Leicester Square is the epicentre of the happening West End of London. It sits just north of The Mall at the intersection of Soho and Chinatown, where it buzzes with life and sparkles with bright lights. With its famous ODEON screens and red-carpet events, the plaza is no stranger to illustrious inhabitants. In fact, there's upwards of 50 premiers of blockbusters here every year, so keep the eyes peeled for the celebrities. 

    The truth is that you will rarely find Leicester Square looking sleepy. Crowds frequent the regal playhouses of Theatreland. There's endless shopping in the sprawling toy emporiums. The gastronomy ranges from high-end French bistros to soy-sizzling Chinatown. Street entertainers abound and so do Christmas markets when the festive season swings around.

    Leicester Square in London - one of the highlights of 10 Most Popular Streets in London and 9 Best Places to Visit in Covent Garden, London (Read all about London here)

    A brief history of Leicester Square

    Leicester Square was first designated as a part of London in the 1670s. Then, it was considered an upscale neighbourhood. It was the chosen home of people like art critic William Hogarth and the architect James Stuart.

    The 1800s were when the square got its reputation for entertainments. Playhouses brought big shows, but also brothels. The area continued as a gritty half slum until the second half of the 20th century, which culminated in a huge redevelopment project that brought pedestrianised concourses and handsome fountains aplenty.

    What are the highlights of Leicester Square?

    Remember that Leicester Square is the heart of the West End. There are more theatres and playhouses here than you can shake a packet of roasted chestnuts at. The closest is the Victorian-era Garrick Theatre and there's also the Wyndham's Theatre, which dates from 1900. Look for them just 1 street to the east, offering a line-up of acclaimed musicals, pantomimes and shows.

    Movie lovers won't be disappointed by the wealth of silver screen showings that happen on Leicester Square. The huge ODEON Luxe Leicester Square shoulders atop one of the pavements. It's not only a major hotspot for star-studded screenings. It's also got IMAX immersion experiences and Dolby Surround Sound galore.

    What to do at night in Leicester Square?

    There's no doubt about it: Leicester Square is one of the most happening corners of London town. On the plaza itself, you can dine in spice-scented Turkish kebab houses or sip cocktails in noir speakeasy bars with a vibe of Chicago circa 1935. Alternatively, hit the neon-lit Empire Casino to slap some chips on the blackjack and try your luck at the poker tables.

    Stroll north and you enter Chinatown. Soy-sizzling stir-fries and Peking duck are the order of the day there. Next comes Soho. It's a gentrified and swashbuckling part of the city, where Irish bars merge with jazz joints and some of the clubs go on until the early hours.

    Good to know about Leicester Square

    It's easy to reach Leicester Square because the plaza has its very own Tube stop: the Leicester Square Underground Station. It's on the Northern Line and the Piccadilly Line but is also well connected to the major interchange of Charing Cross.

    Leicester Square can be pretty raucous after dark. That's especially true if you venture to the club-fringed streets to the north. Generally, most of the venues in the square are suitable for families.

    Be sure to book tickets for West End shows and cinema screenings well in advance. The best performances will always sell out quickly and it will save you a whole load of queuing at the box office on the day.

    Leicester Square in London

    Location: Leicester Square, West End, London WC2H 7LU, UK

    Joseph Francis | Contributing Writer

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