Covent Garden was established in the 17th century as a market for fruit and vegetables. Over time, it grew to become one of London’s most significant trading centers, attracting merchants and shoppers from around the globe. As the district became more prosperous, it evolved into a fashionable area with theaters, shops, and cafes during the 18th century but by the 20th century, the area had fallen into disrepair. In the 1970s it was revitalized and transformed into a shopping and entertainment destination. Today, Covent Garden is a popular neighborhood with a lively atmosphere and historic charm, and it’s what we consider to be the best area of London for first-time visitors.
• Best Hotels in Covent Garden: Savoy (luxury) • One Aldwych (luxury) • Covent Garden Hotel (luxury) • Strand Palace (midrange) • Fielding (cheap) • Citadines Trafalgar Square (good-value one and two-bedroom apartments are great for families)
History: Covent Garden’s history dates back to the 17th century when it was designed by renowned architect Inigo Jones as a fashionable Italian-style piazza. It was initially a fruit and vegetable market serving the well-to-do residents of the area. Over the years, it has evolved into a bustling commercial and entertainment hub, while retaining much of its historic charm. The market eventually moved to a new location in 1974, making way for the modern Covent Garden that visitors enjoy today.
Attractions: One of the main attractions in Covent Garden is the iconic Market Building, which houses a mix of designer stores, specialty shops, and artisanal food vendors. The Apple Market, located within the Market Building, offers a range of arts, crafts, and antiques from local traders. The area is also home to several renowned theatres, including the Royal Opera House, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and the Lyceum Theatre, offering visitors a chance to experience world-class opera, ballet, and theatre performances.
Dining and nightlife: Covent Garden boasts an eclectic mix of restaurants, pubs, and bars, catering to various tastes and budgets. From traditional British pubs to upscale dining establishments, visitors can find a wide variety of food and drink options. The area is also known for its street performers and entertainers, who add to the lively atmosphere.
Shopping: In addition to the market, Covent Garden is a popular shopping destination, featuring both high-street brands and designer boutiques. You’ll find famous British brands such as Mulberry, Burberry, and Jo Malone, as well as other international names like Chanel and Apple.
Pros of Staying in Covent Garden
• Location: Covent Garden is located in the heart of London’s West End, making it an ideal base for exploring the city’s top attractions, such as the British Museum, Trafalgar Square, and the Theatre District.
• Atmosphere: Covent Garden has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere, with street performers, shops, cafes, and restaurants creating a lively and exciting environment that’s perfect for tourists.
• Culture: The area is steeped in history and culture, with world-class museums, galleries, and theaters that offer a rich and diverse range of experiences for visitors.
• Food: Covent Garden is renowned for its food scene, with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and street food vendors offering everything from traditional British fare to international cuisine.
• Shopping: The neighborhood boasts a range of shops, from high-end boutiques to independent retailers, offering visitors a chance to indulge in some retail therapy.
• Festivals and Events: Covent Garden hosts a range of festivals and events throughout the year, from the Christmas lights switch-on to the Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival, ensuring that there’s always something exciting happening in the area.
Cons of Staying in Covent Garden
• Crowds: Due to its popularity, Covent Garden can be very crowded, particularly during peak tourist season. This can make navigating the area and visiting popular attractions more challenging.
• Noise: With its lively atmosphere and street performers, Covent Garden can also be quite noisy, particularly at night. Visitors who are sensitive to noise may find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
• Prices: As a popular tourist destination, Covent Garden can be more expensive than other areas of London. Visitors may find that accommodation, food, and drinks are priced higher than in other neighborhoods.
• Traffic: Covent Garden is a busy area with narrow streets, making it difficult for vehicles to navigate. This can result in traffic congestion and noise pollution, which can be frustrating for visitors.
• Limited green spaces: While Covent Garden is home to several beautiful public squares, such as Covent Garden Piazza and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the area does not offer many green spaces or parks for visitors to relax in.
Top Attractions in Covent Garden
• The Royal Opera House is a historic and prestigious venue for performing arts. It is home to both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, two of the most renowned arts companies in the world. The building itself is an impressive neoclassical structure that was originally built in 1732. It has been renovated and expanded over the years, most recently in the 1990s, to include modern amenities and facilities while preserving its historic charm.It hosts a wide range of performances throughout the year, including opera, ballet, classical music, and other types of concerts and shows.
• The Piazza in Covent Garden is a bustling public square that is located in the heart of the Covent Garden district in London. It is surrounded by historic buildings that have been converted into shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The Piazza is paved with cobblestones and features a central courtyard that is often used for outdoor performances and events. It is also home to a variety of street performers, who entertain crowds with their music, magic tricks, and other acts. One of the main features of the Piazza is the Covent Garden Market, which is a covered marketplace that sells a variety of goods, including fresh produce, artisanal foods, and handmade crafts. There are also several shops and boutiques located around the square, selling everything from clothing and accessories to souvenirs and gifts.
• The London Transport Museum is a museum that showcases the history of London’s transportation system. The museum’s collection includes a wide range of artifacts and exhibits that cover the history of London’s transportation system from the 1800s to the present day. Visitors can see vintage buses, trams, trains, and other vehicles, as well as displays of ticketing systems, signage, and other historical artifacts. One of the main attractions of the museum is the “World City Walkway,” which is an interactive exhibit that takes visitors on a virtual tour of different transportation systems around the world. There are also a range of other interactive exhibits and activities, such as a driving simulator, that allow visitors to experience what it’s like to operate a variety of transportation vehicles.
• The Courtauld Gallery is a small but highly regarded art museum located in Somerset House, on the Strand in central London. The museum is dedicated to showcasing a collection of world-class art, including works by some of the most renowned artists from around the world. The collection at the Courtauld Gallery includes a wide range of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art, with a particular emphasis on works from the Renaissance through the 20th century. The museum’s most famous works include masterpieces such as Vincent Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear” and Édouard Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.”
• Neal’s Yard is a small but vibrant courtyard located in the heart of Covent Garden. It is known for its colorful buildings and eclectic mix of independent shops, restaurants, and cafes. The courtyard is accessible via a narrow alleyway off of Neal Street, and is surrounded by colorful buildings that have been painted in a variety of bright and bold hues. The courtyard itself is paved with cobblestones and is filled with greenery, including potted plants and hanging baskets. It’s home to a variety of unique and independent businesses, including health food stores, organic cafes, natural beauty shops, and other specialty shops. It is also home to several wellness studios and treatment centers, including yoga studios, massage clinics, and acupuncture centers.
Covent Garden Transportation
There are several tube stations that are close to Covent Garden in London, including:
• Covent Garden Station – Located on the Piccadilly line, this station is located on the eastern edge of Covent Garden and is just a short walk from the main piazza.
• Leicester Square Station – Located on the Piccadilly and Northern lines, this station is just to the north of Covent Garden and is within walking distance of the district.
• Holborn Station – Located on the Central and Piccadilly lines, this station is situated just to the east of Covent Garden and is within easy walking distance.
• Charing Cross Station – Located on the Bakerloo and Northern lines, this station is just to the south of Covent Garden and is within walking distance.
• Tottenham Court Road Station – Located on the Central and Northern lines, this station is situated to the west of Covent Garden and is within walking distance.
• To reach London Heathrow Airport, take the Piccadilly line from Covent Garden Underground or take the Bakerloo line from Piccadilly Circus to London Paddington for the fast Heathrow Express train. If you’re traveling to Gatwick, take bus or underground to Victoria Station for the non-stop Gatwick Express train.