Off the Beaten Track: Unusual Attractions near Piccadilly Circus

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Even if you’ve never been to London and set foot in the West End, you’re bound to be aware of the attractions it contains – a plethora of world-class theatres, a bevy of brilliant restaurants, bars and night spots, flagship retail stores and luxury brand-based outlets and, of course, the bright neon lights of Piccadilly Circus. And yet, so exciting and intoxicating is the district that, within just a few moments’ walking distance of Piccadilly Circus, are many a little known, unexpected treasure to unearth. Here are just a handful of them…

trafalgar square

Aqua Spirit

(240 Regent Street W1B 2EL; entrance at 30 Argyll Street/ distance from Piccadilly London West End hotel: 5 minutes’ walk)

Perfect for balmy, sunny spring and summer evenings, this oh-so stylish cocktail bar is hidden away atop the fifth floor of the building that used to be Regent Street’s Dickens & Jones department store and, as such, affords visitors not just a cool, sophisticated night out but also a pristine panorama of downtown London as they sup a glass of Champers or a nifty, minty Mojito. Carrying an irresistible Japanese theme in its décor, its round bar features a hand-crafted charcoal heater, while booth seating comes complete with kimono silk backdrops.

The Electric Carousel

(8-10 Brewer Street W1F 0SE/ distance from Piccadilly London West End hotel: 5 minutes’ walk)

concert in London

For an entirely different night out, how about stepping into Soho and sampling an evening of cabaret and burlesque at this venue, which for many years hosted the Madame Jojo’s nightclub? This replacement definitely picks up where the legendary Jojo’s left off; both the weekly Lost & Found and Kitsch Cabaret nights have returned and should you be up for the likes of them, neither’s to be missed for their uniquely campy thrills. But, to be fair, each and every night at this place pretty much promises foot-stomping, stonking music and frolics – in fact, check what’s on when you’re in town, as it’s often a venue for one-off live gigs and album launches by big-ish names.

Phoenix Garden

(21 Stacey Street WC2H 8DG/ distance from Piccadilly London West End hotel: 10 minutes’ walk)

Phonix garden London

A true idyll that offers naturally inspired repose, this glorious little West End garden located very near the tall, imposing concrete monolith that’s the Centrepoint tower-block at the junction between Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross Road is a little known haven, for sure. Filled with wildlife like frogs in its dinky pond, while birds of all kinds frequent its trees and feeding and nesting boxes, it’s a unique space right in the heart of Central London, let alone the cramped hustle-bustle of the West End. Maintained by a more than dedicated team of volunteers but open to all (far from just locals), it’s a perfect spot to escape the urban jungle – like the spa at London West End hotel, especially if you’re staying at the Piccadilly London West End hotel.

Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour

(15-16 Gerrard Street W1D 6JE/ distance from Piccadilly London West End hotel: 4 minutes’ walk)

cocktails london

You may have heard the term ‘hidden bar’ before – it refers to the hip sort of watering hole that’s so trendy it’s supposed to be difficult to find it because it’s located behind the most unassuming exterior possible – but, to be fair, in these days of rampant blogging and social media posting, such places aren’t really properly ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’. Yet that’s not to say they’re worth discovering; far from it. And this one’s a real doozy. If you’re interested in visiting a cracking-cocktail-bar-cum-excellent-dim-sum-eatery – which serves, among other things, creations served in bottles that are only ‘identifiable’ by the Chinese characters printed on their labels and rarely tasted Oriental teas – then look out for the jade door along Gerrard Street, in the heart of Soho’s exotic Chinatown. As you may have guessed, a visit to this place is all about mystery and discovery – if you’re up for that kind of evening, delights await you here, undoubtedly.

‘Old Mayfair’ walking tour

(Starts at Green Park Tube station W1J 8AQ/ distance from Piccadilly London West End hotel: 10 minutes’ walk)

Old mayfair Walking tour

Finally, stretching your legs and giving yourself some good exercise may not sound like the thing you most want to do on a short-break in the West End, but as you’re bound to do a lot of walking in this part of town anyway, why not go on a walking tour of the fascinating and gloriously-easy-on-the-eye Mayfair? The blurb for this walking tour describes it as ‘the champagne and caviar of London walks’, which it could well be given its location; Mayfair has been the playground of the rich, privileged, powerful and famous throughout its history – its jubilant Georgian architecture is testament to that alone. Moreover, it comprises a beautiful ‘village within a village’, the raffish and delightful cobbled back-alley world that’s Shepherd Market. To stroll about here is just like stepping into Rowling’s Diagon Alley – who could resist it? The walk takes place through the summer months on Mondays (10.30am start) and year-round on Thursdays (11am start) and ends in New Bond Street.

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