Piccadilly Circus Guide: Tips and Tricks for Navigating London’s Famous Landmark

Piccadilly Circus is a bustling hub in the heart of London’s West End. With a plethora of attractions including bars, restaurants, clubs, theatres, and venues, it is no surprise that this iconic destination draws crowds from all over the world. From the world-renowned theatres of Shaftesbury Avenue to the high-end shopping of Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus has something to offer for everyone.

Whether you’re here to catch a hit musical, indulge in some retail therapy, dance the night away, or simply soak up the atmosphere, Piccadilly Circus ticks all the boxes. This legendary spot continues to be one of London’s most beloved areas, and visitors can’t get enough of its vibrant energy and endless entertainment options.

Key Takeaways

  • Piccadilly Circus is a must-visit destination in London’s West End.
  • The area boasts a variety of attractions, from theatres to shopping to nightlife.
  • Visitors can expect a lively and exciting atmosphere in this iconic spot.

The History of Piccadilly Circus

What’s in a Name?

Piccadilly Circus, a bustling intersection located in London’s West End, is named after a 17th-century tailor named Robert Baker. Baker was famous for selling a popular type of frilly collar called a “piccadill”. The “circus” part of the name is derived from the Latin word for “circle”.

The Area’s Development

Originally farmland, the area surrounding Piccadilly Circus gradually developed into a residential area for the upper class during the 18th century. However, in the 19th century, the area began to transform into a popular shopping and entertainment district. The junction was constructed in 1819 to connect Regent Street and Piccadilly, and Piccadilly Circus, as we know it today, was born.

Neon Lights and Billboards

Piccadilly Circus is often referred to as London’s Times Square, and it’s easy to see why. The iconic neon lights and billboards that adorn the buildings symbolize the city’s dynamism and cosmopolitan spirit. The first electric advertisements appeared in the 1890s, and by the early 1900s, sophisticated billboards and neon lights illuminated the night sky, attracting visitors from all over the world.

World War II and Rebuilding

During World War II, Piccadilly Circus was largely destroyed in the Blitz. However, after the war, the area was rebuilt and regenerated to remain faithful to the social hub it was before the war.

Piccadilly Circus Today

Today, Piccadilly Circus is situated at the border of some of London’s most famous areas, such as Mayfair, Soho, Carnaby, St. James, and Covent Garden. Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square are just around the corner, while Buckingham Palace, Regent’s Park, and Hyde Park are just minutes away. It is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, offering a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Best Piccadilly Circus Restaurants

Park Row

Park Row is a restaurant complex with a luxurious art-deco interior that will transport diners from London to Gotham City. The menu is fresh and modern, with some snazzy dishes like lobster and venison, their signature Gotham City’s Saviour (a ribeye steak), and intriguing starters like Rabbit From a Hat. The prices are reasonable, but booking in advance is a must.

For those who want something extra special, Park Row has the Monarch Theatre, a 20-seat venue surrounded by 360-degree project-mapped walls. Chef Karl O’Dell, formerly of Michelin-starred Texture, cooks sublime dishes that drive a narrative through visuals, sound, and taste. The menu is a bit radical, making it a must-visit for adventurous culinary explorers.

Brasserie Zedel

Brasserie Zedel is a traditional French brasserie located in a historic building on Sherwood Street, just a short walk from Piccadilly Circus. The restaurant serves classic French dishes such as escargots, Choucroute, and authentic French soups. While the menu is meat-heavy, there are vegetarian options available.

The prices at Brasserie Zedel are reasonable for a place to eat in Piccadilly Circus. The atmosphere is casual and lively, with regular live music, theatre, comedy, and more at a venue located inside the brasserie called The Crazy Coqs.

American Bar at Brasserie Zedel

The American Bar inside Brasserie Zedel switches up the Parisian decor to pre-prohibition era American art deco, inspired by the golden age of Hollywood. The cocktails here are incredible, with modern classics infused with American-inspired inventions, making it a great spot for pre or/and post-dinner drinks. Incorporating an American bar into a French brasserie is a slightly unexpected play, but it really paid off.

Madhu’s at The Dilly

Madhu’s is a sophisticated Indian restaurant located in the Dilly Hotel near Piccadilly Circus station. The restaurant quickly built a reputation for its high-end Indian cuisine, with dishes that blend traditional flavours with modern cooking techniques. The menu is extensive, with meat, fish, and poultry dishes and a greater-than-average selection of vegetarian dishes.

With an upbeat atmosphere and music in the evenings, Madhu’s is inarguably one of the best places to eat in Piccadilly Circus for fans of Indian and Punjabi cuisine. The prices are reasonable, making it an excellent option for those looking for a high-end dining experience without breaking the bank.

Things to do in Piccadilly Circus

Eros Statue

The Shaftesbury Memorial Foundation on Shaftesbury Avenue is home to one of London’s most famous statues, the Eros statue. The statue is often mistaken for Eros, the Greek god of erotic love, but it is actually a statue of Anteros, the god of selfless love. The true identity of the statue has been the subject of debate since it was unveiled. The sculptor, Alfred Gilbert, claimed that the statue was inspired by Anteros, a morally righteous figure at the time. However, it was met with controversy among Victorian moralists who did not want an erotic icon to decorate such a high-end part of London. Today, the statue remains a popular tourist attraction and is definitely worth checking out.

Go to the Theatre

Piccadilly Circus is a hub for theatre lovers, with numerous iconic theatres located on nearby streets. From the Apollo Theatre to the Criterion Theatre, there is something for everyone, including stand-up comedy, cabaret, ballet, opera, circus, and numerous stage shows. Even if musicals are not your thing, there is still plenty to enjoy. For those looking for recommendations, check out London Theatre Shows to Watch This Year.

Embrace the Night Life

At night, Piccadilly Circus becomes one of London’s most diverse and eclectic districts, making it the perfect destination for those looking to embrace the night life. The area is home to numerous famous venues, such as Luxx, Lio London, The Box, The Windmill, Freedom Bar, and more. For those looking for a more sophisticated experience, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Bar and Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues Bar are excellent choices. One of the best ways to enjoy the night life in Piccadilly Circus is by joining one of the area’s many pub crawls, such as the On The Rocks Pub Crawl and Banana Pub Crawl. With so many options available, there is something for everyone in Piccadilly Circus at night.