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15 things to do in Leicester Square by a Londoner (2022 guide)

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The bright lights of Leicester Square are a constant calling card for London’s capital, from the beautiful lawns bedecked with deckchairs in the summer months to the Bavarian Christmas village that pops up in the winter. On the cusp of Chinatown and with numerous activities including the Scenes from the Square Film Statue trail, here are our top things to do in Leicester Square:

Things to do in Leicester Square - fountain gardens

Things to do in Leicester Square

1. Leicester Square Cinemas

Perhaps best known for its red carpet premieres and glitzy Hollywood parties, Leicester Square has several cinemas dotted around its edges including Odeon Leicester Square (the largest), a Cineworld Leicester Square and Vue Leicester Square. As you’d expect being smack bang in the centre of London, these aren’t the cheapest cinemas – expect very little change from £30 if you are also buying popcorn and drinks.

Odeon Leicester Square

Budget conscious cinema goers may want to visit The Prince Charles Cinema on nearby Leicester Place, which is more arthouse and shows lots of classics. Screenings start from £1 if you become a member.

Things to do in Leicester Square Prince Charles Cinema
The Prince Charles Cinema

2. Leicester Square Film Statues – Scenes in the Square

Befitting for the all the film premiere it hosts, Leicester Square recently unveiled its Scenes from the Square statue trail, a series of bronze statues representing different decades in the cinema from Mary Poppins and Laurel & Hardy to Mr Bean and Bugs Bunny.

Bugs Bunny statue. Scenes in the Square - Leicester Square Film Statues. Things to do in Leicester Square

Originally intended to be a temporary installation, due to popular demand, it has now been extended until at least summer 2021 and an audio tour can now be also downloaded. Read our dedicated blog about Leicester Square’s Scenes from the Square, including pictures of all the statues including the latest, Harry Potter.


3. Chinatown

As you sit in or walk around Leicester Square, you’ll occasionally catch a glimpse of Chinese lanterns or the huge, iconic Chinatown gate (next to W Hotel), denoting the start of Chinatown.

Surprisingly, this area of London didn’t have a Chinatown until the 1970s so it isn’t historic. What it lacks in legacy is made up for the sheer number of and restaurants and Chinese supermarkets.

Chinese New Year is a particularly wonderful time to visit – apart from the Chinatown Gate, our favourite bit of Chinatown to visit is the alleyway known as Newport Court – there are several authentic bakeries around here and as the area is so enclosed, it often smells delicious.

Things to do in Leicester Square chinatown London

4. Leicester Square Casinos

You bet you wanna go to a casino whilst in Leicester Square – open 24 hours and often why Leicester Square can be so busy at night, the assorted casinos in the neighbourhood can be fun to visit (and all have lots of security which is also reassuring).

Our favourite Leicester Square casino has to be the classic Hippodrome casino, which opened in 1900 and is based over several floors, including nightclubs, restaurants and numerous gaming tables.

Years ago, you had to register 24 hours in advance but now you can turn up without being a member and gamble / dance the night away. It isn’t just about gaming as they often have very good drinks offers and entertainment to get you in.

Other casinos that are located directly on the square include the Empire Casino and Grosvenor Casino


5. Japan Centre

A little piece of Japan in central London, this basement food hall and purveyor of Japanese goods is a nice diversion and just a short two minute walk away from Leicester Square in nearby Panton Street. As well as a comic book and gift section, they have a small but perfectly formed Japanese food court here selling fresh sushi and oodles of noodle dishes.

Check out our guide to the best Japanese shops in London over at our sister site Plan My Japan.


6. Discount theatre tickets

What is better than a London theatre ticket? A discounted London theatre ticket! If you are willing to take the chance and leave it to the last minute to get a theatre ticket, try the ‘Tkts’ booth (their spelling, not ours!) in Leicester Square.

Be prepared for long lines though – if you do get stuck in the queue, look out for the Laurel and Hardy film statues on the roof of the ticket booth, part of the Scenes from the Square trail.

Things to do in Leicester Square TKTS cheap theatre tickets
Cheap theatre tickets at TKTS

You can see what is offer that night by looking at the digital screens above the booth – be advised though that sometimes not everything is a bargain and some of the discounts advertised may be a little inflated (there is a lot of good theatre you can see in London for less than £20, if you don’t mind being towards the back).


7. Piccadilly Circus

A short stroll from Leicester Square brings you to the world famous Piccadilly Circus, one of the main thoroughfares in London (and not actually home to any animals!).

This is best visited at night, as the neon lights and brightly lit advertising boards kick in. Whilst it is no Times Square, it is home to the Eros statue, installed in 1892 and said to be the most famous meeting point in London for courting couples (and also seemingly school exchange schemes these days!).


