Piccadilly Circus

sights / Squares & plazas

Lonely Planet review

John Nash had originally designed Regent St and Piccadilly in the 1820s to be the two most elegant streets in town but, curbed by city planners, couldn’t realise his dream to the full. He would certainly be disappointed with what Piccadilly Circus has become: swamped with visitors, flanked by flashing advertisement panels and surrounded by shops flogging tourist tat.

But despite the crowds and traffic, Piccadilly Circus has become a postcard for the city, buzzing with the liveliness that makes it exciting to be in London. It was named in the 17th century for the stiff collars (picadils) that were the sartorial staple of the time (and were the making of a nearby tailor’s fortune).

At the centre of the circus is the famous aluminium statue, Anteros, twin brother of Eros, dedicated to the philanthropist and child-labour abolitionist Lord Shaftesbury. The sculpture was at first cast in gold, but it was later replaced by newfangled aluminium, the first outdoor statue in that metal. Down the years the angel has been mistaken for Eros, the God of Love, and the misnomer has stuck (you’ll even see signs for ‘Eros’ from the Underground).