Covent Garden lies at the bustling heart of the city, where the shops spill into the theatre district. The Piazza, a large cobbled courtyard surrounded by shops and historic buildings on all sides, and the Indoor Market Building are purpose built for shopping, and have played host to market stalls and high-end shops throughout the ages. To this day, designer label boutiques and pyramids of macarons sit side by side with street performers and punnets of paella. Here you’ll also find The Royal Opera House and the London Transport Museum, tranquil St Martin’s Courtyard or lively and glittering Seven Dials.
In the Middle Ages, Covent Garden (once “Convent Garden”) was a vegetable garden for the monks of Westminster Abbey. Its alleyways and cobbled courtyard later became a fruit and vegetable market, then a flower market, and in the eighteenth century its coffee houses and taverns became a favourite haunt of writers, journalists and artists. The Piazza as it looks today was laid out in 1631 by Italian architect Inigo Jones, to house the markets already being held there. Jones also designed the ‘portico houses’ raised around the square, where Charles Fowler would, in 1828, design the Market Building. Travelling shows came and went in the courtyard, which later became a free space for apprentices and local children.
Why not start right in the centre of the city, stepping out from the Premier Inn near Covent Garden. Then you can enjoy all the great activities Covent Garden has to offer, just a short stop from your doorstep!
Covent Garden’s indoor market is a joy to wander around, but not if you can’t see the stalls for the people. It’s a popular shopping destination so, to avoid crowds, make it your first stop in the morning or your last stop of the day.
The Piazza never closes, and the shops are open between 10am and 7pm, on Sunday between 11am and 4pm. ATMs can be found on the West Piazza and on King Street.
In Tavistock Court there is a disabled toilet, to the side of Jubilee Market. Bathrooms inside the Market Building cost 70p, or there are other public toilets on either side of the portico by St Paul’s church (50p).
An eclectic shopping experience, you’ll find all your favourite chain stores here, with a few designer ones thrown in! Covent Garden itself was purpose built for shopping, and independent stalls stretch in every direction under the Market Building's roof.
Don’t miss out on Seven Dials! Just at the end of Langley Street (opposite Covent Garden Station) these sprawling streets are home to quirky cafes, boutiques, pop-up shops and vintage stores- not forgetting Forbidden Planet, the science fiction paraphernalia and graphic novel superstore.
Got some time to kill and only moths in your wallet? Head to the Piazza and have a seat on the cobbles (or a lean on the railings) and let the street performers entertain you with a beautiful aria or some casual knife juggling.
Theatre on a Shoestring
As the gateway to the West End, Covent Garden has some fab choices on offer for the theatre goer on a budget. Pop into a heavily postered ticket booth just about anywhere, and pick up a couple of discounted tickets for anything from Matilda to the Mouse Trap!
Royal Opera House
The historic Royal Opera House is tucked away at one corner of the square, and is well worth a visit just to gaze up through the stunning conservatory, or enjoy some pre-show drinks in true old-world glamour.
From delicate French cuisine to the infamous (and often instagrammed) ShakeShack, there’s something to satisfy every palate, from the start of your day to the start of your night!
Keep yourself going mid-shopping spree with a paella from the big pan in the Market Building! A generous portion only costs about £5. Or, pop up to Neal’s Yard in Seven Dials and have a sit down at one of the brightly coloured cafes in it’s cosy courtyard. A giant slice of pizza from Homeslice will satisfy any hungry shopper’s grumbling stomach.
Covent Garden has some seriously classy restaurants on offer when it comes to evening dining. From hearty ‘down-home’ country cooking at Joe’s Southern Table and Bar to the simple and classic menu at Sophie’s Steakhouse.
If you fancy a good old fashioned pint in a pub, why not pop into the historic Lamb and Flag, Charles Dickens’ old local. Or for something off the beaten track try the cosy ‘local-pub’ atmosphere of the Cross Keys.
Why not spend an evening in what used to be the most famous Gents in Theatreland? Now serving ‘Bubbles and Snuff’, Cellar Door is a speakeasy style cabaret bar and a fun place to start your adventure through London’s underside. If you like your drinking a little rowdier, Adventure Bar is both riotous and cavernous, with cocktail slinging waiters and weird and wonderful drinks on the menu. Try a ‘Flaming Zombie’, but don’t forget to blow the fire out before you take a sip!
Parking is very limited, with a compulsory congestion charge (that you can pay online or on your phone) and Pay and Display parking on some surrounding roads: Henrietta Street, King Street, Southampton Street and Tavistock Street. There are also three private car parks around the Covent Garden area, including an NCP car park on Drury Lane. The postcode for your SatNav is WC2H 9SB.
By tube and bus
Covent Garden’s very own tube station, on the Piccadilly Line, will bring you straight to the Piazza’s doorstep! If you prefer, the RV1 bus goes right to Covent Garden, and bus routes 9, 13, 15, 23, 139 and 153 all stop at Trafalgar Square and Aldwych, which are a only stone’s throw away on either side.
By train and coach
The closest mainline Railway Station is Charing Cross: a five minute walk up the strand brings you to the foot of the Piazza. If you’re getting in to Victoria Coach Station hop on the 24 bus, or grab the tube down to Green Park Station and change to the Piccadilly line for Covent Garden.
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