Piccadilly Circus: the 2020 guide

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What to do in Piccadilly Circus?

What to do in Piccadilly Circus?

Piccadilly Circus is a large road junction and pedestrian square located in the Westminster district of London. It is one of the city's nerve centers, easily recognizable by the many illuminated signs surrounding it.

This busy intersection - which links together the famous Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Covent Street, Glasshouse Street and Haymarket - sees nearly 100 million people pass each year from all over the world.

Piccadilly Circus is also at the crossroads of the West End theater district, the famous Soho and Leicester Square - known for their life nightlife - and the aristocratic district of Mayfair . The eponymous underground station - where the trains of the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines run - is just below the junction.

Several tourist attractions can be seen there: the Shaftesbury fountain and the statue of the angel Eros, the Horses of Helios fountain, the Criterion theater or the London Pavilion.

Piccadilly Circus is often compared to Times Square, New York's famous square.

The story of Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus Square, built in 1893, was originally intended to connect Regent Street and Piccadilly Street.

Its name is directly derived from the name of Piccadilly Street, one of the 5 streets converging on the crossroads, to which the word "circus" - which means "circle" in Latin has been added.

Visit Piccadilly Circus

The illuminated screens of Piccadilly Circus

One of the main characteristic signs of Piccadilly Circus is the presence of gigantic illuminated signs all around the square.

The first 6 advertising screens were installed at the beginning of the 20th century. Perrier was one of the first brands to hit the screens of Piccadilly Circus in 1908 - closely followed by the Coca Cola brand.

Since their installation, the illuminated screens of Piccadilly Circus have been turned off for the first time during the Second World War (re-lit in 1949), then for the funerals of Winston Churchill in 1965, those of Princess Lady Diana in 1997 and in the occasion of the WWF Earth Hour.

In January 2017, 9 month renovations were necessary to remove the 6 old screens and replace them with a single giant high definition screen.

This screen is today the largest digital screen in Europe.

Piccadilly Circus at night

Tourist attractions in Piccadilly Circus

  • The Shaftesbury Fountain and the Angel Eros Statue: southwest of Piccadilly Circus is the Shaftesbury Monument Memorial Fountain, more simply called Shaftesbury Memorial. Built in 1893 in honor of British parliamentarian Anthony Ashley-Cooper, it is surmounted by the statue of a naked archer, symbol of the Angel of Christian Charity - whom Londoners have affectionately nicknamed "Eros", a Greek deity of love.
Angel Eros statue on Shaftesbury fountain
  • The Horses of Helios fountain: located at the corner of Piccadilly and Haymarket streets, the Horses of Helios fountain - sculpted by Rudy Weller - represents the four horses of Helios, the Greek god of sun and light: Pyrois, Eoos, Aethon and Phlegon.
Horses of Helios fountain
  • The Criterion Theater: located on the south side of Piccadilly Circus Square, was designed by Thomas Verity and opened on March 21 1874. Since 1997, the Criterion Theater has hosted the Reduced Shakespeare Company , created in 1981 by Daniel Singer.
  • The Criterion theater is built entirely underground.
  • The London Pavilion : built in 1859, before being rebuilt in 1923 northeast of Piccadilly Circus - at the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street. Originally a music hall, it was rebuilt in the mid-1980s to become a shopping arcade with shops and restaurants.
  • The London Pavilion is now part of the London Trocadero , an entertainment complex.

Shopping at Piccadilly Circus

West of Piccadilly Circus is Regent Street: London's largest shopping street with all the major ready-to-wear brands like: H&M, ZARA, Mango, COS, Superdry, Hollister Co., Nike, & Other Stories, Kiko Milano, Uniqlo, etc.

But also typical English brands like Ted Baker.

The Hamley's and Lego Store stores will amaze young and old with staging incredible of your favorite toys - and the shops Kingdom of Sweets and M&M's World will delight the most greedy!

For traditional British products, visit the store Fortnum & Mason: holder of the Royal Warrant Appointment - a royal warrant which grants it the title of official supplier to the royal family - this store carries an assortment of the finest teas, coffees and chocolates.

For "I love London" t-shirts and sweatshirts, "Keep calm and..." mugs, etc. - rather prefer the large souvenir shops of the place, and do not hesitate to negotiate the prices!

The restaurants of Piccadilly Circus

Many restaurants and bars are present around the square of Piccadilly Circus, among the most famous:

For an afternoon tea in the pure British tradition, visit Fortnum & Mason - but remember to book  in advance!

The shows and musicals of Piccadilly Circus

From Piccadilly Circus square, you can easily reach Shaftesbury Avenue - the heart of the West End , with many theaters playing nightly (and sometimes daytime) plays and musicals like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theater, Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theater, Pretty Woman at the Piccadilly Theater or Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theater.

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" at the Palace Theater

Piccadilly Circus opening hours

Piccadilly Circus Square is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The shops and restaurants that surround it are mostly open every day, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

How to get to Piccadilly Circus?

To get there, 2 options :

  • Metro : Piccadilly Line and Bakerloo Line - Piccadilly Circus stop.
  • Bus : lines 3, 6, 12, 13, 14, 19, 22, 23, 38, 88, 94, 139, 159 and 453.

From Piccadilly Circus, you can continue your walk to Leicester square - and discover Chinatown which is located in the Soho district just a short walk away.

Close to Piccadilly Circus

Take advantage of your visit to Piccadilly Circus to visit:

  • China Town
  • Hamleys
  • Hyde Park
  • Leicester square
  • National Gallery
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Oxford Street
  • Regent Street
  • Trafalgar Square