Along with Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, London's Piccadilly Circus intersection — which often is compared to New York City's Times Square or Tokyo's Shibuya scramble crossing — is one of the city's most recognised landmarks.
What those who haven't spent time in London are less likely to recognise is that some of the city's best walking streets are in the fashionable West End that envelopes Piccadilly Circus with world class theatres, restaurants, bars, and shopping.
If you're curious, a "Circus" in London vocabulary refers to a rounded intersection where multiple streets converge rather than anything involving animals or a bona fide roundabout.
Rather than huddling around the famous statue of Anteros — formally the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain — with hundreds of other tourists like a flock of overstuffed pigeons, travelgasm.com would encourage you to get out of the vehicle fumes and instead enjoy the neighbourhood's walking streets. Like a reality TV star, the Piccadilly Circus intersection mostly is unpleasant and famous for being famous, whereas the West End's walking streets generally are delightful but receive little appreciation.
Some of the more prominent walking streets include Glasshouse Street (photo above), just around the corner from the Piccadilly Circus intersection; Cranbourn Street, the main walking street through London's legendary "Theatreland" for live theatre; Gerrard Street, the heart of London's Chinatown; and Carnaby Street, long famous for boutique shopping. More recently, Carnaby Street also has become known for restaurants as the developer Shaftesbury cleverly tweaks its positioning to better reach a younger audience less interested in things and more interested in experiences.
The West End not only is an excellent area in London to walk, but also it offers great places to eat. We are particularly fond of Shoryu, which has multiple locations in the neighbourhood for delicious ramen noodles (and one location in Japan); Bao for creative Chinese dumplings; Flat Iron for surprisingly cheap steaks (for London); and The Palomar for inventive, modern Israeli in a beautiful art deco space. However, there literally are hundreds of restaurants in all price brackets in this neighbourhood. Don't be afraid to explore and find your own favourites.
Naturally, no visit to the West End would be complete without a night at the theatre, as well. There are no shortage of places on Cranbourn Street hawking tickets, but it always is wise to plan ahead if you want to get good seats — or seats at all — for a specific show. It is straightforward to book advance tickets online to see Les Misèrables, Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, An American in Paris, Wicked, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Kinky Boots, and Thriller.
We've mapped out one of our favourite walks through the West End below. It stitches together the aforementioned walking streets — Cranbourn, Gerrard, Glasshouse, and Carnaby — in a logical path between the Leicester Square and Oxford Circus Underground stations with a quick stop at the famous Piccadilly Circus intersection, too.
How to Get Here: The West End doesn't really have formally defined boundaries. However, in general, the Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Circus Underground stations are considered to be in the area. You can take the Bakerloo (Brown) or Piccadilly (Dark Blue) line to Piccadilly Circus, the Northern (Black) or Piccadilly (Dark Blue) line to Leicester Square, the Piccadilly (Dark Blue) line to Covent Garden, or the Bakerloo (Brown), Central (Red), or Victoria (Royal Blue) line to Oxford Circus. Piccadilly Circus is the station most commonly used by tourists (Exit 6 is closest to the fountain), but our suggested walk has you arriving at Leicester Square (Exit 2) and departing at Oxford Circus (Exit 8, Argyll Street).
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