Leicester Square: Things to Do in London's Vibrant Gem
Nestled in the heart of the city, Leicester Square is truly a microcosm of the capital’s energy, culture, and rich historical tapestry.
- Leicester Square history
- Leicester Square – A Haven for Entertainment
- The Charm of West End Theatres
- World Premieres and Red Carpet Glamour
- Leicester Square Shops
- Food and Drink: A Culinary Paradise
- Nightlife in Leicester Square: From Pubs to Nightclubs
- Leicester Square Gardens: A Breath of Fresh Air
- Things to do at Leicester Square with Kids
- The Famous Swiss Glockenspiel
- Annual Events: From Chinese New Year to Christmas Markets
- Practical Information for Visitors
It’s a place where art, food, entertainment, and shopping come together, offering an irresistible blend of experiences for locals and tourists alike.
A world where the past and the present meld seamlessly, it’s an essential stop on any London itinerary. And why not? It’s a district where every corner you turn unveils a new sight, a new taste, a new story.
Leicester Square history
To truly appreciate Leicester Square, one must delve into its rich history. Once a humble field outside the Roman city, Leicester Square has evolved through the centuries into the vibrant cultural hub it is today.
Named after Robert Sidney, the 2nd Earl of Leicester, who purchased the land in 1630, Leicester Square has seen numerous facelifts over the years.
Initially a residential area with an impressive garden, the square began its transformation into a public space in the late 17th century, leading to its current status as a hub for entertainment and leisure.
Over time, the square welcomed a host of significant landmarks. From the statue of Shakespeare basking in the glory of the central fountain to the Swiss Glockenspiel, a musical clock gifted by Switzerland and Liechtenstein – each of these landmarks has a unique story to tell.
The Square’s historical tapestry doesn’t end with just landmarks. It also gave birth to the famed West End theatres. With the establishment of the Empire Theatre in 1884, the Square began its journey towards becoming the heart of London’s theatre district.
It’s hard not to feel the palpable energy that radiates from these age-old structures, each echoing with stories of performances that made history and shaped the cultural landscape of London.
The historical roots of Leicester Square are a testimony to its transformation, resilience, and constant renewal, making it not just a square, but a living, breathing chronicle of London’s evolution.
Every brick, every cobblestone in Leicester Square has a story to tell. And as we unravel the history, we begin to understand how Leicester Square is so much more than just a tourist spot – it’s an intricate mosaic of London’s past and present.
Leicester Square – A Haven for Entertainment
Venture into Leicester Square, and you’ll find yourself in a veritable paradise of entertainment. Whether you’re a fan of blockbuster movies, world-class theatre performances, or live music, there’s always something to capture your imagination here.
Leicester Square is indeed London’s beating heart of entertainment, an irresistible magnet for anyone seeking a bit of joy, wonder, and thrill.
It’s home to some of the city’s largest cinemas, including the famous Odeon Luxe and Vue West End, known for their premieres and film festivals. As you stroll around, you’ll also find a multitude of amusements in arcades, inviting you to step in and join the fun.
The Charm of West End Theatres
At the heart of Leicester Square’s entertainment scene are the illustrious West End theatres. There’s a magnetic allure to these theatres, promising a world of drama, music, and spectacle that you can’t help but get drawn into.
Known as London’s Broadway, the West End is a melting pot of talent, creativity, and passion, delivering unforgettable experiences night after night.
Catch a classic show at the Wyndham’s Theatre or enjoy a musical extravaganza at the Prince of Wales Theatre. From timeless masterpieces like “Les Misérables” to modern hits like “Hamilton,” the offerings are as diverse as they are captivating.
The magic of West End theatres lies not just in the performances but in the venues themselves, each theatre seeped in history, echoing with applause, laughter, and gasps of audiences past and present.
World Premieres and Red Carpet Glamour
Nowhere else in London will you feel the glamorous aura of showbiz as strongly as in Leicester Square. Known as the UK’s “home of film,” Leicester Square regularly rolls out the red carpet for film premieres and international film festivals.
It’s not uncommon to spot celebrities making their way through adoring fans and flashing cameras, adding an extra dash of glamour and excitement to the already vibrant atmosphere.
The star-studded premieres at Odeon Luxe and Vue West End cinemas are truly a spectacle to behold.
From the anticipation building up hours before the stars arrive, to the fans’ screams when their favourite celebrities make an appearance – it’s an electrifying experience that encapsulates the thrill of Leicester Square.
So, who knows? Your visit to Leicester Square might coincide with a world premiere, and you could find yourself in the midst of a glamorous, unforgettable evening.
Leicester Square Shops
Beyond its cultural and entertainment allure, Leicester Square is a fantastic spot for indulging in some retail therapy. The surrounding areas are a treasure trove of shops catering to all tastes and budgets.
Close to Leicester Square, you’ll find Covent Garden, a delightful mix of designer shops, independent boutiques, and vintage stores. Covent Garden’s Apple Market is renowned for unique antiques, handcrafted jewellery, and one-of-a-kind gifts.
In Leicester Square itself, don’t miss the M&M’s World and the LEGO Store. These shops are not just retail outlets, but unique experiences that will leave you with lasting memories and bags full of goodies.
Food and Drink: A Culinary Paradise
An exploration of Leicester Square would be incomplete without immersing yourself in its culinary delights.
This bustling area is a foodie’s paradise, offering a diverse array of eateries to satisfy every palate and budget. From stylish fine-dining restaurants to cozy bistros and international fast-food chains, Leicester Square has it all.