8. The Comedy Store, Leicester Square

This famous comedy club on Oxendon Street was founded in the late seventies and made its name as the home of ‘alternative comedy’.

The venue launched the careers of many popular British TV personalities such as Rik Mayall, Jennifer Saunders and Ben Elton, and popular stand up shows are held here seven nights a week. Check out the line up at thecomedystore.co.uk.


9. LSQ Rooftop bar

Perched on the 9th floor atop of the four-star Hotel Indigo, is LSQ Rooftop bar – a 1920s art deco themed bar with a sweeping panorama view of the London skyline. The bar is not just for hotel guests, so drop by for a pre or post theatre drink at the bar, or lunch/dinner at the restaurant. Make a reservation at LSQ Rooftop bar >


10. National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery

Two world class art galleries are within a short walking distance of Leicester Square tube station. The National Gallery houses some of the greatest collections of paintings in the world dating from the mid-13th century to the year 1900, whilst the National Portrait Gallery showcases portraits of historically important and famous British people.

Note: The National Portrait Gallery is currently closed until spring 2023 for renovations.

Things to do in Leicester Square National Gallery
National Gallery

11. LEGO store

You know you’ve arrived at the Lego store in Leicester Square when you see the large queue snaking around the sides of Leicester Square. Incredibly popular and the nearest we have to a Legoland in London (the proper Lego theme park is actually in Windsor), this is fantastic plastic if you’re a Lego lover.

Comprising Lego displays and merchandise over two floors, the best displays can be seen in the windows outside so you don’t actually need to go in if you don’t have much time.


12. Leicester Square Gardens

You don’t actually have to do anything in Leicester Square – it is quite a nice place to just laze around in the park, and sit on the benches or deckchairs (the latter in Summer only) and stare at the fountain or fend off pigeons from your food.

There are lots of places nearby (mainly chains) to grab takeaway food like Jollibees, Pizza Hut, Shakeshack, McDonalds or Burger King (you are bang out of luck if you want something healthy).


13. M&M’s World Leicester Square

Chocolate heaven – depending on your point of view, this is likely a sweet treat or tacky tourist trap. Other than the ubiquitous Primark clothing store, this is the place we get asked about most often for directions in central London.

We unfortunately don’t really understand the lustre of M&M’s World – M&Ms are delicious but this is a glorified sweet shop where the price hike is huge and the hygiene around the pick and mix section is questionable (best avoided by neat-freaks). There are so many better places to spend time in London than M&M World (rant over).


14. Jollibee

Founded in 1978 in the Philippines, this fast food chain is absolutely massive in Asia with 1,200 locations worldwide. Jollibee is famous for it’s signature crispy fried ‘Chickenjoy’,  Filipino style spaghetti and juicy chicken burgers.

The Leicester Square branch opened last year (the 4th to open in the UK) and is a nice alternative to KFC!


15. Leicester Square Christmas market

From late November every year, Leicester Square is transformed into a Winter Wonderland and Christmas Market (like a very small scale version of the one you’d find in Hyde Park).

Here, you’ll find Santa’s grotto, a couple of alpine themed bars selling Czech lager and mulled wine plus all manner of gift shops selling Christmas decorations and very strongly perfumed soaps, and the largest hot dog you’ll see (probably). Festive as! Check out our best Christmas markets in London guide >


Safety / Crime in Leicester Square

A word of caution – Leicester Square is fairly safe to visit, particularly during the daytime but it can be a little sketchy at night, especially after the pubs close so always keep an eye on your belongings and watch out for pickpockets. The bars that overlook Leicester Square are often targeted by bag snatchers, so do keep an eye out.


Getting to Leicester Square

The nearest London Underground Tube stations to the Leicester Square Film Statues are Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus, or it is a 6 minute walk from Charing Cross train station.


Where to stay near Leicester Square

Budget

SoHostel
Highly rated new hostel in a great location with both dorms and private en-suite rooms and onsite bar.

Astor Museum Inn
Award winning hostel for 18-40 years old, located in the heart of central London with dorm rooms, Kitchen and common areas.

Check out this more detailed list of affordable and highly rated hostels in central London >

Mid range

Citadines Trafalgar Square
Modern and spacious self-catering apartments with kitchenettes and satellite TV.

Luxury

Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel
Stylish boutique hotel located in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials quarter, with onsite bar and restaurant serving Italian and Peruvian dishes.

Covent Garden Hotel
Contemporary boutique hotel, with wood-panelled lounge, onsite bar, all-day brasserie, gym, film screening room and a day spa.


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