This is one of the main shopping and entertainment districts of the English capital and is hugely popular with visitors, who swarm to its shops, bars and restaurants, especially at weekends. Covent Garden incorporates some of London's Theatreland and also forms a smaller extension to London's gay village that is centred on the neighbouring district of Soho.
Covent Garden takes its name from history; it used to be Convent Garden many years ago and over the years this has changed to Covent Garden.
This is an extensive area of high density building and narrow streets, officially bounded by High Holborn and New Oxford Street to the north, by Kingsway to the east, by The Strand to the south and by Charing Cross Road to the west. For all practical purposes, however, the district can also be seen to extend down to The Embankment along the Thames between Northumberland Avenue and Hungerford Bridge and to The Temple.
The main focus of the Covent Garden district for visitors is the Covent Garden Market Piazza. Further north, a secondary focus is Seven Dials, an intersection of seven streets, marked by a tall pillar with (you guessed it) seven (sun) dials. It is very easy for visitors to move on from here by foot to the attractions around Trafalgar and Leicester Squares, to Soho and to Bloomsbury.
Owing to the London Congestion Charge and the general shortage of parking spaces (plus stringent parking restrictions and fines), it is generally recommended that visitors to the area consider public transport to access the district.
This district is well served by the following tube stations:
Covent Garden (Piccadilly line). Exiting Covent Garden Tube Station, turn right (southwards, downhill) to walk to the Piazza, or turn left (northwards) to find the main shopping areas of Long Acre, Neal Street and also Seven Dials.
Leicester Square (Piccadilly and Northern lines). The distance between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stations on the Piccadilly line is the shortest on the whole London tube network.
Holborn (Piccadilly and Central lines).
Tottenham Court Road (Northern and Central lines).
Embankment (District, Circle and Northern lines).
Charing Cross (Bakerloo, District, Circle and Northern lines).
Charing Cross mainline station services the south-eastern region of England.
Charing Cross and Charing Cross Station. Old train station with an enormous office and shopping complex in glass and pale stone. A lavish hotel is also on the site. The name comes from the Queen Elenaor (13th C.) gothic pillar outside the station, which is acutally a Victorian-era replica. Charing Cross Road is famous for its vintage book shops, one stand-out is Foyle's.
Covent Garden Piazza and Central Market, (tube: Covent Garden). Covent Garden is a covered shopping mall with shops predominantly selling clothing, but also gifts and cosmetics. There is a popular pub, The Punch and Judy Tavern at the western end, with a large balcony overlooking a square where street entertainers perform. At the eastern end, the corresponding balcony is occupied by Chez Gerard, a restaurant selling relatively-expensive but good continental cuisine. In the central area of Covent Garden is The Apple Market, a small market of handicraft stalls (Tuesday-Sunday) or antiques stalls (Monday), 10:30-19:30. Most shops are open 10:00-19:00 daily, but may close earlier on Sundays. Classical musicians will often busk in the lower level of Covent Garden, including extremely talented opera singers.
Seven Dials, (tube: Covent Garden). An intersection of seven streets in the northern part of the Covent Garden district. Lots of of mid-range designer clothing and shoe stores
St. Paul's Church, Bedford St WC2 (tube: Covent Garden. At the western end of the Piazza). Completed in 1633 to a design by Inigo Jones.
Museums and Galleries
Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven St WC2N 5NF (tube: Charing Cross), ☎ +44 20 7839 2006, . The only remaining home of Benjamin Franklin in the world. The founding father of the United States lived here from 1757 to 1775. Many exhibits charting his life and achievements as well as original artefacts. A special Historical Experience Show runs W-Su at noon, 13:00, 14:00, 15:15, and 16:15 all year round.£7, under 16s free..
London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 20 7565 7299, . As the name suggests, dedicated to the history of transport in London, past, present and future, old buses and tubes feature in a big way.£5.95, concessions £4.50/2.50, accompanied children under 16 free.
Photographers' Gallery, 5 & 8 Great Newport St (tube: Leicester Sq), ☎ +44 20 7831 1772, . M-Sa 11:00-18:00, Th 11:00-20:00, Su noon-18:00. The gallery is actually split across two galleries, No. 8 houses the main exhibition and an interesting little bookshop (with a small stock of novelty lomo cameras), and No. 5 has a small cafe with more photos on the walls. The exhibitions are wide and varied, from documentary photographers to fine artists, some long gone, and some on their way up. With the crowds and chaos of Leicester Square on one side and Covent Garden on the other, this is a welcome retreat.Free.
