Leicester Square is a buzzing hub of activity, home to many diverse entertainment options. Once the site of music halls and old-fashioned movie houses, the square is now dotted with trendy restaurants, bars and cinemas. Watch mimes and other street performers, stroll around the central green area or try your luck at the casinos set in historic buildings.
The square was first laid out in 1630, and became a popular entertainment area in the mid-19th century. It was home to Turkish baths, burlesque houses, music halls and then later, movie houses such as the Empire and the Hippodrome. Visit the Hippodrome today and you will find one of the U.K.’s largest casinos. The Empire cinema remains open and is often the setting for star-studded red carpet premieres.
Head to the small garden at the centre of the square, which features a marble statue of William Shakespeare surrounded by dolphins. Walk around the edge of the green space to see statues of other famous figures from English history. Look for Charlie Chaplin, William Hogarth and Sir Isaac Newton, among others.
In the northwest corner of the square, find the quirky Swiss glockenspiel. The stand-alone clock is 32 feet (9.8 metres) high and features 27 bells, 11 moving Swiss figures and a glass drum decorated with Swiss flags.
Stroll around the square to enjoy the lively buzz and then watch a movie in one of the cinemas. At the southwest corner, look at the floor plaques with handprints of famous actors, inspired by the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.
The square is one of the most crowded places in London, particularly on weekends. Arrive in the evening and watch its pedestrianized streets come to life with neon lights, revellers and nightclub music.
Leicester Square is on numerous bus routes and also has its own Underground station. While you are here, watch a play or a musical. London's theatre district is right on the doorstep.