Leicester Square, right in the heart of London’s bustling West End, has a rich history.
From the glitz and glamour of film premiers to high street shopping and traditional English pubs, there’s plenty to do when exploring the square and surrounding area. London’s iconic square has something for everyone, from family-friendly daytime activities to date-night spots and lots of history to boot. There’s no shortage of entertainment, with Leicester Square home to some of the best cinemas and theatres in the city too.
A brief history of Leicester Square
In the late 16th century, Leicester Square was very different from the cultural hub we know today. Old maps of London suggest the area was once used for drying clothes! In 1670, the public square was properly laid out and named after nearby Leicester House. The house itself was named after the second Earl of Leicester.
What to do in Leicester Square
Some of our favourite things to do in Leicester Square include:
Catch a film
Visit a traditional pub
Go to bars and clubs
Catch a film
If you’re in London at the right time, you might be able to spot famous faces as they head down the red carpet, on route to a film premier amongst a frenzy of flashing cameras.
Many releases are premiered at Picturehouse Central, Shaftesbury Avenue, or ODEON Luxe in Leicester Square itself — so certainly check to see which stars you could see.
Enjoy unbeatable shopping
Hands up if you love shopping! If you’re in Leicester Square, you’d be crazy not to make the most of the many shopping opportunities all around the area.
M&M’s World is four floors of chocolatey goodness, ideal for kids and those with a sweet tooth. While you’re there, grab a selfie with the characters that make the brand so iconic.
The two-floor flagship LEGO Store is also a must-visit for first-time visitors in London. Even if it’s just to see the enormous chiming Big Ben replica model that’s illuminated at night.
Leicester Square is just around the corner from the famous Regent Street, which curves up towards Oxford Street — both of which are home to London’s most iconic stores. On Regent Street, you’ll find flagship stores from Apple, Burberry, Hollister, and Superdry, plus the fantastic Hamleys toy store, which was founded in 1760. On Oxford Street, there’s Selfridges, John Lewis, River Island, UNIQLO, and Zara.
Drink in a traditional English pub
The Lamb & Flag is a two-minute walk from Leicester Square and is the ideal place to order a pint of ale and some pub grub while hiding away from the busy streets outside. It’s said there has been a licensed premise on the site since the Tudor times, with the current Grade II listed building, which opened in 1722, a favourite spot of Charles Dickens.
The Moon Under Water, named after George Orwell’s fictional public house, is owned by JD Wetherspoon. It’s perfect for a reasonably priced pre-cinema bite to eat or drink. Like London as a whole, it’s brimming with history, with the first house on the site once owned by a Lord Chancellor and then distinguished Scottish surgeon John Hunter.
Visit swanky bars and clubs
Leicester Square is a hub of vibrant nightlife and is tailor-made for big nights out.
All Bar One serves cocktails and has an extensive wine list. At the same time, the Ruby Blue Bar is always buzzing with a terrace that offers fantastic views of Leicester Square below. Club 49 is a vibrant club with an exclusive VIP area. And Zoo Bar, where you’ll need to book a table in advance, is a popular spot playing commercial pop and hip hop music.