Piccadilly Circus

Square in The West End

Image by Will Jones Lonely Planet

Architect John Nash had originally designed Regent St and Piccadilly in the 1820s to be the two most elegant streets in London but, restrained by city planners, he couldn’t realise his dream to the full. He may be disappointed, but suitably astonished, by Piccadilly Circus today: a traffic maelstrom, deluged by visitors and flanked by flashing advertisement panels.

Piccadilly Circus has become a postcard for the city, buzzing with the liveliness that makes it exciting to be in London. 'Piccadilly' was named in the 17th century for piccadills, the stiff collars that were the must-have accessory at the time (and were the making of a nearby tailor’s fortune), while 'Circus' comes from the Latin word meaning ring or circle.

At the centre of the circus stands the famous aluminium statue mistakenly called Eros as it actually portrays his twin brother, Anteros. To add to the confusion, the figure is officially the 'Angel of Christian Charity' and dedicated to the philanthropist and social reformer Lord Shaftesbury. The sculpture was at first cast in gold but later replaced by newfangled aluminium, the first outdoor statue in that lightweight metal.