Sir John Soanes Museum, the Georgian house of the famous architect and collector, in nearby Lincoln Inn's Field. The Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons is located the other side of the square.
Along with neighbouring London/Leicester Square, this is the capital of London's theatreland. For current programmes please check the relevant theatre website or the official London theatreland listings here . Budget travellers should look for last minute bookings and off-peak performances.
Most of the booking office numbers given will only work from within the United Kingdom. If you want to make a booking from overseas, use the relevant website.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine St, WC2B 5JF, .
St Martin's Theatre, West St, WC2H 9NZ, ☎ +44 0844 499 1515, . The theatre which has been showing The Mousetrap continuously for the past 58 years!
English National Opera, London Colliseum, St. Martin's Ln, WC2N 4ES (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 871 911 0200 (email@example.com), . A little easier to get tickets here than it is at the Royal Opera House but still difficult for the most notable productions. Look for last minute availability and and off peak performances.
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 20 7304 4000, . One of the world's great Opera and Ballet venues. Peak time tickets are like gold dust and it is very unlikely that a casual visitor will be able to obtain one. However, at least 65 tickets per performance are held off for on-the-day in person sales from 10AM, and tickets are sometimes available for off peak (especially matinee) performances and can be surprisingly affordable. Check the website or at London ticket agencies.
Covent Garden Opera Walk, Depart Covent Garden Tube Station, Every Thursday at 7pm, ☎ +44 20 3239 3081 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . From John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, to the controversial Jerry Springer the Opera, the history of Opera in London is explored, as well as the composers who contributed to the genre. The guide is a professional opera singer who performances live opera along the route. Tour lasts 2 hours.
Shoes are a speciality of Covent Garden, particularly in Neal Street where virtually every shop sells shoes, from Birkenstocks to trainers, campers to Doc Martens.
Like its neighbour Soho, Covent Garden has a wide range of clothing shops. Head to Floral Street and Long Acre for a start, but explore the back-streets too as they often house more interesting stores. If you are on a budget, head to Earlham Street for occasional clothing stalls and Oxfam Originals.
The Australia Shop, 27 Maiden Ln, . M-F 10:30-18:30, Sa 11:00-18:30, Su 11:00-17:30. Provides antipodean visitors with a taste of home, albeit at London prices.
Ben's Cookies, 13a The Piazza (Inside the Covent Garden Market), ☎ +44 20 7240 6123, . M-F 07:30-19:00, Sa 09:30-18:30, Su 10:30-18:30, bank holidays 10:00-18:00. Very nice cookies. Try their white chocolate with macadamia cookies. Price is about £1 per cookie, and the cookies here are almost twice as big as those at Millie's. They also have branches at 12 Kensington Arcade, Kensington High St; at 39 Leadenhall Market; and at 9 Pelham St, South Kensington.
Monmouth Coffee, Monmouth St (Near Seven Dials). Arguably the best coffee in London. Primarily a venue for quality coffee roasters, the shop on Monmouth street has a tasting room, i.e. a café, where you can marvel at the fact that not everywhere in London sells poor chain-café coffee. A selection of goodies such as croissants, pastries, and brownies are also available. As you would expect of a roasters you can also purchase excellent coffee in bean form or ground, with various blends to suit your taste. Helpful and knowledgeable staff can help you make a selection.
Neal's Yard Dairy, 11 Shorts Gardens WC2H 9AT (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 20 7240 5700, . M-Th 11:00-18:30, F Sa 10:00-18:30. A fabulous cheese shop specialising in British cheeses. The smell as you walk up the street can be enticing or repulsive, depending on your preference for fragrant cheese. But regardless, a trip to this shop is well worthwhile. Whether they are busy or not, the staff are always keen to have you taste a few cheeses to ensure you find what you are looking for. Everyone here is passionate about their cheese, and while the prices are higher than you will pay pretty much anywhere else in the world for cheese, the quality and taste are second to none.
The New Zealand Shop, 27 Maiden Ln, . M-F 10:30-18:30, Sa 11:00-18:30, Su 11:00-17:30. Provides antipodean visitors with a taste of home, albeit at London prices.
