You may think that theatre is the only thing the West End has to offer, but think again. Amazing architecture and historic landmarks define the area as much as anything else. So, if you’re wondering what those lions are about or why there’s a statue of a giant man on a street corner, we’ll tell you….
Famous for its fountain, the statue of Eros and iconic neon billboards, Piccadilly Circus lies in the heart of London’s West End where Piccadilly, Regent’s Street, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket meet. It’s also where you’ll find Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – an attraction that houses over 700 peculiar curiosities and interactive experiences. See Amazonian shrunken heads, head into the Marvellous Mirror Maze or stand next to the tallest man ever recorded. It’s open 365 days a year, from 10am until midnight and tickets start at £19.95* for kids, but you can save if you book in advance online.
There’s always plenty to keep the kids entertained in Trocadero, too .
If the West End is the heart of theatre, Leicester Square is most definitely the heart of film. Major cinemas sit on every side of the square, with the latest showings and, quite often, it’s the destination of red-carpet events and film premieres. Major cinemas sit on every side of the square, but if you’re more interested in independent film, go to the Prince Charles Cinema or The Curzon. Red-carpet events and film premieres take place in Leicester Square so if you fancy doing some celeb-spotting, this is the place to go. You’ll also find lots of street artists, M&M World and a vast Häagen-Dazs café .
You’ll probably recognise Trafalgar Square and its famous resident pigeons from film or TV. Home to the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, it’s home to Nelson’s Column flanked by bronze-cast lions – made from the melting down of the cannons used in the battle of Trafalgar – , two fountains, and the fourth plinth – a column used to display contemporary and thought-provoking art works since 1999. This square is a must-see and is often the site of national and cultural festivities.
Lined with grandiose buildings, The Strand is leading off of Trafalgar Square. It’s teeming with theatres, high street shops, places to eat, Coutts (one of the world’s oldest banks) and the beautiful Somerset House and Courtauld Gallery. Somerset House offers a packed annual programme of exhibitions, outdoor concerts and film screening plus ice skating in winter. It’s also one of the official venues for London Fashion Week. And, just behind Somerset House, walk over the River Thames on Waterloo Bridge and you’ll find one of the very best views of London, by day or night .
*Prices correct as of January 2015. Please check websites for more details.