This post explains what the Covent Garden district is in London, including things to see and do, dining options, theatre and opera productions, and how to plan your visit.
- What is Covent Garden?
- Top 10 Things to Do
- Dining Options
- West End Theatre
- Discounts and Deals
- Planning Your Visit
WHAT IS COVENT GARDEN?
Covent Garden was originally Convent Garden, an area set aside for the monks at the nearby Abbey of St. Peter (now Westminster Abbey) to grow fruit and vegetables.
Throughout the centuries it has had multiple incarnations: a public fruit and vegetable market; a residential area for affluent 16th century Londoners; a red-light district; a flower market; and the home of London’s West End theatre district.
Today, Covent Garden is dominated by a beautiful piazza, designed by architect Charles Fowler in the 1830s.
Within this piazza are a myriad of shops, restaurants, and a pitch for opera singers and musicians.
Surrounding the piazza are the iconic cobbled streets of Covent Garden, home to markets, museums, theatres, street performers, restaurants, bars, and shopping.
Covent Garden is right in the heart of London’s West End, meaning this location has more theatres than any other part of the city, as well as playing host to London’s Covent Garden Opera House.
TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO
This section lists the top 10 attractions, museums, and things to do in Covent Garden.
(1) See Street Performers and Artists
Covent Garden is well known as a hot-spot for street performers and street entertainment has been happening here since the 17th century.
From first thing in the morning to the evening hours, there is always somebody putting on a show on the cobbled streets of the Piazza.
We recommend going between 18:00 – 20:00 as this is when the ‘headliners’ come out!
Some of the performers have been working here for years – find out who’s playing/performing/creating while you’re in town HERE.
(2) Browse the Market
Covent Garden has been a market location for centuries. Today, there are two main markets to visit: The Jubilee Market and the Apple & East Colonnade Market.
The Jubilee Market is where to go if you want to bag a bargain.
Selling anything from clothes to food, souvenirs to jewelry, wall art to antiques, it’s all here – depending on the day of the week.
Monday is an antiques market, Tuesday to Friday is general goods, and on weekends it’s all hand-made arts and crafts like candles, baubles, clocks and more!
The Apple & East Colonnade Market is where the original Covent Garden stood – under the beautiful roof of the Piazza.
This is a great place to explore, but note that it can be somewhat pricey to shop. Here you will find antiques and artisan pieces from traders that have been here for decades.
(3) Walk the West End Theatre District
Covent Garden is the heart of London’s West End. This means you will be surrounded by theatres and opera houses as you walk through the streets.
London’s West End brings in shows from all around the world, and some of entertainment’s biggest names.
Each theatre has a unique story, look and feel so keep an eye out as you travel through Covent Garden to explore these wonderful venues.
For more information on finding cheap theatre tickets, check out our how-to post.
(4) Walk Down the “Real” Diagon Alley
Here’s one for our Potter-lovers! There are two contenders for the ‘REAL’ Diagon Alley here in London: Cecil Court and Godwin’s Court.
Cecil Court is lined with bookshops highlighting the occult and also is in the location that matches JK Rowling’s description of the location of the Leaky Cauldron, which leads onto Diagon Alley.
On the other hand, Godwin’s Court is a tiny, windy little alleyway with small topsy-turvey buildings whose windows bow out at odd angles into the passageway.
This is very much how JK Rowling described the Alley and also similar to how it is depicted in the Potter films.
Take note that our Harry Potter Walking Tour includes both of these locations!
Find out more, and get all the info you need to visit on our post about Diagon Alley HERE.
(5) Explore the London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is one of the city’s most unique museums – bringing the history of London’s transport network to life, with original examples of previous transport modes as well as hands-on exhibits.
Beginning in the 19th century on to future transport plans, this museum covers it all: buses, trains, tubes, taxis and beyond.
Here you can learn how London’s transport system evolved and how this impacted the expansion of the city for decades – and how it is still influencing the way we live today.
