Planning a trip to London? Then Piccadilly Circus is no doubt on your radar, as it’s one of the most famous and fun parts of the city.
Often dubbed ‘the Times Square of London’, from world famous theatres to amazing eateries, cool bars and traditional pubs, fabulous shopping and street entertainment, this is an area that really does have it all. It’s also one of the best places in the city to stay, as you’ll be right in the heart of all the action. Better still, there are great London Hotels Special Offers to take advantage of all year round, too.
To help you navigate this bustling spot and its surroundings, here’s a handy guide. Enjoy!
Why is it Called Piccadilly Circus?
First things first, a question that has baffled tourists and locals alike – how does the area get its unusual name?
The ‘Piccadilly’ part of the name dates back to 1612, when a tailor named Roger Baker lived nearby who made a fortune selling piccadils – stiff elaborate neck collars worn by fashionable people in the 17th century.
As for the ‘Circus’ bit, this word comes from the Latin word for ‘ring’ or ‘circle’, and so was commonly used by Romans to refer to public areas like this. Though the ring over time transformed into the square we know today, its original name has remained.
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What is Piccadilly Circus Famous For?
The square is famous for a wealth of things, namely its neon signs, different displays and the fountain located in the middle of the junction which is now one of the city’s top landmarks and adds almost as much relaxation to the visit of the area as the Rituals Spa.
For those wondering what the statue in Piccadilly Circus is called that sits above the fountain, it’s the statue of Eros. It depicts a beautiful winged archer poised with his bow. It serves as the perfect juxtaposition against the new, vibrant advertisements that also call the area their home.
Erected at the end of the 19th century to honour Lord Shaftesbury’s humanitarian work, the original name of the memorial is Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. The public sculpture’s actual subject is Antheros, the Angel of Christian Charity and brother of the Greek god of love, but Londoners refer to it as Eros.
Fun fact: before the cups were stolen, it was actually possible to drink from the fountain, with the Duchess of Westminster doing so at its unveiling in 1893.
Getting to Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is an ideal destination for anyone that wants to visit Chinatown, Soho’s theatre district, Oxford Street’s shopping area, Leicester Square or Trafalgar Square as it’s in the centre of them.
Also, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are all within walking distance, too. How convenient!
What zone is Piccadilly Circus?
Piccadilly Circus is located in London’s zone 1. The Piccadilly Circus station on the London Underground is located directly underneath Piccadilly Circus itself, with entrances at every corner, and is served by the Piccadilly Line and Bakerloo Line.
Does Piccadilly Circus have a lift?
There are no lifts at Piccadilly Circus station, just escalators and about 40 steps up in total from the train platform level to the ticket hall and street level.
Therefore, if you do need access to a lift, it’s best if you depart from Covent Garden or Green Park, depending on which area you’re looking to explore first.
What Can You Do in Piccadilly Circus?
As well as history and the fabulous fountain, it’s also synonymous with fun, being dubbed as one of the centre points for partying in the capital. From Indian Afternoon Tea London to typical and tasty pub grub, there are also loads of great places to eat in the area.
In addition to the fountain (which you really must check out), the London Pavilion is another notable attraction in the area – located on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street. It opened on Monday the 30th of November 1885 and was the first building established at the Piccadilly Circus end of the then newly created Shaftesbury Avenue. It was, for many years, one of the most prevalent music halls in London.
Another great place to soak up some of the city’s arts and culture is the Criterion Theatre, as well as the world-famous Lilywhites department store.
However, you’re not a true London tourist without a photo underneath the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus. The Piccadilly Lights can be found at the centre of the circus, just across the street from the London Underground stop and, although they are ‘just ads’, they’re a spectacle that people have been flocking to for decades. We can’t argue…they do look spectacular, especially at night.
Just a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus is Leicester Square, which is the epicentre for London tourism.
As well as the statue of William Shakespeare in the centre, there are also a lot of great family-friendly attractions nearby such as the Lego Store and M&M’s World (no trip to London is complete without nabbing one of the yellow M&M bags).
Head a short walk south of Leicester Square to reach yet another popular public area which features a selection of statues, testaments, and memorials amongst two very large fountains at the centre. Trafalgar Square is also where you will find both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery – two of the best galleries in London. Admission to both museums is entirely free, so anyone is welcome to visit during opening hours, though look out for certain exhibitions which may incur an entry fee. If you’re looking for an overview of the nearby neighbourhoods, you could even take a tour by bus or foot of Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Soho. There are tours for everything in this area, from musical legend tours, to Harry Potter tours, as we