Covent Garden is a district of central London.
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, the name 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 highly recommended that visitors to the area consider public transport to access the district.
This district is well served by the following Tube stations, all in Zone 1:
- 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. It is faster to walk between the two stations.
- Holborn (Piccadilly and Central lines).
- Tottenham Court Road (Northern and Central lines).
- Embankment (Bakerloo, District, Circle and Northern lines).
- Charing Cross (Bakerloo, and Northern lines).
Over 30 bus routes serve Covent Garden. They are:
- 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 38, 55, 59, 69, 73, 87, 91, 98, 134, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 242, 243, 341, RV1 and X68.
- 1 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 Eleanor (13th century) 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.
- 2 Cleopatra's Needle, Victoria Embankment, along the Thames (Tube: ). Cleopatra's Needle originated in the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis, in the Temple of Atum, but the Romans moved it to Alexandria in 12 BC. In 1819, viceroy Mehemet Ali presented Cleopatra's Needle to the British, commemorating military victories in Egypt, but it remained in Alexandria until 1877 when transportation was arranged to bring it to London. On the voyage, the ship capsized in a storm, killing six crewmembers. Cleopatra's Needle was thought to be lost, but Spanish trawlers found it afloat a few days later, and after some repairs, it arrived in London on 21 Jan 1878. The obelisk is flanked by two faux-sphinxes, which show the effects of bombings of London during World War II. Today, Cleopatra's Needle shows some wear from exposure to London's damp weather.
- 3 Covent Garden Piazza and Central Market (Tube: ). Once an important working market, and the backdrop for the musical My Fair Lady, Covent Garden today is a covered shopping mall with shops predominantly selling clothing, but also gifts and cosmetics, as well as stalls selling handicrafts (Tu-Su) or antiques (M), and restaurants. It's well worth a visit just for the attractive ambience, with classical musicians busking in the lower part of the market and a famous location for street entertainers. 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. Most shops are open daily 10AM-7PM, but may close earlier on Sundays.
- 4 St. Paul's Church, Bedford St WC2 (Tube: . At the western end of the Piazza). Completed in 1633 to a design by Inigo Jones.
- 5 Seven Dials (Tube: ). An intersection of seven streets in the northern part of the Covent Garden district. Lots of mid-range designer clothing and shoe stores
Museums and galleries
- 6 Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven St, WC2N 5NF (Tube: ), ☎ . 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 artefacts. A special Historical Experience Show runs W-Su at noon, 1PM, 2PM, 3:15PM, and 4:15PM all year round. £7, under 16s free..
- 7 London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza (Tube: ), ☎ . In many cities a local transport museum would be of very narrow interest - not London, however! London's public transport is iconic, and the story of how it developed from horse and cart through early buses, Tube trains and trolleybuses to the present day is well worth coming to find out about. There is plenty of opportunity to clamber aboard the historic buses and Tube trains on display. Also, because London's transport is so well known, the museum shop contains plenty of items that make interesting and original gifts and souvenirs. £15, concessions £11.50, accompanied children under 16 free.
Along with neighbouring Leicester Square, this is the capital of London's theatreland. For current programmes please check the relevant theatre website or the Official London Theatre listings. 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.
- 1 Adelphi Theatre, Strand, WC2E 7NA, ☎ .
- 2 Aldwych Theatre, Aldwych, WC2B 4DF.
- 3 Ambassador's Theatre, West St, WC2H 9ND, ☎ .
- 4 Cambridge Theatre, 32-34 Earlham St, WC2 9HU, ☎ .
- 5 Donmar Warehouse, Earlham St, WC2H 9LX, ☎ .
- 6 Duke of York's Theatre, St. Martin's Ln, WC2N 4BG, ☎ .
- 7 Fortune Theatre, Russell Street,Covent Garden, WC2B 5HH.
- 8 Lyceum Theatre, 21 Wellington Street, WC2E 7RQ.
- 9 Gillian Lynne Theatre (New London Theatre), Drury Ln, WC2B 5PW, ☎ .
