Sit back and watch the street performers in London’s historic piazza, or venture down the winding alleys to seek out the bars and boutiques that are hidden away.
Covent Garden, situated on the edge of London’s West End, has had a colourful history ever since its beginnings in the 17th century as a small open-air fruit and vegetable market. Today, the cobbled piazza is a hive of activity, buzzing with street performers ranging from string quartets to mime artists and comedians.
The original fruit and vegetable market moved to South London in the 1970s, but Covent Garden remains a haven for food-lovers. The numerous restaurants and cafés offer cuisine from all over the world. Why not try a lunch of Spanish paella, North African curries or Thai street food? Close by, Monmouth Street is home to many charming tea rooms and coffee bars serving a range of delicious pastries and cakes. For something a little stronger, head for the many historic and atmospheric pubs offering traditional British beer.
Each section of Covent Garden has something different to offer. Whilst the main piazza may be the focal point, there’s plenty to discover in the streets leading off this area. Seven Dials is named after the small junction where seven streets converge with a pillar at its centre bearing multiple sundials, and offers fashion-forward boutiques and trendy cafés. Don’t miss Neal’s Yard between Shorts Garden and Monmouth Street, famous for the natural health and beauty shop Neal’s Yard Remedies and the excellent Neal’s Yard Dairy. For mainstream retail therapy, head to Long Acre just north of the piazza where you’ll find many of the top British high-street shops.
One of the most prestigious attractions to be found in Covent Garden is the Royal Opera House. Home to the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, this venue that dates back to 1732, offers some of the best artistic performances in the world. Listings and tickets are available from the Royal Opera House Website.
The nearest Underground station is Covent Garden. At peak times, Leicester Square Underground station is a good alternative.