It’s one part of London where you won’t look out of place with a map! Covent Garden is positively brimming with tourists intermingling with Londoners.But, it’s best enjoyed when ‘done like a Londoner’ and so, to sample it the authentic way, I’ve picked out some of my top recommendations for you…
A brief history
Covent Garden market spans back to the Saxon era. It has been a slum, a haven for rich investors, a fruit and veg market (the interior still stands today) and even a flower market. But, these days it’s best known as a destination for meeting friends, enjoying some of London’s finest shops and bustling bars and restaurants.
Feels like Europe, looks like London!
With a ‘Euro’ feel to it, the heartbeat of Covent Garden is the pedestrian-only piazza. This can’t be missed, since there’s always buskers and street entertainers to marvel at. Great views can be caught from every angle – the best is the terrace of the ‘Punch and Judy’ pub – best enjoyed with a pint in one hand!
Shop till you drop
Not to be missed, Covent Garden shops are popular with locals and visitors with an excellent choice of fashion, jewellery and vintage shops. Some of the local favourites include; Urban Outfitters, Apple, Ted Baker and Banana Republic. While Marks and Spencer (M&S) is essential for any tourist!
Only the seasoned Londoner knows where to find its boutique shops – head to ‘St Martin’s Courtyard’, off the ‘Seven Dials’ and ‘Neal Street’. If you want to pick up something original, then Rokit (42 Shelton Street) offers the best vintage clothes in town.
Essential Covent Garden Attractions
On the corner of Bow street stands the magnificent Royal Opera House. If you enjoy ballet and opera, this is a breath-taking venue to attend. You might also know it as home to many celebrity events, including the BAFTA’s and GQ Awards.
Around the corner you’ll find one of the capital’s most beautiful churches – St Martin’s in the Field. To round off your tourist ‘tick list’, the British Museum can be found on Great Russell Street. Open since 1759, it’s home to eight million works from around the globe, and is free between 10am – 5.30pm daily.
A bite to eat
You’ll sure work up an appetite walking around, and Covent Garden restaurants cater to all. It’s famous for outdoor dining, but those ‘on-the-go’ can easily grab a bite from M&S or Tesco and enjoy it on a park bench.
For a five-star meal and celebrity spotting head to The Ivy (5 West Street), while afternoon tea is best served at the delectable Savoy Hotel on the strand – be sure to dress up!
Other favourites include the Hawksmoor (11 Langley Street) and Balthazar (4-6 Russell Street). More affordable, but still great, is Wahaca (66 Chandos Place) and Café Pacifico (5 Langley Street), both serving Mexican street food.
No London trip is complete without a visit to a Covent Garden bar. Thursday and Friday evenings attract a local ‘post work’ crowd (5pm onwards), while the weekends serve a large tourist crowd. Some of the more noteworthy include:
- The Lamb & Flag (33 Rose Street) – harking back to the 18th century, this was once known as the ‘Bucket of Blood’!
- The Porterhouse (21 Maiden Lane) – a sprawling indoor, outdoor, every-kind of man pub! Popular on Friday nights with an ‘up for it’ crowd enjoying the ‘Temple Brau’ beer.
- Freud (198 Shaftesbury Avenue) – Expect to stand in this dingy bar, which serves surprisingly good cocktails – try the ‘Holy Freud Lemonade’.
- Not to everyone’s taste but ‘Stringfellows’ (16-19 St Martin’s Lane) is an extremely famous ‘Gentlman’s Club’
Please note – you must be over 18 years’ old to drink, and smoking is prohibited inside
Covent Garden’s on the Piccadilly line. Knowledgeable Londoners avoid its busy claustrophobic lifts by coming via Leicester Square next door.