- Adult – £18.00 (£16.50 online)
- Concession – £17.00 (£15.50 online)
- People 17 and Under – FREE
- The museum is open from 10:00 – 18:00
- Last entry is 17:15
TIP: To avoid crowds, visit the Museum in the afternoon rather than the morning, as with most other London attractions!
Find out more on their website HERE.
(6) Walk in the Footsteps of the Beatles
Monmouth Street is a pretty thoroughfare that leads from the iconic 7 Dials to Shaftesbury Avenue, but it also has a tiny nod to Beatles history that you may miss if you don’t look carefully!
Number 13 displays a small blue plaque that marks the former offices of the “fifth Beatle,” Brian Epstein.
In 1963 Brian moved his offices from the Beatles home of Liverpool to this location in the heart of Covent Garden where he would manage numerous acts – including the Beatles – for more than a year.
To find out where Epstein’s next offices were, or to learn more about the fab four, check out our posts on The Beatles London HERE or join us on our one-of-a-kind Rock n’ Roll Tour to see where the Beatles lived, recorded, and relaxed in London’s West End!
(7) Wander Leicester Square
Covent Garden and Leicester Square are often visited together as the two areas merge into one another at Charing Cross Road.
A small bit of trivia: the shortest distance between two stations on the London Underground is the Piccadilly Line between Covent Garden and Leicester Square!
Leicester Square is home to a number of bars, restaurants and theatres, and plays hosts to red carpet film premieres.
However, many Londoners consider it a ‘tourist trap’ so while we’d recommend strolling through (there is a very small but pretty green in the middle) or trying to pick up some discount theatre tickets at the TKTS booth (get more info on that from our post HERE), it’s best to avoid the bars and restaurants on the Square.
(8) Take a Walking Tour
If you really want to get to know Covent Garden, come along on a tour with us!
We offer a spectacular Covent Garden and the West End Tour that will take you through the history of the area and the evolution of London’s theatre scene, including tips on the best shows to see and how to get good tickets!
(9) Take a Photo at Seven Dials
Seven Dials is a unique junction, where seven streets converge at a single point.
In the centre is a sundial, a 1980’s replica of the 17th-century original, around which traffic can travel.
In times gone by, it was an area of disrepute and authors such as Dickens and Keats wrote about it’s salacious reputation.
Today it’s surrounded by theatres, shops, and restaurants like much of Covent Garden but is a beautiful unique place to visit and take some interesting photos!
(10) London Film Museum / Bond in Motion
One of London’s newer museums, the Film Museum was founded in 2008, dedicated to the British film industry.
The museum exhibits original props, costumes and sets from films created in Britain – going all the way back to the silent era.
However, since 2014 the Film Museum has been entirely dedicated to the world of James Bond.
Their semi-permanent exhibition is called Bond in Motion, the largest official collection of original James Bond vehicles – containing over 100 original vehicles and artifacts from all the two dozen official James Bond films.
To learn more about James Bond’s London, check out our post for more information!
- Adult – £14.50
- Child (5 – 15) – £9.50
- Concessions – £9.50
- Family – £38.00
- Under 5’s – FREE
- Open hours from 10:00 – 18:00
- Last entry at 17:00
Find out more on their website HERE.
PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
Getting food near Trafalgar Square is easy as there are so many places to choose from:
Quick Bites to Takeaway/Picnic:
Casual Sit Downs:
- Piazza Terrace Bar at the Royal Opera House (reopening in 2020)
Covent Garden is also a short walk away from the foodie havens of Soho and Chinatown – but make sure to avoid Leicester Square as it is full of ‘tourist traps!’
There are many delicious places to eat in London but a good rule of thumb is that if you can see Leicester Square from the restaurant, you are best to avoid it.
This section lists attractions and places of interest that are easily accessible from the Covent Garden area.
Just to the west of Covent Garden sits Trafalgar Square – a hub of art and culture in London. Built in the 19th century, Trafalgar Square has been London’s ‘common room’ ever since.
It is a popular spot for protests, public celebrations, concerts, parties and events throughout the year.
It’s flanked on the north by the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery – two of London’s most magnificent art galleries.
It’s also a popular spot to get selfies with the famous lion statues!
