Piccadilly Circus, London

Piccadilly Circus, London (must see)

Piccadilly Circus was built originally as a junction between Regent Street and Piccadilly in 1819. Back then, it was a circle roundabout up until 1886, when Shaftesbury Avenue was built and the circle was gone. But the name stuck. The name Piccadilly derives from one of the shops once present in the area, called Piccadilly Hall. Its owner, Robert Baker, was the tailor specialized in making certain collars, known as piccadills. Hence the name.

The postcard image of Piccadilly Circus is traditionally dominated by huge advertising boards mounted on the corner building of its north side. The very first illuminated sign put up there was that of Perrier mineral water in 1908. For the whole duration of WWII, Piccadilly Circus remained in total blackout and was re-lit only in 1949. The only other times the Piccadilly lights went out again were for funerals of Churchill and Princess Diana, and for the Earth Hour organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Beneath the ground, Piccadilly Circus houses two outstanding sights: Criterion Theatre and Piccadilly Circus tube station. Built in 1873, the theater is entirely underground except for box office. Back in the 19th century, during its performances fresh air had to be pumped in specially to ventilate the building from toxic fumes from the gas lights. As for the Piccadilly tube station, it is one of the few stations on London Underground network that is truly 100% underground. For a short while after its opening in 1906, the station did have an above-ground ticket office, but it was scrapped in the 1920s after the station's renovation.

Another key sight to behold in Piccadilly Circus is the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and the statue often erroneously attributed to Eros. The fountain was built in 1893 to commemorate philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury. While the statue depicts Greek god Anteros, the bow in his hand makes it look like the Greek god of love, Eros.

On the west side of Piccadilly, one can still see a relic police public call box, established in 1935, one of the few left in Britain.

Another secret treasure mounted to a wall somewhere in Piccadilly Circus is a sculpted nose - one of the Seven Noses of Soho. Legend has it that whoever finds all the seven noses, will get rich beyond measure. Wonder if any of the nearly half a million people passing here every day is after that fortune...)

*** Harry Potter Movie***
One of London’s best known landmarks recognized by its neon advertising screens, perpetual crowds and the Eros statue, Piccadilly Circus appears in the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” in one of the most memorable scenes where Harry, Hermione and Ron rush through London’s West End after fleeing from Death Eaters, who had attacked Bill’s wedding, and have a narrow escape from being run over by a quintessential London red double-decker bus. The actual spot where it took place in the movie is just in front of The Gap store, right off Piccadilly Circus, whereas in the book they ended up in Tottenham Court Road. Filming the scene in such a popular tourist location as Piccadilly Circus was a real challenge!

Why You Should Visit:
A classic, fast-paced London intersection, very centrally located, from where you can easily explore Regent St, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Coventry Garden and the West End theatre district.

Tip:
Best seen at night for maximum effect.

This sight is featured in a self-guided walking tour of London, England within the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" which can be downloaded from iTunes App Store or Google Play. Please download the app to your mobile phone or tablet for travel directions for visiting this sight. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Piccadilly Circus on Map

Sight Name: Piccadilly Circus
Sight Location: London, England
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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