London’s West End district is simply one of the capital’s most essential areas for visitors and those staying for a short-break in the mega metropolis. An entertainment-devoted and shopping-enthusiast-serving stretch of busy urban brilliance located slap-bang in the centre of the city, it’s where you’ll comes across exclusive and affordable fashion outlets and world-famous department stores and awesome cinemas, elegant casinos and a cornucopia of iconic theatres – as well as five-star restaurants, cafés, street food vendors and excellent boutique hotels near Piccadilly Circus London. All that said, just what are the most popular locales to visit for those who come and stay in the Big Smoke…?
Piccadilly Circus, one of the great centres of London life, is (you may be surprised to learn) named after the ‘picadils’ (ruffs) made by a renowned 18th century tailor just down the road from the piazza itself. Great for popping into and meeting people if you’ve chosen for the base for your stay accommodation like the Piccadilly London West End), this, well, traffic junction’s also one of London’s most bustling spots, being the point at which five thoroughfares intersect. And, of course, at the Circus’s very centre stands Eros – or, to be precise, the Shaftesbury Memorial, which was erected to commemorate the late-Victorian-era humanitarian the Earl of Shaftesbury; it’s a bronze fountain topped by a cast-aluminium figure of an archer (actually Anteros not Eros; the former’s the latter’s brother in Greek mythology).
Royal Academy of Arts
(Burlington House, Piccadilly/ open: 10am-6pm Saturday-Thursday; 10am-10pm Friday)
Dating as far back as 1768, when it originally opened under the patronage of King George III, the Royal Academy of Arts is located in Burlington House, a magnificent brick-and-stone mansion that sports a Renaissance-style façade, ensuring it catches the eyes – and then some – as you pass it on Piccadilly. In its time, the Academy as boasted the likes of Constable, Turner and Millais among its revered member, but nowadays is most celebrated for the summer exhibition of works by contemporary British artists it hosts evert summer; in fact, this exhibition is open to all and sundry, genuinely, so long as their works pass the selection panel.
(51 Piccadilly/ open: 9am-8pm Monday-Saturday; 11am-6pm Sunday)
Literally just a minute or two’s walk along Piccadilly from the Royal Academy (so absolutely ideal for those staying at hotels near West End), this beguiling location was among the first actual glass shopping arcades in Europe; its highly attractive high-end Regency-style elegance and (touch of) opulence ensuring it’s remained open ever since, well, its heyday more than 200 years ago. Or is its heyday actually today? It’s hard to say, so popular is its gentrified, glorious offering to the London retail scene, selling with exquisite beauty and decorum the ‘haberdashery, clothing and other articles which offend[ed] neither sight nor smell’.
Finally, no visit to the West End is complete without stepping into the long-famous environs of Leicester Square. Positioned pretty much at the very centre of both this district of the capital and of the city itself, it remains the undisputed entertainment hub of London; packed full, as it is, with casinos, restaurants, eateries, street performers and artists and, of course, most renowned of all, celebrated cinemas that host Hollywood-star-attending movie premieres of the latest releases on a very regular basis. Originally a small, 19th-Century-set out garden sporting a statue of Shakespeare (who else?) in its centre, it also features busts of famous figures whom once lived in the vicinity, including Sir Isaac Newton. Try to find them; it’s a rewarding game, for sure – almost as rewarding as winning a small fortune in one the square’s glitzy casinos!