Even in a city as diverse and alluring as London, Covent Garden has a unique flavour all of its own. Home to high-end fashion boutiques, incredible artisan markets and, of course, Trafalgar Square, this is a place where street artists and musicians will serenade you as you go about your day.
A big part of this creative flair comes from its inception in the 1600s. Back then it was known as St Paul’s Covent Garden, but also as the ‘actor’s church’, due to the area's long affiliation with London’s acting community. This is as true today as it was then, with more than twenty esteemed and thriving theatres in the immediate vicinity. It’s also the only place in the world that two internationally renowned artistic companies - The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera - call home.
With so much to see and do, let’s take a look at just some of what’s on offer in this iconic part of the city…
This incredible market has been right at the heart of Covent Garden since the 1800s. As the years have passed, it’s continued to support its vendors who trade mainly in fine, hand-crafted goods that can’t be found anywhere else. From every Tuesday to Sunday this amazing building comes alive, home to a hugely assorted array of stalls, selling everything from handmade jewellery, watercolours and sweet treats, plus one-off crafts, antiques and collectables. Put simply, this is heaven for anyone looking for something slightly out-of-the-ordinary. For instance, a way to make the interior of your home really shine or a unique and personal birthday gift.
The Royal Opera House
For those who think opera isn’t for them, a show at the Royal Opera House is such a lavish, sensory experience it might just change your mind. There’s also ballet so dynamic and elegant that seeing it up close is something that stays with you long after the curtain comes down. One of the world’s foremost artistic institutions, a combination of classic works and groundbreaking new pieces has seen the Royal Opera House maintain its position as a must-see for anyone living in or visiting Covent Garden. A night out unlike any other.
A bright, colourful courtyard tucked away in a quiet corner of Covent Garden, Neal’s Yard is a genuine hidden gem demanding to be discovered. Walk through a narrow entranceway and you’ll emerge to discover a dazzling array of green, blue, yellow and orange buildings, inside which you’ll find great food, coffee and a host of quaint little shops full of intricate, wonderfully crafted accessories. The emphasis here is on sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices, and also the very best in that most English of pastimes: tea. Specifically from the Tea House in Neal Street, which provides some of the best blends anywhere in the country. A real delight.
A visit to Cecil Court is like stepping back in time, specifically the 17th century. In fact, for anyone with even a passing interest in the works of Charles Dickens, this is living history, unchanged for hundreds of years. Here you’ll find independent bookshops and souvenir sellers, but the real pleasure is taking in the incredible architecture lit up by gas lamps in the evenings. Just moments away from the hustle and bustle of Leicester Square, the atmosphere is truly enchanting, making it the perfect place to get away for a few hours, especially if you’re in the market for something new to read. It’s also worth noting that Mozart and his family stayed here when the composer was touring Europe at the age of just eight years old.
Food for thought:
Our Top Spots to Wine and Dine in Covent Garden
This much-loved French-style brasserie has well and truly lived up to the hype, managing to strike an impressive balance between easy-going and genuinely classy. Its New York counterpart is also a huge success, so if you’re looking for a great brunch, a long lazy lunch or a dinner consisting of sizzling garlic escargots and a perfect Dover sole meunière, Balthazar’s has got you covered.
For those seeking authentic Spanish tapas served with a real sense of tradition, Barrafina is an absolute must. Featuring that classic open kitchen and a marble-topped bar where diners sit shoulder-to-shoulder as they eat, every detail is pitch-perfect. With regional Spanish dishes, outstanding cocktails and an ever-changing daily specials board, this is cosy, personable and quite simply a really good time. Highly recommended.
British comfort food comes in many guises, but few do it better than Cora Pearl, who has instead elevated the concept into something quite sublime. From the award-winning team behind Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair, this is situated in a classic Covent Garden townhouse and offers up the perfect pre-theatre menu. Featuring cod’s roe crumpets, a Brixham crab bun and devilled whitebait, to name but a few, this is a sumptuous, crowd-pleasing fare.
On a mission to provide some of the best steaks in town, Flat Iron sources their produce with such care and attention they’ve built themselves quite the following. Their approach has been to serve beef grown in regenerative systems, typically raised on small family farms in the UK and Ireland. As a matter of pride, they treat their steaks like a great sommelier treats wine: with an unyielding passion for only the very best. The restaurant itself is also pretty stunning, with an original mosaic floor discovered by chance as they prepared for their grand opening.
Covent Garden is just a short walk from both Waterloo Station and Charing Cross, making travel into and around the city fast and efficient. It also enjoys easy access to a range of walking, jogging and cycling routes.
Education and Business
Established educational institutions like University College London, the London Film School and the London School of Economics and Political Science are all based in Covent Garden. It’s also popular with tech, design and fashion companies keen to make the most of its central location.