Food lovers can embark on a global culinary journey without ever leaving the square. Sample authentic Italian at Spaghetti House, indulge in Asian flavours at BaoziInn Romilly Street, or treat your taste buds to exquisite French cuisine at Brasserie Zédel.
Fancy a drink? Leicester Square is peppered with numerous pubs and bars, each with its unique charm. Enjoy a traditional pint at the Porcupine or sip on sophisticated cocktails at the Rumba.
Every meal and drink in Leicester Square is a chance to experience London’s diverse culinary scene and make lasting memories, one bite or sip at a time.
Nightlife in Leicester Square: From Pubs to Nightclubs
When the sun sets over Leicester Square, the district truly comes alive with a vibrant and electrifying nightlife scene. Packed with pubs, bars, and clubs, it offers a myriad of options for nocturnal fun. Regardless of your preference, you’ll find an evening hangout spot that strikes the right chord with you.
For those who love the bustling energy of a lively pub, the Moon Under Water is a must-visit, known for its affordable drinks and friendly atmosphere.
If you’re a cocktail aficionado, the glitzy Ruby Blue offers a sumptuous range of expertly crafted drinks. And for the night owls out there, Bar Rumba and The Hippodrome Casino will keep you entertained until the early hours with their dance floors and live music.
Each venue offers a unique vibe and experience, making Leicester Square an undeniable epicentre of London’s nightlife. It’s an area where unforgettable memories are made, stories are shared, and the rhythm of the night takes over.
Leicester Square Gardens: A Breath of Fresh Air
Amid the buzz and energy of Leicester Square, you’ll find a tranquil oasis – the Leicester Square Gardens. It’s a welcoming patch of greenery where you can take a breather from the surrounding hustle and bustle.
The gardens offer more than just a place to rest your feet. As you wander through, you’ll encounter statues of notable figures like William Shakespeare and Sir Isaac Newton, each of which adds to the historical charm of the area.
During the summer months, the gardens transform into a hub of activity, hosting open-air events and performances. Even in quieter times, the Gardens offer a peaceful retreat where you can sit back, enjoy your lunch, or simply indulge in some people-watching.
Leicester Square Gardens are not just a breath of fresh air amid the city’s hustle, but a significant part of Leicester Square’s charm. It’s a delightful space that perfectly encapsulates the blend of tranquillity and vibrancy that makes Leicester Square so unique.
Things to do at Leicester Square with Kids
Believe it or not, Leicester Square isn’t just for the grown-ups. It’s a fantastic place for families too, with a host of attractions sure to keep the little ones engaged and entertained. From mind-boggling 3D experiences to sweet-filled adventures, Leicester Square offers a fun-filled day out for the whole family.
Head over to M&M’s World or the LEGO Store – these two stores are guaranteed crowd-pleasers for kids and adults alike. The colourful interiors and interactive features in these shops provide a shopping experience unlike any other.
The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum is another must-visit for families. With its collection of weird and wonderful artefacts from around the world, it promises an afternoon of fascination and fun.
And for film-loving families, catching a matinee show at one of the Square’s cinemas can make for a memorable day out.
The Famous Swiss Glockenspiel
One of the lesser-known but equally enchanting attractions of Leicester Square is the Swiss Glockenspiel. This musical clock, a gift from Switzerland and Liechtenstein during the Swiss Bicentenary in 1985, is a delightful spectacle that adds a unique charm to the Square.
Situated on the corner of the square, the Glockenspiel springs to life several times a day. Its 27 bells chime in harmony as a parade of Swiss Alpine farmers, animals, and Saint Nicholas figures move in a circular dance, delighting onlookers with a captivating performance.
Annual Events: From Chinese New Year to Christmas Markets
Throughout the year, Leicester Square comes alive with a variety of events and festivals, each adding a unique colour and energy to its already vibrant atmosphere. These events draw locals and tourists alike, transforming the Square into a hub of cultural celebration.
One of the standout events is the Chinese New Year celebration. Every February, the Square is awash with a spectacular display of colours, sounds, and aromas as the local Chinese community ushers in the New Year. From dragon parades to traditional music and dance, this is an event that truly captures the multicultural spirit of Leicester Square.
Similarly, the Square embraces the festive season with gusto. During Christmas, Leicester Square morphs into a magical winter wonderland, hosting one of London’s most popular Christmas Markets. Visitors can browse through a multitude of stalls offering unique gifts, feast on festive food and drinks, and soak up the holiday spirit.
Practical Information for Visitors
Before you set off to explore Leicester Square, here are some practical tips to make your visit smooth and enjoyable.
- Getting There: Leicester Square is well served by public transport. The nearest tube stations are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, both a few minutes’ walk away. Numerous bus routes also pass through the area.
- Opening Times: Leicester Square is a public square and is open 24 hours. However, individual shops, restaurants, and attractions have their own operating hours.
- Facilities: Public toilets are available, including facilities for people with disabilities. You’ll also find a wide range of dining options, from quick snack shops to fine-dining restaurants.
Leicester Square is more than just a tourist destination; it’s a vibrant tapestry of history, culture, entertainment, and much more. It embodies the spirit of London, a city that embraces tradition and modernity, local and international cultures, tranquillity and dynamism.
Visiting Leicester Square is not just about checking another spot off your London itinerary. It’s about immersing yourself in a unique experience that you’ll carry with you long after you’ve left.