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Piccadilly Circus: London's entertainment epicentre

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Piccadilly Circus Overview

Taking its name from a 17th century frilly collar named a picadil, London's world famous Piccadilly Circus is steeped in history and is one of the busiest thoroughfares and meeting points of the throbbing capital city.

A dressmaker grew rich making picadils and set up shop in the vicinity – and modern day Piccadilly Circus is not afraid to showcase its own status as the centre of bustling and thriving capitalism. Brightly lit billboards curve around the facades of the square's north side, dominating the circus and giving the area its bold and brash character, perhaps rivalled only by New York's Times Square and its advertising assault.

Lying at the junction of five busy streets, the area is one of London's most famous spaces – but not its most relaxing. It is a true circus in the Latin meaning of the word, indicating a circular area of open space at a street junction. And the bustling thoroughfares spanning out from Piccadilly Circus include none less than Regents Street – one of London's prime shopping locations and home to Hamleys – and Shaftesbury Avenue, the heart of the capital's theatre district.

Piccadilly Circus Location

The famous junction can be reached by Buses 3, 6, 9, 12, 14, 15, 38, 88 and 159. Alternatively, visitors can ascend to it from the underground stop at its heart, arriving at London's throbbing centre via the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines.

Making a visit to the famous spot can easily be worked into a theatre day. On the circus itself is the Criterion Theatre, a Grade II listed building that stands on the south side, with its facade hiding an underground historic arena, accessed by a tiled stairway.

Haymarket Theatre Royal, Her Majesty's Theatre, The Queens Theatre, Piccadilly Theatre and the Prince of Wales Theatre also lie nearby, making Piccadilly Circus the perfect starting point for an evening fit for thespians.

A top shopping trip can also be organised in the vicinity. The massive billboards hanging over the square are enough to whet the appetite for some retail therapy, and lying on the circus itself is the former flagship Tower Records store, which then passed to Virgin Megastore before its rebranding as Zavvi.
After snapping up some CDs, visitors can cross Piccadilly Circus and pick up some top of the range sporting goods at Lillywhites, situated on the south side next to the Shaftesbury Fountain.

Nearby Fortnum and Mason offers further retail opportunities, while the pleasures of Regents Street and Oxford Street are also in close proximity. And just off the circus on Shaftesbury Avenue is the famous Trocadero centre, formerly a restaurant but now a major entertainment and cinema complex.

Why Visit Piccadilly Circus

Visiting Piccadilly Circus means getting an insight into London's evolution into a modern, bustling hive of commercial activity. The intersection's first electric billboard ads were put in place in 1910, since when buildings, advertisements, retail outlets, restaurants and theatres have boomed all around.

Its status as an intersection makes it not only a vibrant meeting place for sitting out and taking in the city's movement on a sunny night, but also the epicentre and departure point of any journey through London's entertainment and retail world.

And even those seeking an escape from commercial culture can find something to their taste at the centre of Piccadilly Circus, where a bronze fountain topped by the figure of a winged archer stands. Popularly called Eros after the pagan god of love, the statue was in fact intended as a 19th century symbol of Christian charity, acting as a monument to the famous philanthroper Lord Shaftesbury.


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