The central London district of Covent Garden is a magnet for visitors to the city. It is a hive of activity day and night - famous for its shopping, bars & restaurants, streets performers, theatres and the Royal Opera House.
The Covent Garden Piazza is located in the geographical centre of the area and is normally a buzz with buskers and tourists. In the middle of the piazza you can browse through the market or stop off for a meal or drink and enjoy the passing entertainment.
If you're into shoes, head to Neal Street for the largest range of shoe stores in town. For those wanting a healthy lunch try one of the colourful cafés on Neal's Yard, and then perhaps head into the Neal's Yard Dairy check out what this master cheese-maker has on offer.
Afterwards there are historical pubs to drink in before heading off to see the latest smash hit show at one of the nearby theatres.
Yes, it can get pretty crowded here, and you do have to keep your hand on your wallet, but there are some great things to see just off the main drag, so have a wander and see what you can discover!
These days this is possibly the centre of London’s tourist community. People seem to gravitate here and it’s easy to understand why. There’s always something to see or do – a craftsman at work or street-performer to watch, an interesting shop to explore, a new bar or restaurant to try.
Covent Garden was once the main fruit and vegetable market for London, in fact the largest in England. This market used to fill the square and you can still see some of the old structures, now used to shelter the craft market stall-holders. Meanwhile in the south-east corner of the square was a flower market (now the home of London’s Transport Museum, closed for refurbishment until autumn 2007). If you’ve seen the film “My Fair Lady” you should be able quite easily to imagine how the square would have looked in the days of the market – and do head for the western side to see the lovely Inigo Jones church of St Paul’s, on whose steps Eliza Doolittle took refuge.
The market closed in 1973 and there was talk of knocking down the old buildings, but they were saved through a public campaign, and a new and vibrant focus for enjoyment in London was created. Not only in the square itself, but in many of the surrounding streets, which are now filled with a wide variety of shops (many of them “one-off”s rather than chains), cafes, pubs and restaurants. There’s also, of course, the world-famous Royal Opera House in the north-east corner – tickets are traditionally expensive but efforts have been made in recent years to make them more affordable, and even if you’re not into opera the building is well worth a look.
By the way, my main photo with its aerial view was was taken from the terrace of one of my favourite pubs here, above the Cornish pasty shop in the north-west corner of the market.
There is a very interesting yard hidden away in central London. It is called Neal´s Yard and all the houses in the yard are brightly painted in various colours. I remember going there in 1987 and was seeking it out, but one could easily pass by it as the 2 entrances to the yard don´t show much of what is hidden inside the yard.
Neal´s Yard has a hippie New Age feel to it and here are New Age stores and health-food stores, f.ex. Neal´s Yard Remedies, Neal´s Yard Kitchen, Neal´s Yard Salad Bar, Neal´s Yard Wholefoods, Hair by Fairy etc.
The activist Nicholas Saunders, who was into alternative and healthy way of life, moved into (squatted) an empty warehouse in Neal´s Yard in 1978 and opened up a wholefood store, which proved to be successful, so he opened up a café, a dairy and an alternative remedies´ Apothecary.
Both Neal´s Yard and the nearby Neal Street are named after Thomas Neale (1641-1699) who was the project manager who promoted the building scheme of the streets by Seven Dials in Covent Garden. Two of those streets, Short Garden and Monmouth Street surround Neal´s Yard.
I am such a hippie at heart and love places like this and seek them out where ever I go.
Covent Garden attracts many of the better street entertainers of London Town. On the Plaza in front of the church opposite the Covent Garden Market buildings a show will last about 30 minutes and can draw crowds in their hundreds. I often find the funniest part of their show is their attempts to get people to cough - up at the end..
As one entertainer put it recently : "Please don't be afraid to bring forward your contribution....folding it as you do..."
The 'statue' street entertainers have a harder task to get tourists to part with their money despite having the best pitch in London.
You will usually find about five or six of them on the short pedestrianised road between the tube station and Covent Garden itself. The effort they put into their costumes is very impressive, and I particularly like the one in the picture who is often positioned outside the Monsoon shop. His long arms and squeeky voice extend out to shake hands tap heads and (nearly) grab bottoms.
You certainly don't have to give if you are just passing by, but do remember a contribution should be given if you photograph them.