Stanfords, 12-14 Long Acre WC2E 9LP (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 20 7836 1321, . M-F 09:00-17:30, Sa 10:00-19:00, Su noon-18:00. This is the flagship store of the world's largest map retailer. They have been been selling maps and travel guidebooks of all descriptions from this location since 1901. With three floors of regional maps, walking maps, guidebooks, travel books, a digital mapping service and more this is a huge store that is interesting even if you do not intend to buy anything.
Thomas Neal's, 29-41 Earlham St. A nice shopping plaza with clothes shops, design shops and cafes.
The George, 213 The Strand, ☎ +44 20 7353 9638. Established in 1723, not much of the decor has changed in this traditional English pub, where you can order happily inexpensive, tasty food.
Primrose Bakery, 42 Tavistock St, ☎ +44 20 7836 3638, . You can get possibly the best cupcakes in London here. They have an impressive clientele that includes U2 and Kate Moss. They also supply Selfridges food hall, Fortnum & Mason and Libertys, where the prices are MUCH higher (£1 more in Fortnum & Mason). They have another branch at 69 Gloucester Ave, Primrose Hill. Try their chocolate on chocolate cupcake with cherry filling.Prices start from £1.75 for a regular cupcake.
Brown's, 82-84 St. Martin's Ln, ☎ +44 20 7497 5050. Always buzzing, this popular restaurant is frequented by hip (often single) clientele, who are served by attentive staff. Meals are good, the braised lamb shank is especially tasty.
Cafe des Amis (Cafe des Amis du Vin), 11-15 Hanover Pl WC2E 9JF (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 20 7379 3444, . Brasserie and wine bar wihch has been around for a long time in a highly competitive environment. Excellent, uncomplicated French food. The set menus are very good value for the quality of food served.
Food For Thought, Neal St, WC2. Tasty range of choices for vegetarians and vegans.
Maison Malinowski Brasserie, 63 Neal St. Serves really delicious crêpes among other things. Perfect for a break while shopping!
Paul's Bakery, 29/30 Bedford St, ☎ +44 20 7836 3304. M-F 07:30-19:00, Sa Su 09:00-21:00. A French favourite, now in London, Paul's serves coffee and teas together fine French pastries, tarts, cakes and breads for savouring on or off the premises. Light snacks, lunches and dinners are also catered for, at prices a little higher than your average café (but reasonable for the touristy Covent Garden), somewhat less than a restaurant.
Cafe Pacifico, 5 Langley St, ☎ +44 20 7379 7728. M-Sa noon-23:45, Su noon-22:45. London's original Mexican Cantina, serving all your typical Mexican food along with a good range of margaritas and tequila.
La Perla, 28 Maiden Ln, ☎ +44 20 7240 7400. M-Sa noon-23:30, Su 16:00-22:30. Another of Cafe Pacifico's venues, this one is slightly smaller with more of a bar feeling.
Scoop Fine Italian Gelato, 40 Shorts Gdns, ☎ +44 07944779693, . This place is popular among the university students in London. Come here for some genuine Italian gelato or coffee and cake. Try their hazelnut gelato, which is simply amazing.Large £3.60.
The Ivy, 1 West St (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 20 7836 4751. Wining and dining rooms of celebrities, the actual difficulty in getting a table these days gives the restaurant slightly more kudos as an eatery than it deserves. Cosy and intimate, serving traditional but diverse restaurant meals. Competent cooking and reasonably good service, but not worth waiting 6 months for. Unless you are an avid star-gazer, go at a time when celebs are unlikely to be around.Average price £40.
Joe Allen, 13 Exeter St, WC2E 7DT (tube: Covent Garden), ☎ +44 20 7836 0651 (email@example.com), . Legendary informal bistro which is incredibly hard to find for the first time - look for the dark, discrete door with a simple plaque on it on the north side of Exeter St. Food is a take on American style grilled fare using the very highest quality ingredients. Steaks and chops are superb. Favoured by lots of celebs and booking essential, especially pre- and post theatre.
Rules 35 Maiden Lane, claims to the oldest restaurant still-going in London. It's high-class decor matches its posh diners.
The Intrepid Fox, St Giles High St (Next to Centrepoint). The best rock and metal pub in London.
Porterhouse, 21-22 Maiden Ln, ☎ +44 20 7379 7917, . A modern pub split across multiple levels connected by narrow staircases and walkways, with a selection of over 100 bottled beers from around the world.
