Every year, millions of tourists are drawn to two famous spots – Times Square and Piccadilly Circus. They are two of the busiest areas on the planet, and they both have incredibly rich histories. The main thing they’re known for is their bright, vibrant advertising billboard displays. For over a century, billboards of one form or another have ruled both areas, with some of the biggest brands in the world of fashion, food, home, music and more advertising there.
The price to star on these billboards, as you can imagine, is extremely expensive. So that’s why you’re unlikely to see new and emerging brands lit up on the big screens. Worldwide megacorporations such as Coca Cola, iTunes and Amazon are some of the key players that frequent the space. In fact, Coca-Cola has actually had a sign at Piccadilly Circus since 1954. The currently-placed sign was first erected in September 2003. The bright screen also displays news about line closures and issues on the London Underground.
When it comes to debating Piccadilly Circus vs Times Square, it can be tough to pick a winner. After all, they’re both in totally different cities, and although they have a lot of similarities, offer a totally different experience to their visitors. Whilst we can’t officially crown a winner, we can tell you a little more about our personal preference – Piccadilly Circus. Because for us, nowhere beats London!
The history of Piccadilly Circus
So… just what is Piccadilly Circus, and how did it come to be?
Essentially, it’s a road junction and public space nestled in London’s West End in the City of Westminster, and it was established in 1819 to join Regent Street and Piccadilly.
The name first appeared in 1626 as Piccadilly Hall after a house belonging to Robert Baker, a tailor famous for selling piccadills, which is a term used for multiple types of collars. The street was originally known as Portugal Street back in1692, in honour of Catherine of Braganza, the queen consort of King Charles II. It was built under the planning of John Nash on the section of a house and garden belonging to Lady Hutton.
During the 1660s, the area surrounding Piccadilly Circus evolved into a fashionable living area. In fact, some of the most impressive country houses at that time were just on the north side of Piccadilly and included Clarendon House, Berkeley House and Sir John Denham’s House. However, after the 1920s, many of these famous buildings were replaced with shops and theatres.
In approximately 1858, it was briefly referred to as Regent’s Circus. However, the circus lost its circular form in 1886 with the development of Shaftesbury Avenue, which is now home to one of the top hotels in the luxury Shaftesbury Hotel Group.
In January 2017, the lights of Piccadilly Circus’s flashy billboards were turned off for site renovations. This was the first time since the second world war that the lights had been turned off for a significant period. A temporary advertising banner replaced the lights until the autumn when the individual screens were upgraded with a single LED screen – the largest of its kind in Europe.
Piccadilly Circus today
Piccadilly Circus is now a huge centre point for London in terms of transport and entertainment, as it links straight to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue, as well as the Haymarket, Leicester Square, and Glasshouse Street. Its standing as a significant traffic intersection has made Piccadilly Circus a lively gathering place and a tourist attraction in its own right.
As mentioned, it is particularly appreciated for its vast video advertisements and neon signs installed on the corner building on the northern side. Though it’s not all neon signs. It’s also well known for being the home of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and statue, with what is thought to be a depiction of Eros at its peak.
However, it isn’t actually a statue of Eros. In fact, it represents Anteros, the god of selfless and mature love. It was the first London statue to be cast in aluminium. The statue was transferred for the duration of the Second World War and was replaced by hoardings to keep it safe before it was returned back to Piccadilly Circus after the war ended in 1948. It was also covered by a large inflatable snow globe during the Winter of 2013 to 2014 to protect it from drunken merry partyers.
It is encircled by a number of key buildings in the city, including the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre – two major players in the West End scene. It’s also super well connected, as directly underneath the main plaza is the Piccadilly Circus
Underground station, which is served by the Piccadilly Line and the Bakerloo Line on the London Underground. This station is particularly interesting as it is one of the only stations which has no associated buildings above ground, so it is fully underground. It is a Grade 2 listed building and was opened on the 10th of March in 1906.
Piccadilly Circus as a tourist mecca
An incredible 72 million people walk through Piccadilly Circus every year (so whilst it’s hard for the advertisers to fully determine the true ROI of advertising there, you can’t argue with that potential!).
Tourists flock to the area for selfies, to catch a show nearby or to simply soak up the atmosphere, which is oddly infectious. We’re pleased to offer a slice of rest, relaxation and luxury in this otherwise hectic hub at The Piccadilly London West End.
As well as offering a range of comfortable rooms suitable for all travellers, we also have an exquisite restaurant – Hankies – that provides guests with a truly unique London dining experience. Step into this hidden gem and you’ll be transported to another world. Small but spirited, Hankies is an irresistible new take on authentic Indian street food, serving roomali roti with an array of delicious accompaniments. To eat here is to experience a slice of Indian life, which is extra perfect when combined with a show nearby.
There you have it! In the Piccadilly Circus vs Times Square debate, we’ll call it a draw. Although, as you can imagine, all of us here at Shaftesbury Hotel Group hold special places in our hearts for our own circus in the city.
Looking for the perfect base for exploring this attraction and others in London? You’ve found it! Book your room near the Piccadilly London West End now.