Learn more about visiting Trafalgar Square in our blog post.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields sits on the western edge of Covent Garden, overlooking Trafalgar Square.
Built in the 1720s by James Gibbs, it’s a beautiful example of Neoclassical design and is the burial place of Nell Gwyn, John Parkinson, Sir John Birkenhead, and Robert Boyle.
The crypt below the church is charming and actually has a cafe inside.
Today the church is more popularly known for its orchestra and near-daily musical performances and lectures.
Also, there is also a kid-friendly brass rubbing centre below the church.
Find out what’s on while you’re visiting HERE.
Visit the National Gallery for Free
The fourth most visited art museum in the world, The National Gallery, flanks the north side of Trafalgar Square.
Inside are works by masters such as Van Gough, Monet, Holbein and Turner. The gallery runs numerous talks for guests, as well as tours for groups of 4 people or fewer.
If you’re part of a larger group, get in touch with us, as we can help to arrange a private tour with one of our fabulous guides!
Find more information on the National Gallery here.
Visit the Freemasons Museum for Free
A museum, library, and archive held within Freemasons Hall, this museum houses a collection of ceremonial Masonic objects and regalia, as well as a huge collection of everyday objects with Masonic decoration such as furniture, jewellery, and clocks.
Find out the true history of Britain’s most famous Freemasons such as Winston Churchill and even King Edward VII, as you learn what exactly it means to be a Freemason.
To make visiting even better, the museum offers regularly scheduled tours that are free to take!
- Monday to Saturday from 10:00 – 17:00
Find out what’s on when you’re in town HERE.
See the National Portrait Gallery for Free
The National Portrait Gallery contains beautiful works depicting great British figures from across the centuries as well as some universally recognised names and faces.
For those travelling with kids, take note that the Gallery has special activities for children (which you can read more about HERE) and kids can enter all exhibitions without charge!
Originally the site of a Tudor palace, Somerset House is a Neoclassical building erected for the Duke of Somerset in 1776, and expanded in the 1830s and 1850s.
The building itself is worth a walk by just to see.
During the Christmas holiday, one of London’s most iconic and popular ice skating rinks sits in the centre courtyard. The courtyard transforms into an outdoor theatre during the summer.
Contained within the building now are the British Fashion Council, the Royal Society of Literature, and huge exhibition space with ever-changing contents and events.
They describe themselves now as, “London’s working arts centre…home to the UK’s largest and most exciting creative community.”
Find out more on their website HERE.
Go to the British Museum for Free
One of the world’s most fascinating museums, the British Museum is a repository of amazing artefacts spanning nearly 2 million years of human history.
With over eight million works in their permanent collection, this is one of the largest and most comprehensive museums in existence.
Housed in a beautifully magnificent neo-classical building, the Museum holds world-renowned pieces such as the Elgin marbles, the Sutton Hoo helmet and the Rosetta stone.
Throughout the year a number of temporary exhibitions are held here, and there are always kid-friendly activities and workshops on offer.
If the thought of visiting the museum seems daunting, consider joining us on our British Museum Tour to get the behind-the-scenes stories on some of the Museum’s most captivating artefacts.
Saturday to Thursday 10:00 – 17:30 / Fridays 10:00 – 20:30
See the Cartoon Museum
Covering the history and development of British cartoons throughout history, the Cartoon Museum contains over 900 pieces of related exhibition material.
Despite the name, the museum isn’t necessarily for children – although there are kid-friendly activities throughout the year, there’s also a comprehensive collection of political satire and academic information, as well as popular lectures aimed at adults.
And although not free, ticket prices are affordable!
- Adult – £8.50
- Concession – £5.00
- Student – £3.00
- People 18 and Under – FREE
- Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10:30 – 17:30
- Thursdays from 10:30 – 20:00
- Sundays from 12:00 – 16:00
Find out what’s on while you’re in town on their website HERE.
Take Our Old City of Lonon Tour
Just a short walk from Covent Garden sits Temple Underground Station, the start point for our City of London Tour.
Explore London’s oldest (and newest) neighbourhood as you travel through 2,000 years of history.
