Leicester Square: Big Business, Bright Lights


Amidst the bright lights, shops, glitz and noise- right in the centre of the West End- is Leicester Square, a central plaza of entertainment, food and historical excellence. Esteemed for its various establishments,some of which are hundreds of years old, the square is one of the number one tourist hotspots’ around.

A Vivid History Of The Square

On an old map, whose creation was attributed to English land surveyor Ralph Agas in 1570, the square can clearly been seen sans the glitzy buildings and restaurants that grace the square today. A woman can be seen laying out sundry garments whilst bovine beasts grazed peacefully nearby.

London Square

The square was later named after the expansive Leicester House which was built by Robert Sydney, Earl of Leicester. By the time a year had passed the whole south side of the square was built and was particularly attractive to tourists even back in those days! Charles Colbert, the French ambassador, resided therewhilst Leicester House was home to Prince Eugene. The house later became the court of George the 2nd and the first theatrical performances began in the square; namely when a group of amateurs, including George the 3rd played Addison’s dramatic tragedy of Cato. On the west side of the square English portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds lived and worked his artistic magic lending the square a prestigious touch of beauty with his Grand Style of painting. On the opposite side of the square, not too far from the popular Alhambra, lived famous painter William Hogarth who is said to have spent some of the best years of his life on the square.

Newton, Riots, And A Concave Globe

However, it wasn’t just artists or royalty who were sheltered by the homes on the square. English Mathematician Isaac Newton lived to the south of Leicester Square for 15 years in a charming three storey terraced house. The same house was also occupied by Dre Burney, the father of famous authoress Madame d’Arblay. Another defining feature of the square was Saville House which was largely known for hosting cultural events, concerts and minstrel shows. More famously, it was renowned for hosting the morbidly fascinating needle work by Mary Linwood. There were even the wildly striking stanza shows where people could witness chickens being hatched using steam. The highly impressive stanza shows involved illuminated vessels which demonstrated the entire process of incubation, from the first drop of the egg to the bird’s appearance from the shell. People could participate in public fights for prize money which could get pretty gruesome. After some unfortunate religious woes, The Gordon Riots erupted in 1780 and many parts of London were set ablaze and consequently destroyed. Even though London was on the brink of a revolution the northeast corner of Leicester Square continued to flourish and the square hosted one of the best exhibitions London had ever seen: Burford’s panorama which gave large audiences visual representations of spectacular battles and exotic locations. Wyld’s Great Globe was set up in the centre of the square and opened for private viewings in 1851 and two years later 1.2 million people visited the concave attraction.

Fast Forward To Modern Times

Today Leicester Square contains a special kind of rustic beauty, having managed to hold onto some of its older infrastructures and charm. It is without a doubt one of the most picturesque, colourful places in the city and is the epicentre for entertainment in London. It is where glamorous A-list celebrities grace the red carpet for movie premiers and the exalted Capital Radio has their towering headquarters. It is the perfect place to be spoilt for choice if you’re looking for brilliant cuisine, or somewhere to dance into the early hours. Leicester Square is also known as theatre land for its many operatic shows and half price tickets on offer. If you’re interested in buying souvenirs there are plenty of shops near the underground station to indulge in. When you’re done, you can get a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants around, see a daytime screening of a film, or grab some tickets for some of the best-selling shows.

When you need somewhere to sleep after a long day of exploring and shopping, you might want to visit the exquisitely chic Piccadilly London West End hotel. Located just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly underground station, and the National Gallery, this vibrant hotel offers guests a first class experience no matter how long their stay.

Cinemas Of The Square

Largely dominating the square are themultiplex cinemas which are cleverly dotted around the square. In total there are three cinemas all of which showcase many of the UKs premiers for blockbuster films. If you are visiting London for the first time you will be dazzled by the size of the auditoriums, the colossal screen and cinemas which can sometimes seat up to 1,700 people. Although you will generally have to pay a higher entrance fee to these cinemas the impressive facilities are worth the small financial difference.

The Odeon, The Vue and Empire are Leicester Squares three main cinemas. The Odeon is situated in the centre of the Eastern side of Leicester Square and has a seat capacity of 1,683 and a grand total of six screens. The Vue has nine screens including one which is 3D and whilst it is not as spacious as the Odeon, and only able to hold 414 people, the larger number of screens does allow for a prominent variety of film options. Empire cinema, which is now operated by Cineworld, has nine screens which include a 3D screen. The largest screen in Empire can hold 1,330 people.

For directions towards Leicester Square, simply exit Leicester Square underground station and turn left, following the row of shops until you reach the square.