London Drum

Leicester Square – West End Pubs, Clubs & Cinemas

Leicester Square
Where? Leicester Square · Web: Time required? A typical visit is 15 mins Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 14, 19, 24, 29, 38, 176 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Leicester Square Northern Piccadilly Other nearby stations: Charing Cross, Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus Train fares

Craig’s review… Everybody looks wrecked in the morning but I’m that middle-aged kind of wrecked, when you roll out of bed after eight hours sleep feeling like you’ve only had five minutes kip. These kids in Leicester Square are the other type: they look like they’re at the tail-end of a long night out that still hasn’t ended yet.

Everybody who comes to London ends up here at some point – they’ll be wandering around the West End to see the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus and get sucked into Leicester Square along with a million billion other people. This is where you’ll find all the big cinemas and nightclubs. It’s where all the nightlife is.

Drinking in the pubs

If you come on a Friday or Saturday night then the crowds are unbelievable. They’re the human equivalent of those mudslides that flow slowly over an entire town. You’ll enter the viscous thick of it as soon as you exit the tube train and ride it up the station stairs to the street. The trick is to step out of it when it passes your pub and hope the bouncers are a bit blasé. Once you’ve made it past them (I never managed to get past them) you’ll have a wall of jacketed backs five people deep at the bar.

That’s the worst part about drinking round here: trying to grab the barman’s attention over the shoulders of fifteen blokes all ten feet taller than you. Then you’ll have to wobble your sloshing beer bottles and pitching pints back through a maze of tables to the tiny patch of standing space you somehow managed to grab by the door. And then you’ll stand in that same spot for the rest of the night because you don’t want to lose it. But hey, it’s Leicester Square, and that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re young.

But it’s nice and quiet this morning… it’s just those two kids sleeping on each other’s shoulders and a few suits staring into space as they suck on a cigarette. There are a couple of homeless dudes sitting here as well, those beer can dudes who drink Diamond White for breakfast. The only busy person I can see is a bouncer outside the 24-hour casino.

Leicester Square casinos

There are two types of casino in Leicester Square. You’ve got the posh ones like the Empire and the Grosvenor where you have to put on a suit to lose a few grand. If you can afford to lose lots of money playing blackjack then that’s where you go. If you can’t afford to lose any money then you head for the arcade place outside the Hippodrome instead.

Nobody knows what’s going on with fruit machines and I don’t know why people play them. When kids play an arcade machine at least they get a game out of it, but when adults drop a quid into these things they watch a few lights flash on and off and that’s their game over already. Twenty quid later they might get a couple of pounds out and feel all happy because they won something.

As I’m sitting here mindlessly idling some time away a guy has decided to tempt fate by standing over a docile fountain, laughing, while his mates are egging him on with their camera phones at the ready. This guy has obviously got no fear. Any minute now the fountain is going to spray up into the sky and send him soaring into space. Please, oh please let him get soaked… but nope. He has chickened out with just seconds to spare. What a shame. I would have quite liked to watch him getting drenched.

TKTS theatre tickets booth

P.S. If you want some cheap theatre tickets then try the TKTS booth in the centre of the square. There are a couple of other ticket shops down Cranbourn Street but they look a bit pricey to me. And there are some nice pavement restaurants in Irving Street if you’ve got some time to kill before your show starts. But remember that this is tourist central so everything costs 10x more than it should.

Worth a visit? Value for money? n/aGood for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Chinatown (you can walk it in less than 2 mins); Covent Garden (you can walk it in 7 mins); Piccadilly Circus (you can walk it in 4 mins); Trafalgar Square (you can walk it in 4 mins) and West End (you can walk it in less than 3 mins)

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

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Your comments and questions

DH How long a walk is it to Big Ben from Leicester Square?

Craig Hi DH. It's not far. You just have to walk to Trafalgar Square and then straight down Whitehall. It's about 15-20 minutes to walk it

Lee I love walking through here and it's usually full of life but it's been very quiet during the lockdown, so it's the first time I've really stopped to look at the buildings and they are quite impressive. But I can't wait for everyone to return. Leicester Square needs some people in it!

Mahmood There are lots of pubs to drink and restaurants to eat. I like the restaurants where you can sit outside on the pavement at night and watch people

Cam We like the deckchairs on the grass. You can lie back at lunchtime and get some rays and eat your McDonalds

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