you’re in England from abroad. Its definitely something you dont witness back where I come from. However, if you’re the quiet time and like seeing wildlife/scenic beauty then this definitely not the spot for you. Its surrounded by crowdy and expensive shops/restaurants. Its always bustling with tourists to the point that its overcrowded

  8. sattard
    sattard 16 Comments
     -  14 Jul 2017

    Excellent

    An exciting spot – definitely worth a visit. This isn’t the kind of place where locals hang out, and there are quite a few over priced touristic shops – so try not to do any shopping around here. Here’s a tip though –
    there’s a restaurant as part of the Criterion theatre, it takes you back to the glory times of the city. The interior design is so lavish and ornate – check it out!

  9. AlanStock
    AlanStock 41 Comments
     -  05 Jun 2017

    Needs improvement

    I’m from the UK so I don’t really get the hype for this place. It’s like a little New York Times Square without the interesting bits for me. But if you want to see bustling roundabout with a load of buskers, street artists and so on, and a snapshot of busy London life, it’s worth a stop for tourists. Visit at night for the Neon signs. To be honest though there are much better places in London worth your time!

  10. tsomer
    tsomer 10 Comments
     -  03 Jun 2017

    Excellent

    A must see place while in London. Watching busses and taxis drive through a roundabout. Neon advertisements are especially impressive during the night. Lots of people walking around, taking pictures, create a unique atmosphere.

  11. thewizardoflozz
    thewizardoflozz 10 Comments
     -  16 May 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    A must see part of London! A refreshing atmosphere with a taste of New York on it’s tastebuds! I would definitely recommend a visit here, as its glitz and glamour work for incredible street artists & quite quirky photo opportunities with all of the flashing lights of the signs! With the tubes near by, it’s easy to get around + there is always something around the corner!

  12. ColeStephenson 10 Comments
     -  21 Apr 2017

    Excellent

    Piccadilly Circus is easily accessible and one of the most lively parts of London. While visiting you can watch many of the street artists, and buy your souviners! Keep in mind that this is a highly visited area, so I would suggest going to eat or have a drink in another location.

  13. Celina Tolbert 17 Comments
     -  21 Jan 2017

    Excellent

    Piccadilly is basically the Times Square of London. If you want tourist-y stores and attractions, this is a great place for you to explore.

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