From Fleet Street to the financial district, from Temple to the Tower of London and the Thames, this is a great introduction to some of London’s most iconic sights.
Check out London Bridge, St. Paul’s, and the financial district along with everything in between!
If the tour doesn’t fit into your schedule, download the GPS-Enabled audio Guide HERE and explore the City with us at your own pace!
WEST END THEATRE
Opera and Theatres
Covent Garden is literally the heart of London’s theatre district.
There are countless theatres in the area but some of the major ones are as follows:
- Aldwych Theatre
- Palace Theatre
- St. Martins Theatre
- Playhouse Theatre
- Vaudeville Theatre
- Wyndham’s Theatre
- Adelphi Theatre
- Noel Coward Theatre
- Lyceum Theatre
- Ambassadors Theatre
- Duke of York’s Theatre
- Duchess Theatre
- Novello Theatre
- Fortune Theatre
- Savoy Theatre
- Garrick Theatre
- Theatre Royal Drury Lane
- Cambridge Theatre
The West End – TKTS
If you want to get your hands on discount tickets for London’s famous West End shows, then the TKTS Booth in Leicester Square should be your first stop.
Known on both sides of the Atlantic, TKTS has one of the largest collections of discounted tickets to be found in London.
Selling tickets for shows on the day-of, the day after and the day after that, their website HERE gives you the up-to-date information on which tickets are being sold, and how big the discounts are.
However, they are only sold in person so make sure to get down to Leicester Square to snap them up!
- Monday to Saturday 10:00 – 19:00 / Sunday 11:00 – 16:30
Royal Opera House Covent Garden
Since 1858, the home of British Opera and the Royal Ballet have been here in Covent Garden.
If you’re not planning on attending a show, there are still a few ways to enjoy this iconic building.
Throughout the year on selected dates, the Royal Opera House opens its’ doors to the public for exclusive backstage tours, and there is a pizza restaurant inside, as well as numerous other places to eat and drink.
Our top tip is to get yourself to the Piazza Terrace Bar for stunning rooftop views!
English National Opera
This is Covent Garden’s largest theatre, and the current version was constructed in 1904, and is featured a mock Renaissance frontage, topped by an iconic revolving globe.
This building is home to the English National Opera as well as the English National Ballet and has seen the footsteps of some of the world’s most famous performers on its’ stage – which is impressive, given the fact that tickets to some performances can be as cheap as £10!
The venue holds multiple places to eat and drink, as well as an opportunity to take afternoon tea.
AREA DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
If you love a bargain as we do, take note that there are numerous discounts to be had near Trafalgar Square…
For cheap theatre tickets check out the TKTS booth just opposite Covent Garden in Leicester Square. (also consider joining our Covent Garden and West End to get even more information on nabbing yourself some seats!)
Attractions Included With the London Pass and Other Discount Passes:
- Banqueting House
- London Transport Museum
- Benjamin Franklin House
- London Brass Rubbing Centre
- The Cartoon Museum
- Curzon Cinema Soho
PLAN YOUR VISIT
This section will help you find Covent Garden and its amenities.
Covent Garden is easily accessed by public transport as it sits right in the heart of town.
Nearest Underground Stations:
- Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross
- Check out our post on navigating the Underground
Nearest Rail Station:
- Charing Cross
- 9, 13, 15, 19, 23, 24, 29, 38, 139, 153, 176, RV1
- Covent Garden is a stop on London hop-on hop-off bus routes like The Original Tour and Golden Tours
Covent Garden is home to some of London’s nicest public loos! The toilets are operated by an organisation called 2theloo and cost £1.00.
There are also toilets near St. Paul’s Church which cost .50p and a disabled toilet to the side of the Jubilee Market.
Where to Store Your Luggage
If you’re exploring Covent Garden before your check-in time at your accommodations or after your check out on your way out of town, why not store your heavy bags at one of these convenient storage locations around the neighborhood?
- What to Do in Trafalgar Square
- Where to Store Your Luggage
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses
- Tourist Attraction Discount Passes
- What to Do in London Today