England - Leicester Square

    

Leicester Square is situated in the West End of London and is surrounded by the well-known Lisle Street, Charing Cross Road, Leicester Street and Whitcomb Street. On a greater, more inclusive scale, the square is situated almost in the very centre of other famous tourist attractions like Covent Gardens, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Cambridge Circus.

It was in 1630 that the Second Earl of Leicester, Robert Sidney, bought the 1.6 hectares of land in St Martin’s Field. Within the space of five years, he had built Leicester House for himself, which was a sizeable abode and was situated at the north of the piece of land. However, when Sidney enclosed the area in front of his house, the residents of St Martin’s parish no longer had access to what had been known to be public land. King Charles I was involved by these parishioners. It was eventually ordered that Lord Leicester had to keep some of the land open to the parishioners. This land was then called Leicester Field, but is today known as Leicester Square. Some 40 years later, the area became more developed, even serving as the home to royals.

Image of a Red Phone box in London, Signpost behind leading to Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Royal Opera House and the London Transport Museum.
Red Phone box in London, Signpost behind leading to Leicester Square,
Covent Garden, Royal Opera House and the London Transport Museum.

By the following century, though, it was no longer deemed a desirable place for the aristocrats, and was dedicated to the entertainment industry instead. During the 1800’s, the area was known as an entertainment hub. Hotels and theatres were erected to cater to the growing number of people that wanted to be a part of the Leicester Square buzz. Today, it remains to be the pulse of West End entertainment. For this reason, most of London’s film premieres are held at the Square. In addition, it is the co-host of the annual London Film Festival. To set the scene, the Square is surrounded by plaques and handprints of famous celebrities. Some of its best known cinemas include:

• Odeon Leicester Square (with an impressive capacity of 1683 people, this is a major attraction and venue)
• Odeon Mezzanine (comprising five small venues)
• Empire (with 1330 seats in the main theatre and eight smaller theatres, this theatre has 3D and digital capabilities)
• Odeon West End (usually used for small premieres as each of the two venues can seat 1000 people)
• Vue (previously the Warner Brothers Village)


The culture around Leicester Square is based very much on the film and theatre industries. There are plenty of coffee cafés and restaurants, as well as prime access via a nearby tube station. Weekends are particularly busy as the many night clubs around Leicester Square fill up and create a fabulous vibe.

Leicester Square is also a significant location for the English media. Global Radio’s headquarters are on the Square, comprising significant stations such as Capital FM, Classic FM, Gold, Xfm London, and so on. The MTV UK TV studio is also situated here.

Leicester Square is a great addition to a London tour itinerary. It attracts a large variety of locals and international visitors, giving it a worldly vibe of variety and excitement.