The city centre incorporates most of Leicester's shopping, with the Highcross and the Haymarket Shopping Centre as well as the 'Old Town' around Leicester Cathedral, Leicester Market and the Magazine Gateway. Politically, the city centre is split between the Leicester City Council wards of Abbey and Castle. A£19 million regeneration project transformed Leicester's city centre. The work won three awards: The Urbis Urban Regeneration Award in 2007 for Gallowtree Gate, The BCSC Town Centre "Gold" Best in Britain award in June 2009 and the Transport Times Walking & Public Realm award in July 2009.
The historic city of Leicester was founded by the Romans as Ratae Corieltauvorum - after the Corieltauvi, the local tribe of Britons whose tribal lands these were - at the crossing of the River Soar by the Fosse Way, between the current path of the river and the modern Gallowtree Gate.
It is thought that the later medieval walls and gates were in approximately the same positions as the Roman ones, with the forum being where the modern inner ring road meets St Nicholas Circle. The Roman baths are nearby and are preserved at Jewry Wall. The east gate was at the eastern end of High Street (preserved in the street name Eastgates), the north gate was at the northern end of Highcross Street, the west gate was on the town side of West Bridge, and the south gate was in the modern Friar Lane area – the city walls ran along the current Millstone Lane, Horsefair Street, Gallowtree Gate, Church Gate, Sanvey Gate and Soar Lane, with the western wall possibly running along the river Soar (there is some doubt as to whether the western wall existed). The city centre was the High Cross, at the junction of the current High Street and Highcross Street (in mediaeval times, High Street ran between the north and south gates along the line of the current Highcross Street, while the current High Street was called Swinesmarket). Leicester Cathedral and the Guildhall occupy this old area of town.
Leicester Castle lay on the south-western corner of the walls, and the Newarke was a separate walled area nearby. The Newarke Gateway (now known as the Magazine) is the only medieval gateway remaining. A small section of the town wall can be seen in the churchyard of St Mary de Castro. The town's main gates were sold and demolished in the late 18th century, being an impediment to the flow of traffic (the city's hay market was outside the walls for this reason, the main market being situated within the south-east corner of the walls).
With increasing development, particularly in the 19th century, the focal point moved eastwards, with the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower roundabout seeing the five-way junction of the London to Manchester, Birmingham to Yarmouth and Fosse Way roads. This was influenced by the replacement of the Welford Road (now the A5199) by the Market Harborough road (the Harborough Turnpike, now the A6), as the main route to London, because the Welford Road terminated in the tiny streets of the old town, and was therefore a hindrance for vehicles, while the London Road went past the East Gates of the city.