- 10 Noel Coward Theatre (The Albery), St. Martin's Ln, WC2N 4AA, ☎ .
- 11 Novello Theatre, Aldwych, WC2B 4LD, ☎ .
- 12 Savoy Theatre, Strand, WC2R 0ET, ☎ .
- 13 Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Ave, WC2H 8DP.
- 14 Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine St, WC2B 5JF.
- 15 St Martin's Theatre, West St, WC2H 9NZ, ☎ . The theatre which has been showing Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap continuously since 1952!
- 16 English National Opera, London Colliseum, St. Martin's Lane, WC2N 4ES (Tube: ), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 off peak performances.
- 17 Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD (Tube: ), ☎ . 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.
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.
- Ben's Cookies, 13a The Piazza (Inside the Covent Garden Market), ☎ . M-F 7:30AM-7PM, Sa 9:30AM-6:30PM, Su 10:30AM-6:30PM, bank holidays 10AM-6PM. 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). Some people say this is 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: ), ☎ . M-Th 11AM-6:30PM, F Sa 10AM-6:30PM. 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.
- Stanfords, 12-14 Long Acre, WC2E 9LP (Tube: ), ☎ . M-F 9AM-5:30PM, Sa 10AM-7PM, Su noon-6PM. This is the flagship store of the world's largest map retailer. They have 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 Tintin Shop, 34 Floral Street, WC2E 9DJ, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M–Sa 10:30AM–5:30PM, Su noon–4PM. The place to go in Britain for fans of the Belgian reporter. Sells non-fiction books, clothes, posters, figurines and memorabilia, as well as each of Hergé's 24 Adventures of Tintin comicbooks in English, the original French and any other language you can think of.
- Angels Fancy Dress, 119 Shaftesbury Avenue London WC2H 8 AE, ☎ . Long established costume hire store. Also has a selection of costumes for retail purchase on the second (US. third) floor.
- Kryolan City London (formerly Charles Fox), 22, Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7PY, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is where the professionals buy make up, so on the pricey side, but the range of products kept is large. Staff are highly approachable even on specialist queries.
- Davenports Magic Shop, 7 Charing Cross Underground Arcade, The Strand, London,, ☎ . M-F 10:30AM-5:30PM, Sa 10:30AM-4:30PM. Established towards the end of the 19th century (but not at its current location), Davenports is part of the history of performance magic in London and further afield. The shop has a selection of performance magic items tricks, props and books.
Marine and watersports:
- 1 Arthur Beale (Yachting Chandler), 194 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8JP, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-W 9AM-6PM; Th-Sa 9AM-8PM; Su 11AM-5PM. A quite unusual shop for the centre of London. A marine supply store which sells numerous items related to yachting: from clothing to sailing hardware and accessories. The shop has been at its current location for over 120 years.
- 2 Ocean Leisure, 11-14 Northumberland Avenue, WC2N 5AQ (under Hungerford Bridge), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Watersports-related items.
- 1 The George, 213 The Strand, ☎ . Established in 1723, not much of the decor has changed in this traditional English pub, where you can order happily inexpensive, tasty food.
- 2 Primrose Bakery, 42 Tavistock St, ☎ . 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.
- 3 Brown's, 82-84 St. Martin's Ln, ☎ . 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.
- 4 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, ☎ . M-F 7:30AM-7PM, Sa Su 9AM-9PM. 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, ☎ . M-Sa noon-11:45PM, Su noon-10:45PM. 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, ☎ . M-Sa noon-11:30PM, Su 4-10:30PM. Another of Cafe Pacifico's venues, this one is slightly smaller with more of a bar feeling.
- 5 Scoop (Natural Luxury Gelato), 40 Short's Gardens, ☎ . 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.
- 6 The Ivy, 1 West St (Tube: ), ☎ . 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.
- 7 Joe Allen, 13 Exeter St, WC2E 7DT (Tube: ), ☎ , e-mail: 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.
