Piccadilly Circus, which is an iconic intersection and shopping district at Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, and the majestic Piccadilly Boulevard, is one of the rare tourist destinations that is best experienced at night. If you’ve researched a trip to London, or maybe even just watched a movie set in London that has a montage, you’ve seen Piccadilly Circus and its iconic neon signs. It’s the Lonon equivalent of Manhattan’s Times Square, and if that sounds cliche, it’s because it is and also because it’s an entirely accurate comparison.
Being located in the West End, surrounded by the poshest (in local terms) shopping districts and neighborhoods, this is a natural meeting point for travelers and an easy landmark to base your adventure around. Because the flashing neon signs are all the more radiant at night, Piccadilly is awesome to behold after the sun goes down, but what to do after?
First, hit up a Piccadilly Circus luggage storage and then head out for the night. Here are a few activities, mostly for the whole family, that you can do after you’ve shopped around Piccadilly Circus and taken the obligatory selfie.
Watch a West End Musical
London’s West End is rivaled only by New York’s Broadway when it comes to world-class theater productions. There are almost 50 theaters within a 20-minute walk from Piccadilly Circus, many of which are historic landmarks that have showcased the most iconic musicals and plays in history.
One major recommendation is to plan ahead. Wandering around in hopes of finding a few seats for a musical isn’t worth your time and will only eat into other activities pre or post-show. Just remember, you’ll need to eat!
West End Comedy
Like musicals and plays, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, and the West End are filled to the brim with comedy troupes performing at a wide variety of theaters. These are generally smaller spaces, you can usually find a table at a small comedy club, but the big-name performances will require buying tickets ahead of time. Check the calendars at Covent Garden Comedy Club or The Comedy Store to buy tickets so you can focus on shopping at Piccadilly Circus and grabbing an epic meal before the show.
Historic Pub Tours
There are few things more quintessential to life in England than a traditional public house. A pub has an elevated place in British culture. It’s equal parts community center as well as a restaurant and drinking establishment. Families, friends, dart leagues, soccer teams, soccer fans, couples, clubs, and everything in between all convene at their local pub. Even in one of the world’s most modern cities, pubs are a common sight and have changed very little from their humble beginnings.
While Piccadilly Circus is renowned for its bright lights and international brands, there is still a thriving pub scene, with traditional drinking holes lining the streets of West End and central London. Want to visit all of them? Probably not a great idea. Want to visit a few while learning about their rich histories? Historic Pub Tours is your best bet. You’ll be guided through the neighborhood, stopping at the most historic pubs near Piccadilly Circus, hearing their stories, and learning how these establishments have endured for so many years. And yes, there will be pints drunk!
Grab a Fancy Cocktail
Shopping at designer stores all afternoon can really put you in a swanky mood, so there’s no better way to cap off your retail therapy than grabbing a drink at one of the area’s upscale cocktail bars. While there certainly are nightclubs for dancing and traditional British pubs for grabbing a pint, some of the best cocktail bars in London are nearby. The relaxed vibe, trendy tunes, and delicious concoctions are perfect for a romantic outing or fun evening with your crew. Downstairs At The Dilly might be your best bet, especially if you enjoy classy decor and dressing up!
Treat Yourself to a Spa Night
You’ve been walking around West End, Soho, and Piccadilly Circus all day, you’ve stopped at three dozen stores, and you might even still be jet-lagged. Travel burnout is common, especially when exploring a new country. So finding time for a relaxing trip to the spa can really hit the spot, especially given London’s fast-paced lifestyle. Getting a massage, a facial, or even just steam in the sauna will be a restorative experience that will pay dividends later in your trip when you’ll need your energy. There are a number of spas near Piccadilly Circus, but Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre is the premier option in the area. They have a jacuzzi, sauna, pool, fully-equipped gym, massage rooms, and even a hammam.
Hit Up Royal Albert Hall for Classical Music
While Piccadilly and West End are obvious destinations for theater and musical productions, the area is also home to a world-renowned concert hall. Royal Albert Hall might be the most famous music venue in the world, behind maybe New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The auditorium is famous for its opulent Victorian architecture and BBC-programmed classical music performances. If you’re into classical music, this is a can’t-skip destination for your trip to London.
South Kensington and Royal Albert Hall are just a short walk from Piccadilly Circus, so shopping around and exploring the area is a solid pre-show activity. Planning ahead and buying tickets is a must!
There’s nothing worse than not having a plan of attack once you’re done with a full day of sightseeing, especially when visiting a place like Piccadilly Circus. Luckily, there are plenty of options, and if you plan it out the right way, your night in London’s West End can be the highlight of the trip. One major recommendation, make sure you spend other nights exploring some of the out-of-the-way London neighborhoods. Piccadilly and West End are iconic for a reason, but if you want to get a sense of how Londoners actually live, you’ll have to dig around some other neighborhoods. That’s why it’s imperative to book at least three days in London.