Millions of people pass through Piccadilly Circus every week. This square is one of the most popular meeting places in London. It’s a hive of activity at all times of day and night. Piccadilly Circus is situated in the heart of London and there’s always something to see or do here. I’ve put together the most important facts about this famous square – including my own personal shopping tips!
A word of advice for all shopaholics: this is one of the best places in London for doing some serious shopping. Piccadilly Circus is also known for its huge illuminated advertising hoardings. Companies like Coca Cola and McDonalds display their advertisements here. The illuminated hoardings are quite impressive, especially in the evening. It’s not surprising that Piccadilly Circus is often compared with Times Square in New York. In the evening, the Circus is a hive of activity. Young people, in particular, like to meet up here before heading for London’s nightlife.
Are you wondering why this square has the word “Circus” in its name?
Most people immediately think of a traveling circus, but there’s actually no connection in this case. In architecture a “circus” is defined as a circular public space at a street intersection, which is an accurate description of Piccadilly Circus.
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
Situated in the middle of Piccadilly Circus is Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. This monument was erected in 1893 to commemorate the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. He was a philanthropist who was committed to improving living conditions in the slums. The fountain features an aluminum statue of a naked winged archer – which is why the fountain is also known as the Eros Fountain. However, the naked statue is not supposed to represent Eros, but the Angel of Christian Charity. What was once a highly controversial monument has since become an integral part of the urban landscape. The fountain lends the square a very special atmosphere and is a popular meeting place, especially in the summer.
Shopping in the vicinity of Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is a perfect starting point for a serious shopping expedition. The close proximity to the city’s most important and best-known shopping mile – Oxford Street – is reason enough to set off from here. However, even at Piccadilly Circus itself there are lots of good stores to browse, such as H&M, GAP, Levi, Zara, Burberry, Hollister, Uniqlo, COS, Apple, KIKO Milano, Nike, and Topshop, to name just a few. For all sport fans, I recommend Lillywhites sports store. Here you’ll find everything an athlete could wish for – from sports clothing to high-quality sports equipment.
Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street are not the only perfect shopping locations in London. There are thousands of opportunities for discovering London’s latest fashion trends. London offers something to suit all tastes, whether it be big shopping malls, popular shopping miles or trendy local districts. In our big London Shopping Guide, we tell you about the best places to shop in London. Why not take a look?
London Pavilion – the most striking building at Piccadilly Circus
The former music hall London Pavilion is probably the most eye-catching building at Piccadilly. It was built in 1859 by Emil Loibl and Charles Sonnhammer. Particularly impressive are the facades featuring Renaissance, Baroque and Classical architecture. Musicals were staged here regularly between 1912 and 1934. In 1923, the first advertising hoardings were displayed at the London Pavilion. Eleven years later, the building underwent major structural alterations and was converted into a movie theater. Countless film premieres have been screened here, including “The Curse of Frankenstein” and the first James Bond movie. Today, the Pavilion is a huge shopping mall, and a truly spectacular one at that. The building is situated on the north-east side of the Circus, at the intersection of Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street.
The Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus
The Criterion Theatre is one of the best-known theaters in London. It opened on March 21, 1874. The auditorium is spread over three levels and has a seating capacity of 588. With the exception of the ticket booth, the entire theater is underground. This place is worth a visit even when there’s no play showing, as the Art Deco interior is an impressive sight. Click here to see what’s on at the moment.
There’s currently a very entertaining show running at the Criterion Theatre: “The Comedy About A Bank Robbery”. We can highly recommend this show! Take a look at the trailer to see why:
Trailer of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
Harry Potter at Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus was one of the film locations for the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”. You can literally follow in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione. In the movie, the three protagonists are seen running through Central London, having discovered that the Death Eaters are on their heels.
If you want to experience the world of Harry Potter at close quarters, we recommend joining one of the amazing “Making of” tours at the Warner Bros. Studios. You’ll have an opportunity to see where the Harry Potter movies were filmed, wander through Diagon Alley, take a look behind the scenes, and view the original costumes, film sets and props. This tour makes you feel like part of the movie.
How to get to Piccadilly Circus
This square is centrally located in the heart of the West End. To get to Piccadilly Circus, take the subway (Piccadilly Line) directly to the station by the same name.
Tip: If you’re intending to explore lots of London’s sights and take part in several tours, I can also recommend the Oyster Card as an optional extra to the London Pass . With the Oyster Travelcard, you not only get access to over 50 sights, attractions and tours in London at much reduced rates, but can also use the public transport!
The London Pass plus Oyster Travelcard is basically a prepaid card similar to the ones used with cell phones. A certain proportion of the amount you pay for the London Pass is intended to be spent on the subway, buses and trains. As most of the attractions are within a fairly small radius, the journeys are generally short. This has the advantage that the subway tickets don’t cost much and you can make a fair number of journeys before your credit on the London Pass with Oyster Travelcard is used up.