Covent Garden during the Christmas period is well worth a visit. You will find a Santa's Grotto for the kids, mulled wine and mince pies for a few pounds, market stalls with more gift ideas than you could possibly need, and - when we were there anyway - a trio of classical musicians playing the most wonderful renditions of Bach, Strauss and Mozart (There will be a collection at the end though - so be prepared to "put your hand in your pocket" (make a donation)).
There are various other street artists and performers such as jugglers and mimes who all seemed to require audience participation!! It all added to the fun, friendly ambience and Christmassy atmosphere and my visitors loved it!
The shops are VERY crowded at this time of year and often unbearably hot inside so do think about that when deciding what to wear on your day out! My visitors had come dressed for a Siberian Winter but London in December is often very mild!
It use to house the fruit and vegetable market but around 1970 it changed to house small shops, the Apple market and the Jubilee market. you can find crafts, clothes, leather goods,streets entertainers and more.
There is also a wide range of cafes and restaurant. It becomes very lively over the week-ends.
Near by is the transport museum, st pauls church , Neals yard and also a variety of shops: french connection, gap, dock martins and much more....
History of the transport in London over the past 200 years.
You can see trams, buses and trains.
You can discover how the underground and buses systems were built and how they operate nowdays.
entrance is £6 for adults, dont make it a must see if you dont have much time unless you are really interested about the matter.
more pictures in my travelogues.
Luca - an urban cowboy found in Covent Garden was a momentary distraction from our shopping and other things... when I heard the opening chords of "Sweet Home Alabama!" I just had to stop and listen .. one of my all time favourite songs!! This is free street entertainment!! - these artists work damned hard to get their music out there so give them what you can and when they are done, whoop and holler appreciatively!!
Loudly .. all together now!!!
Sweet home Alabama!!
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you
Here I come Alabama
After finishing our late pub lunch, we hopped on the tube for a short ride to the old market area of Covent Garden as darkness was beginning to fall early nearing the shortest day of the year. Unlike the Westminster area with its very few Christmas decorations, Covent Garden was well decked-out for the Season and had a lively atmosphere. The very first thing we came across was this authentic old Victorian-era Carousel whirling around with it's music playing. Strolling along a bit further, we saw a nicely decorated huge Pine tree, donated from Scotland, standing outside the old Market building.
Inside the building (2nd photo), an audience was gathered around a talented and humorous busker as he went through his routines of juggling fire, knives, apples and pins with the grand finale of doing this atop a 10-foot high uni-cycle as he threatened to topple into the audience. It was a fitting way to end our short day-tour of the city and it was truly dark by the time we boarded the 5 PM train back to Farnham. Seeing all these city sights brought back memories of my last decent visit, in July 1979.
There is always something going on in the heart of covent garden.
Comedians perform on the square, whilst buskers can be found all around each wanting to relieve you of your hard earned cash.
Covent Garden is a bustling place, full of life & an ideal place to visit. There is a market everyday from 10am - 6pm which sells general arts & crafts to food. There are also a variety of permanent shops. In the covered market there are eating places as well as a large number of eateries within covent garden.
Be careful perhaps of pickpockets.
What a leisurely place to spend an afternoon! Lots of little clothes and gift shops to explore, places to grab a coffee and snack, or even sit down to watch an opera street performance of theatre house quality. There is an air of calm in Covent Gardens that is missing in most of the rest of super-fast-paced London.
I found the clothes and gifts to be more expensive here than in other places in London and there's a bit of an upscale feel to the shops. It's also a much more touristy area.
Covent Garden refers not only to the buildings that house shops, but also to the piazza, and cobblestoned mazelike side streets around it.
There is proof that this site was occupied as a trading port as early as 410 A.D. by the Saxons. In the 1600s, under Charles I, it became the first public square in the country. In the 1800s it transformed into a fruit and vegetable market, the largest in England. The area became a bit shoddy and was almost demolished for redevelopment in 1973, but this was stopped with a campaign by local residents. A restoration project began and Covent Garden was eventually restored to a splendour all could enjoy. (During restoration, a Saxon skeleton with his hands tied behind his back was found buried far underneath one of the buildings.)
Please note: If you are watching a street performer, even from a distance, you will probably be approached for a donation by one their assistants (who mingles unnoticeably in the crowd until the performance is over). Have some change ready!
Good atmosphere and free entertainment - always good for some banter and stand up comedy. The cutting edge of entertainment and well worth trying.
Hold on to your wallet!
You will be cajouled to cough up money all the time - but don't have to!!
Shops are expensive, but its a fun place to spend a few hours and a great meeting place.