London/Leicester Square

Trafalgar Square

The area around Leicester Square, often called the West End, is the entertainment heart of London. The area also includes Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square.

Understand

Chinatown

Chinatown is centrally located in the West End, along and around Gerrard Street off Leicester Square. It spreads into Wardour Street at one end and Newport Place at the other. London's Chinatown may not be quite as large as those in San Francisco or Vancouver but it is still a great place to dine out in the evening, authentically Chinese and definitely different from anywhere else in London.

Leicester Square

This smallish London square is the site of most British film premieres and the square itself is surrounded by terrifyingly-expensive cinemas — tickets for an evening screening will cost upwards of £17, 3D screenings will cost upwards of £15. At night, Leicester Square becomes exceptionally busy with tourists and locals, visiting the surrounding clubs and bars. In the north-west corner of the square is a musical clock, incorporating a Swiss glockenspiel, that is popular with tourists. It was popular enough that its remodelling and restoration was actually a requirement when permission was given for the demolition of Swiss Centre in 2008, of which it had been a part. The TKTS half price ticket booth is on the south side of Leicester Square for cheap tickets for theatre performances.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a large public square commemorating Lord Horatio Nelson's victory against Napoleon's navy at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The central monument within the square is a single tall column on which the figure of Nelson stands gazing over London and is one of the great iconic images of London. His monument is surrounded by four colossal lions and a series of large fountains. Much more than just an open plaza, Trafalgar Square is famous as the location of a large number of important buildings and institutions that surround the square and fill the streets surrounding it. Trafalgar Square also marks the northern end of Whitehall, the centre of British government.

In 2003 Trafalgar Square was renovated and expanded to link up directly with the National Gallery on the north side of the square - a great improvement to the traffic which once completely encircled this, the largest public square in the West End. The early 18th century church of St Martins in the Fields stands at the north-east corner of the square. Just by the church, Charing Cross Road gives access to the fabulous National Portrait Gallery, and leads on further to Leicester Square, Soho and the famous collection of bookstores on the road itself. To the south, Whitehall leads to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and 10 Downing Street.

Christmas time sees the erection of a large Christmas Tree within the square, the annual gift of the people of Oslo, capital of Norway, as a token of gratitude for Britain's help in WWII. Trafalgar Square is also traditionally the scene of lively celebrations for Londoners on New Year's Eve, though an increasingly heavy police presence has meant that some antics (drunks leaping into the fountains) have all but disappeared. More recently, Trafalgar Square has served as an outdoor venue for concerts and VIP appearances, courtesy of the Mayor of London's Office, which is keen to see Londoners use their public spaces better. Visitors to the square on an ordinary day may also discover small-scale demonstrations and public speakers - the Square is a convenient gathering place near to, but not threatening, the seat of British Government down the road at Westminster.

Get in

By Tube

Leicester Square is served by a Tube station of the same name located just off the north east corner of the Square on Charing Cross Road. The station is on both the Northern and Piccadilly Lines and acts as a convenient place to start any exploration of London's West End.

Chinatown is a short walk from both Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines) walk east along Shaftesbury Avenue, before turning right at Wardour Street, watch for the ornamental gates and Leicester Square (Piccadilly and Northern Lines) stations.

The nearest tube station to Trafalgar Square is Charing Cross on the Northern and Bakerloo Lines.

Piccadilly Circus is served by a Tube station of the same name.

By train

Charing Cross mainline station serves the south-eastern region of England.

Get around

Walk. This is a small district which lends itself perfectly to exploration on foot.

See

The National Gallery

Do

Cinemas

Leicester Square square hosts most high-profile London cinema premieres, on which occasions it is fenced and crowded beyond comfort by people desperately trying to take a look at their celebrity of choice.

Mainstream

Arthouse

Theatre

One of the ornamental gates or paifang located at the entrance to Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown

Along with neighbouring Covent Garden this is the capital of London's theatreland and the most famous London theatres are in this district. Check individual theatre websites of the official London theatreland website for current programmes and never neglect the official half price ticket booth in Leicester Square itself:

Please note that most of the booking office numbers given below will only work from within the UK. If you want to make a booking from overseas, use the relevant website.

The Leicester Square Box Office, otherwise known as LSBO also offers a great selection of great deals on tickets to top London shows and musicals. Tickets can be booked over the phone on +44 20 7087-2999, or in person!

Other

Buy

Books

Charing Cross Road and the tiny Cecil Court which leads off it have long been the centre of the specialist and antiquarian book trade in London. There are fewer outlets than previously as spiralling rents pushed out a lot of the traditional booksmiths but many still remain. Any book lover will be in heaven here.

Eat

All sorts of food are available. While London's Chinatown boasts some of the city's best Chinese food, quality and value vary enormously between individual restaurants. While some consistently win awards, others seem to be regularly being refurbished following visits from the local Environmental Health department. Unless you're on an extreme budget, it is worth paying a little more for quality food and service. Be careful especially with the common all you can eat deals.

Chinatown

Drink

There are relatively few decent places to drink in this district and visitors would do better to head north into Soho or east in Covent Garden, for a better selection of bars and pubs. However, if your legs are weary, there are a number of convenient drinking places:

Sleep

Very few visitors actually stay in this district and the options which are available are not particularly good value. This is a district to visit, not to stay in.

Go next

Leicester Square is a small and very central district; a very short walk can take you to many other areas of London. Soho is just north, passed Chinatown, with fashionable night life and eclectic shops. Covent Garden is just to the east, with more entertainment and shopping opportunities. Westminster is just to the south, passed Trafalgar Square, with its mix of government offices, parks and historic buildings. Mayfair-Marylebone is to the west, passed Piccadilly Circus, with more up-market places to shop.

Routes through Leicester Square

Bloomsbury Soho  W  E  Covent Garden Southwark-Lewisham
Bloomsbury Soho  N  S  Covent Garden South London
West London Westminster-Mayfair-Marylebone  W  E  Covent Garden Bloomsbury


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.