Explore London’s Covent Garden

Covent Garden with its street entertainers, markets, open-air cafes and stylish shops is at the heart of London’s famous West End or Theatre Land and is one of the capital’s liveliest districts. The Piazza at its centre was a working wholesale market until a major redevelopment in the mid-1970s, and now it is perfect for a leisurely stroll and some shopping, with a light lunch and maybe a few drinks before you head for an evening at the theatre. The whole area has a real buzz about it and is within easy walking distance of numerous London attractions such as Trafalgar Square and the South Bank Centre just across the river.

The history of Covent Garden

If ‘Covent Garden’ sounds strangely familiar then you’d be right, because it was originally occupied by the garden of a convent which supplied nearby Westminster Abbey with fresh vegetables and other market produce in medieval times. The piazza we see today was originally designed and laid out by the famous architect and landscape gardener Inigo Jones in the 1630s, and it was London’s first major square. Before the riverside Embankment was constructed, the Strand ran right alongside the river and was lined with mansions owned by the Duke of Bedford, and he was the landowner who commissioned the Piazza as a residential development. The area has never looked back since and is favourite place for people and their friends to hang out.

Iconic buildings

The Royal Opera House is just around the corner, a world famous venue for great performers, and on the opposite side of the Piazza is St Paul’s Church, also known as the Actors’ Church because of its famous dead denizens, who came straight off nearby stages to be interred in its crypt. Its entrance is through a quaint little churchyard which is excellent for a quiet sit down and a sandwich. The London Transport Museum is worth a visit if you’re interested in the history of the tube and bus systems in London, but in any case there’s plenty of free entertainment every day of the week on the Piazza.

Great market

The Central Market and Floral Hall are reminiscent of Mary Poppins, the first selling a great range of souvenirs and trinkets, designer goods and other produce, and the latter specialising in fresh flowers and exotic fruit. You could easily spend a full day here simply wandering around the numerous stalls, having lunch at one of the modern or old world pubs or restaurants before heading for a nearby theatre to catch the latest stage hit.

Bars and restaurants galore

For a romantic dinner for two you could do worse than the Cafe des Amis, which serves a range of French cuisine away from the clamour, or try the Crusting Pipe restaurant/wine bar right in the Piazza for a great range of food and drink. Whilst sitting here you also get live music in the form of opera singers in the courtyard just next door. There are also loads of pubs and really it’s down to you whether you go for fine dining or pub grub, but you’ll hardly starve to death here.