Piccadilly Circus, located in the heart of the West End, is the perfect place to begin any London adventure. Standing on the roundabout under the famous statue of the mythical Anteros (often mistakenly referred to as his brother Eros, or sometimes the Angel of Christian Charity) you’re spoilt for choice: head to the shops on Regent Street, the theatres on Shaftsbury Avenue or wander off the beaten track to check out the traditional shirt makers on Jermyn Street.
The name “Piccadilly” originates from a 17th century frilled collar named “Piccadil”. Roger Baker, a tailor who became rich making piccadils (tabbed or scalloped cuffs and collars), lived in the area. The word ‘”Circus’” refers to the roundabout around which the traffic circulated.
Piccadilly Circus is dominated by the glow of its huge neon advertising boards, which have stood in some form since the early 1900s. It’s also the meeting point of Regent Street, Piccadilly, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket, providing easy access to a number of thriving shopping and entertainment venues.
For the kids, Hamleys on Regent Street is one of the world’s largest toy stores, and the fast-paced entertainment centre at the Trocadero provides enough video games and sweets to keep any little and busy for an afternoon.
At the center of the Circus stands the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. It was built in 1893 to commemorate Lord Shaftesbury, a philanthropist known for his support of the poor.
The seminude statue on top of the fountain depicts the Angel of Christian Charity but was later renamed Eros after the Greek god of love and beauty. The fountain was made in bronze, but the statue is made of aluminum, at the time a novel and rare material.
Piccadilly Circus is now partly pedestrianized and a favorite place for people to congregate before going to the nearby shopping and entertainment areas.