Elephant & Castle

Best known for its brightly coloured shopping centre, people either love or hate the Elephant & Castle. The distinctive name is often said to be a corruption of the Spanish "Infanta de Castilla", but there are many other theories - see this discussion in our forum.

The Shopping Centre management has made a real effort in recent years and the quality of the shopping environment has improved dramatically. The ground floor houses chain stores such as Tesco Metro, Iceland, WH Smith, Woolworths, Superdrug, Boots and Peacocks, whilst an eclectic mix of small stores and restaurants has made the first floor a really lively cultural centre. Also in the Shopping Centre is Palace Bingo and the Elephant & Castle Mega Bowl. A market operates outside the shopping centre.

After several years of dereliction the Coronet has been revived as a superclub, cinema and corporate hire venue.

Round the corner in Gaunt Street the Ministry of Sound continues to draw clubbers from across London and beyond.

The Elephant & Castle was once considered the "Piccadilly Circus of South London", but these days it is a centre of student life, with London South Bank University and the London College of Communication (formerly London College of Printing) having campuses nearby. LCP has occasional exhibitions at the Eckersley Gallery. As a consequence the Elephant benefits from a Blackwell's bookshop in London Road and the excellent Tlön Books secondhand shop in the shopping centre.

The whole area is set to be transformed as part of a much-delayed major regeneration initiative.

The most visible place of worship in the area is the Metropolitan Tabernacle with its striking frontage but tucked away in Meadow Row, off Old Kent Road, is the parish church, known as St Matthew's-at-the-Elephant, a lively place with lots going on.

Property-wise, there hasn't been much to shout about until now, with major developments like Metro Central Heights giving the area a much-needed boost.

The Elephant is an important transport interchange, acting as the hub of the South-Central London bus network. There are also stations on the Bakerloo and Northern lines of the London Underground as well as an overground station served by Thameslink and South Eastern trains.

The Elephant is something of a traffic nightmare - official figures show that it is the fifth most dangerous road junction in London.

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