Covent Garden is one of the best known areas of Central London, a thriving district of business, commerce and culture. Located right in the heart of the West End, its narrow lanes are splashed with colourful shop fronts and hidden alleyways. Many first time guests of hotels in London City will probably find themselves drawn into this area because it’s a main thoroughfare from the banks of the Thames to the commuter district of Holborn. Others may pass through to reach West End Theatres and cinemas, or simply to use the underground station there. In short, many people pass through without full taking in what the area has to offer.
This blog will explore the sights and sounds of the historic market district. Covent Garden can be more than just a way through to your destination and indeed a destination in and of itself. Easy to reach from the Montcalm Royal London House, what lies beneath the surface of Covent Garden is a snapshot of the culture and creativity inherent in London.
The Perfect Location For First Time Londoners
Just a short walk up from the northern banks of the Thames, Covent Garden is very easy to reach for those staying in or visiting Central London. Walking up from the Thames, Covent Garden is bounded by Leicester Square to the left and Holborn to the right. Behind Covent Garden lies Tottenham Court Road, just a short walk from the shopping haven of Oxford Street, though Covent Garden shouldn’t be overlooked for its many high end and boutique shopping opportunities.
History Of Covent Garden
Dating back to the Roman era, Covent Garden was used as a road route but also had religious connotations, Roman burials having been unearthed in the nearby St Martin-in-the-Field from as far back as 410 AD, whilst what is now Covent Garden was the heart of a trading town. In the Tudor era, the area was given over from the monasteries to noblemen as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Covent Garden became part of the Bedford Estate and developed into a central focus for markets and commerce, eventually becoming the heart of London’s red light district in the 18th century.
Though it was in decline at that point, the industrial revolution saw the area become a popular location for warehouses, considerably developing the area into a thriving industry spot. The early to mid 20th century were times of even more growth for Covent Garden, which eventually became a hub for independent boutiques, famous cafes and creative hubs such as the London Film School. It also captures some of the West End’s glamour, theatres such as the Lyceum and the Adelphi Theatre being popular theatre and musical venues.
All in all then, Covent Garden represents the growth and evolution of London and has been a key part of the city since its very foundation.
Covent Garden Market
A must visit for first time Londoners, Covent Garden Market has been a hub for pop up shops and city staples for hundreds of years. Enjoy a range of boutique skincare and homeware shops under a sheltered roof and over two floors. Expect the echo of buskers as you browse the multisensory shopfronts and the clink of cutlery from the market cafes.
The Seven Dials acts as the heart of Covent Garden’s commercial district. The square centres around a sundial monument and 7 different junctions off of it. The many attractions centred around this square include a Fred Perry outlet, the Cambridge Theatre and a range of eateries.
Launched in the 1970s by entrepreneur and activist Nick Saunders as an alternative and holistic warehouse, Neal’s Yard is now a popular but well-hidden addition to the beautiful Neal’s Yard area. The beautiful, multicoloured houses here are mainly owned by the Neal’s Yard company, including the Neal’s Yard Apothecary and Yard Dairy but there are independent cafes and eateries as well.
From The Lion King to Matilda, Covent Garden catches much of the runoff from the nearby showbiz glitz and glamour of Soho and the West End. The Trafalgar Studios is the smallest West End theatre in London and programmes some of the best new writing in the country whilst showstoppers like Six and Back To The Future The Musical are both local and tourist draws as well. Covent Garden is also home to a collection of chain and independent cinemas as well, offering a slightly quieter alternative for cinephile guests of spa packages in London compared to the nearby Leicester Square.
Alongside shopping, there are a wealth of landmarks and cultural centres in Covent Garden that are must visits for first time guests of London hotel packages.
St Paul’s Church
Dating back to 1631, St Paul’s Church was designed for the Earl of Bedford and was the first church to be built after the Reformation of the Monasteries. The beautiful columned front overlooks Bedford Street and notable residents who have visited or regularly attended included JMW Turner and William Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan. A memorial collection commemorates the likes of Vivien Leigh, Charlie Chaplin and many other famous figures within the church.
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House dates back to 1732 when it was opened as the Theatre Royal, before being rebuilt twice. After a fire in the early 19th century, it became the ROH and since then has expanded to seat more than 2250 people a night for ballets, orchestra performances and operas. With a huge stage, many of the world's most famous operas have been performed here.
London Transport Museum
Brimming with replica and antique vehicles, the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden Piazza is one of the best known museums of its type in the world. The Transport Museum explores the history of public transport in London and explores the massive engineering feat that was undertaken to serve and connect the large swathes of the city. There are many tours and talks that take place throughout the year that are organised and run by the London Transport Museum. To learn more about what is on during your visit, please visit their official website.