Piccadilly (once called Portugal street and referred to as the “Main artery of West End”) is a road in London extending from Piccadilly Circus in the east to Hyde Park corner in the West. It is said to derive its name from the ‘piccadils’ or ruffs, which are feather like frills worn around the neck area (they can be observed in many portraits of 17th century royals). The St. James area, lies to the South of the eastern section of Piccadilly.
Piccadilly and St. James house some of London’s famous Landmarks and Buildings. Many of these still bear traces of the 18th century – when members of the royalty and “high society” in general frequented them for shopping and entertainment.
Here’s a list and a brief description of some of the “star sights” in these areas. The names of many of these places would be familiar to and are guaranteed to cause excitement among those of us who have spent copious amounts of time pouring over books by British novelists of the early 20th century – notably P.G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie.
1. Piccadilly Circus – The most prominent sight here is the statue of Eros (Cupid), poised delicately with a bow in hand. The statue is surrounded by a very vivid array of huge, neon advertising signs. This makes for a picturesque sight, best viewed late in the evening. Piccadilly Circus marks the entrance to the city’s entertainment district – filled with restaurants, pubs, clubs , theatres and cinemas.
2. St. James church – The church was originally built in the 17th century and modified thereafter. It is said to contain the works of a master carver of the time.
3. Burlington Arcade – A 19th century arcade, housing small shops selling traditional British luxuries. Notable here, is the presence of uniformed “Beadles” (officer responsible for punishing minor offenders), who, traditionally are vested with powers to eject people who disturb the decorum of the place. The items in sale in the shops are also interesting – there are shops housing gentlemen’s caps and hats, ladies hats, traditional perfumes and coat embellishments.
4. Ritz hotel – Oh, yes! The hotel frequented by the young in many Novels and movies alike! The hotel still sports it’s air of exquisiteness and opulence and makes for a great sight to behold. Apparently, it is open for tea for those “suitably dressed”, though I am a bit in the mist here, my knowledge of traditional English outfits being extremely poor.
5. Pall Mall – This street, named after the game of palle maille ( a cross between croquet and golf), hosts the famous “gentlemen’s clubs” of London. Again, fans of PGW, would know what I am referring to. Many of the club houses, built in the early 19th century, still maintain their stately interiors. Admission is only to members and their guests, though.
6. Royal Opera Arcade – This arcade has the distinction of being London’s first shopping arcade. However, most of the shops originally, set up here, have been moved.
Note – This is by no means an exhaustive list – this is merely a list of places of interest to me. All the spots described above are within walkable distance of each other – they can all be covered in a couple of hours.