- 8 Rules, 35 Maiden Lane. Claims to the oldest restaurant still-going in London dating back to 1798. It's high-class decor matches its posh diners. Rules has a dress code: "jacket or tie not required, but smart casual preferred. No shorts."
- 1 Princess Louise, 208–209 High Holborn, WC1V 7BW (Tube: ), ☎ . Ornately designed Victorian interior, mostly preserved from an 1891 remodelling, with wood and etched-glass partitions dividing it into smaller sections. A Grade II listed building and on CAMRA's national inventory of historic pub interiors.
- 2 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.
- Ernest Sports bar, 33 Rose Street, ☎ . A modern sports bar to watch champions league and premiership action.Serving local ales and international beers. Beers from £5.
- The Intrepid Fox, St Giles High St (Next to Centrepoint). The best rock and metal pub in London.
- Porterhouse, 21-22 Maiden Ln, ☎ . 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.
- 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.
- The Spice of Life. On Cambridge Circus, is a bustling middle-of-the-road gaf, with open-mic performances from talented musicians downstairs.
- Rum Bar, 45 St. Martin's Ln, ☎ . Asia de Cuba, the trendy restaurant in 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, ☎ . Stylish, ultra-modern space inside the St. Martin’s Lane Hotel. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, many of London's most popular DJs are featured.
- Freud, 198 Shaftesbury Ave, ☎ . 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. A vibrant Brazilian bar, next to the New London Theatre, which attracts a large Latin dancing crowd. Different types of music, with good DJs and bands, are played each night of the week, such as flamenco, forró, lambada and even American country. Free entry before 8pm.
Gay and lesbian
- Box, 32-34 Monmouth St (At the Seven Dials), ☎ . A trendy gay bar.
- 3 Halfway to Heaven, 7 Duncannon St, WC2N 4JF (Tube: ), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M–Th noon–midnight; F Sa noon–3AM; Su noon–11PM. Traditional pub owned by the night club, Heaven. Aimed more at office workers and locals than the clubbing crowd. The basement bar hosts entertainment in the evenings.
- 4 Heaven, The Arches, Villiers St, WC2N 6NG (Beneath Charing Cross station and the Craven St arches; Tube: or ), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M 11AM–5AM; Tu W closed; Th F 11PM–4AM; Sa 10:30PM–5AM. The most famous gay club in London, and perhaps the world. Has secret performances by the likes of Britney Spears or Kylie Minogue. Good fun, whether gay or straight. from £4 bottle of beer.
- 5 The Retro Bar, 2 George Ct, WC2N 6HH (Tube: or ), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F noon–11PM; Sa 2–11PM; Su 2–10:30PM. The antidote to gay bars: a pub-like atmosphere and great music.
- Fielding Hotel, 4 Broad Ct W2B 5QZ, ☎ . No-frills hotel opposite the Royal Opera House. From £90.
- Strand Palace Hotel, 372 Strand, WC2R 0JJ, ☎ . Good value hotel in a convenient location for Covent Garden theatres and shopping From £65.
- Travelodge London Covent Garden, 10 Drury Ln, WC2B 5RE, ☎ . Popular hotel with visitors and decent value for the area. Convenient for Covent Garden theatres and shopping. From £135.
- 1 The Savoy, The Strand, ☎ . 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, ☎ . Ian Schrager (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.
Wi-Fi is available along the Thames for free with ads, and in various commercial establishments in Covent Garden.
|Routes through Covent Garden|
|Bloomsbury ← Leicester Square ←||W E||→ South Bank → Southwark-Lewisham|
|West London ← Bloomsbury-Soho ←||W E||→ Holborn-Clerkenwell → The City|
|Notting Hill-North Kensington ← Westminster ←||W E||→ Holborn-Clerkenwell → The City|
|Wimbledon / West London ← Westminster ←||W E||→ Holborn-Clerkenwell → The City|
|Bloomsbury ← Leicester Square ←||N S||→ South Bank → South London|
|Westminster-Mayfair-Marylebone ← Leicester Square ←||W N||→ Holborn-Clerkenwell → Bloomsbury|