What do you conjure up when you think of Covent Garden? You most probably associate the area with the renowned Flower Market that was depicted by Audrey Hepburn as flower girl Eliza Doolittle in the 1964 Warner Bros. production My Fair Lady.
Located in the West End, for centuries Covent Garden has been a hub for theatre goers, opera lovers and ballet devotees, especially as it is home to The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet and there are now twenty theatres in the local vicinity all hosting an eclectic mix of drama, musicals and comedy shows. If you haven’t ventured into The Royal Opera House before, you don’t just have to go to watch a performance. Take a Behind the Scenes tour and then go up to the Piazza Terrace Bar for a bird’s eye view of the historic Piazza below.
At the heart of Covent Garden, the Piazza is where the cobbled streets and arched market buildings hint at its rich heritage. From Tuesday to Sunday, the covered Apple Market is where you will find stalls selling a range of handmade crafts and goods and on Monday’s you can browse through antiques and collectables.
On the western side of the Piazza stands The Actors’ Church, known for its long links to London’s theatre, designed in 1630 by Inigo Jones. Directly opposite St Paul’s is where you will find the historic Punch and Judy Pub, built in 1787 and named for the Punch and Judy puppet shows that were regularly performed to entertain the children of the flower-sellers.
Street performers have been a long tradition at Covent Garden, and nowadays that is no exception. One of my favourite places and a must-visit on any trip to London is the courtyard in front of the Crusting Pipe Wine Bar and Restaurant. If the weather isn’t too cold you can sit outside with a glass of wine or two and watch the buskers, musicians and opera singers (often from the Opera House), as they perform.
One of the most popular visitor attractions for families where you can discover the history of London’s famous transport network is The London Transport Museum, situated on the south-east side of the piazza.
Covent Garden is also a foodie lover’s paradise, from fine dining to grabbing a bite to eat before a show, there is something to suit everyone. If you’re after a cocktail with a difference, head into one of the many themed bars. Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration in Bedford Street is a fun find, with wood-panelled walls, vintage leather seating and artefacts from his supposed travels, as well as a range of exotic cocktails!
There are many other hidden gems to visit that are situated in and around Covent Garden, but they will have to wait for another article!