Piccadilly Circus has never been perceived as a tourist hotspot; in fact, quite the opposite. It is crowded with commuters and visitors looking to make their way elsewhere, and is more of a stop-gap between destinations, rather than a place to sit back and watch the world go by.
Yet there is so much more than meets the eye, as the place has a great deal of history behind it, and there are so many fascinating facts which may make you change your mind and observe the surroundings before boarding the next tram to Camden Town or Leicester Square. Of course, it is located right by the notorious West End, and there are numerous places of interest situated nearby such as museums, markets and high end eateries, but give it a chance!
If you are heading to work and need to be at the office within half an hour then it is likely that you will pass through Piccadilly Circus many times. It is one of the main changing points in London for those who prefer to use public transport as opposed to a car; therefore residents do not get the time to see what they could be missing out on.
- The fountain. Before the cups were pilfered, it was actually possible to drink from the fountain. The Duchess of Westminster did just that when it was unveiled in 1893. The basin was not as grand as Gilbert’s initial creations, and this resulted in people becoming saturated with overflowing water when the fountain was turned on. Gilbert did not attend the ceremony, as he was so furious by the amendments made to his design, as it resulted in completely different-and rather embarrassing-consequences.
- The Statue of Eros is not actually Eros himself, but his twin brother Anteros. Anteros represents mature, selfless love whilst Eros was the god of romantic, frivolous love. This gives an entirely different meaning to the statue’s purpose altogether. It was the first of its kind to be cast entirely from aluminium, and still stands to this very day.
- The official name of the centrepiece is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, and is thus entitled due to the great Victorian philanthropist, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper). It was financed by public subscriptions, which is an indication of his work with charities, and he was regarded as a considerate, magnanimous individual.
- In 1612, Robert Baker, a man of enormous wealth built a mansion house to the north of what is now known as Piccadilly Circus. He made his fortune selling Picadils to the noble, rich and famous. Picadils are stiff collars favoured by those who hold influence and power, and carry it off with aplomb. However, he was not popular with the locals, who called the mansion ‘Picadil Hill’ behind his back. Yet the name ‘Piccadilly’ has still stuck.
- The sign for Coca Cola has been a focal point of Piccadilly Circus since 1955 however the first products advertised in neon lights were erected in 1908. Two notable brands were Bovril and Perrier (sound familiar?), amongst many others. The lights were switched off during World War II, and also for the funeral of Winston Churchill and Lady Diana, Princess of Wales (in 1965 and 1997 respectively).
- In 2002, Yoko Ono spent a recorded £150,000 so that she could have the lyrics from John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ emblazoned on a black and white background for a sum total of three months. The immortal lines, ‘Imagine all the people living life in peace’ were displayed for the world to see, but have since been removed.
- There are ‘7 noses in Soho’, one of which can be seen in Piccadilly Circus.
- Piccadilly Circus has not always been known by this moniker. The original name for the street was Portugal Street, credited to the home nation of Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II. It changed its name to Piccadilly Circus by the middle of the 1700s.
- When the Beatles introduced ‘Beatlemania’ to the masses, Bruce Forsyth was the compere. He played the ‘host with the most’ when they performed at the London Palladium on Sunday October 13th, 1963.
- The area has the feel of an open-plan circus since the pedestrianisation of the southern side in the 1990s. It has buildings assembled in a circular line, so lives up to its title. The word ‘circus’ comes from a Latin term, meaning ‘ring’ or ‘circular line’. Well; if the cap fits!
And, if you need another reason to explore the hidden depths of the area, then a stay at the decadent, luxurious Piccadilly London West End Hotel surely must be at the top of the list. It is grand, opulent and beautiful without being ostentatious, and guarantees exceptional service.
It is the finest hotel in Piccadilly Circus, and prides itself on its exceptional facilities, stunning rooms and central location. Every bespoke request will be taken into consideration, and you will want to return time and time again for a truly magical experience.
1. Why do they call it Piccadilly Circus?
The name ‘Piccadilly‘ originates from a seventeenth-century frilled collar named a piccadil. Roger Baker, a tailor who became rich making piccadils lived in the area. The word ‘Circus‘ refers to the roundabout around which the traffic circulated. However, it’s not a roundabout anymore.
2. What does Piccadilly mean?
It is a happening street in London and Piccadilly Circus is the perfect example of that.
3. When was Piccadilly Circus built?
It was built in 1819 with the aim of connecting Regent Street and Piccadilly Street, which was famous for its ample shopping opportunities.