The Salisbury, St. Martin's Ln. Beautifully preserved Victorian pub. Full of mirrors and lights, cut glass and mahogany, this place is nothing like the dark and dingy pubs that are all too common in London.
Waxy's O'Connor's, 14-16 Rupert St, W1D 6DD. Irish themed pub with a fibreglass tree inside it. It is almost invariably unbearably crowded. The smaller Waxy's Little Sister opposite it, however, is generally quieter and more relaxed.
Walkabout on Maiden Lane, is an Australian franchise, where you can down a Toohey's or VB over kangaroo burgers, with live music and DJ's. There is another two re-opening at Temple, and in the Welsh Chapel on Cambridge Circus. The Maple Leaf, also along Maiden Lane, is a Canadian alternative showing latest ice-hockey matches.
The Spice of Life on Cambridge Circus, is a bustling middle-of-the-road gaf, with open-mic performances from talented musicians downstairs.
Box, 32-34 Monmouth St (At the Seven Dials), ☎ +44 20 7240 5828. A trendy gay bar.
Rum Bar, 45 St. Martin's Ln, ☎ +44 20 7300 5588, . Asia de Cuba, the trendy restaurant located inside the St. Martin's Lane Hotel, also houses the stylish Rum Bar. With tall, 'lean-on' tables designed by Phillipe Starck and a meticulously designed interior this is a great place to meet for a cocktails before or after heading out for an evening.
Light, 45 St. Martin's Ln, ☎ +44 20 7300 5599, . Stylish, ultra modern space inside the St. Martin’s Lane Hotel. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, many of London's most popular D.J.'s are featured.
Freud, 198 Shaftesbury Ave, ☎ +44 20 7240 9933. If you blink, you'll miss this casual cellar bar that serves up a variety of cocktails you can't find anywhere else in London. Has good mojitos, and even an Apple Pie concoction that tastes like a drink version of the real thing! Always very crowded at night on the weekends despite the fact that you need to go down a rickety metal staircase to find it.
Guanabara is a vibrant Brazilian bar, next to the New London Theatre, which attracts a large Latin dancing crowd. Different types of music, with good DJ's and bands, are played each nite of the week, such as flamenco, forró, lambada and even American country. Free entry before 8pm.
Gay and Lesbian
Kudos, 10 Adelaide St, WC2N 4HZ (off Trafalgar Sq), . Bar popular with Asian guys and their admirers.
Heaven (with its Halfway to Heaven pub nearby) under Charing Cross station, is arguably the most famous gay club in London. Has secret performances by the likes of Britney Spears or Kylie Minogue. Good fun, whether gay or straight.
Fielding Hotel, 4 Broad Ct W2B 5QZ, ☎ +44 20 7836 8305, . No frills hotel located right opposite the Royal Opera House.From £90.
Strand Palace Hotel, 372 Strand, WC2R 0JJ, ☎ +44 20 7379 4737, . Good value hotel in a convenient location for Covent Garden theatres and shoppingFrom £65.
Travel Lodge Covent Garden, 10 Drury Ln, WC2B 5RE, ☎ +44 0871 984 6245, . Popular hotel with visitors and decent value for the area. Convenient for Covent Garden theatres and shoppingFrom £135.
The Savoy, The Strand, ☎ +44 20 7836 4343, . The famed Savoy is on The Strand in the heart of the West End theatre district, offering magnificent views of the river Thames. The Savoy opened in 1889 and remains a popular destination in London. The hotel has 263 rooms and suites, a nifty blend of elegance and contemporary design. Inventive cuisine can be enjoyed in the Savoy Grill and the more informal Banquette. The theatres, opera, ballet and shopping of Covent Garden are located nearby.
St Martins Lane, 45 St. Martin's Ln, ☎ +44 20 7300 5500, . Ian Schrager (he of Studio 54 fame) is known worldwide for being an innovator in the ‘hip’ hotel business. His first foray into London, St Martins Lane, is a playful and urbane destination in the West End theater district off Trafalgar Square that combines urban cool and modern design (via design guru Philippe Starck). Unique features to this trendy-meets-luxury hotel include Asia de Cuba restaurant, the popular Light Bar and interactive light displays in every guest room that encourage guests to personalize their own individual space.
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