Things to do in Covent Garden
The very heart of London’s teeming West End. The difficulty in describing what to do and where to go is the multitude of things that will be invariably missed off of a list that’s never going to be complete! Here are five of the best attractions in Covent Garden and the surrounding area, for now…
Back in the day, there used to be quite a few grand palaces that lined the banks of the River Thames. Nowadays they are a little more few and far between. Dating from 1776, Somerset House is a pretty spectacular example of one that’s still standing.
The house boasts a piazza which is its most famous feature. This open air space is a unique venue for open-air cinema screenings, concerts, and other events during the summer, as well as ice skating in the winter.
Taking a tour inside the house is also possible year-round. A ticket must be booked but these are free. Some events will have a separate charge.
London is full of large bookshops so what makes Stanford’s worth a visit? It’s special for two reasons. One, it specialises completely in travel books. Two, it’s managed to do this for more than 160 years.
It’s not been in the same location, it recently moved to its new location in Mercer Street from its famous old shop in Long Acre. It’s the ideal place from which the next great adventure can be planned.
It is free to browse, with no entry fee needed for access.
The Theatre Royal
There are loads of theatres to visit, in and around Covent Garden, this is London’s famous West End after all. Everyone is showing a must-see play or musical so how can one be chosen?
Amongst theatres, the Theatre Royal is special. It’s a location where the venue is as much of a must-see as the production itself. For a start, it’s been putting on a show for more than 350 years (at a number of different locations, granted.)
It is also said to be one of the most haunted places in London so vigilance is recommended!
Tickets need to be purchased for performances, and, naturally, the cost differs for each performance and where visitors want to sit.
Covent Garden Market
The real heart of Covent Garden. The 19th-century market hall is an attraction in itself with its unmistakable glass roof. The piazza that lays underneath is actually older, dating back to the 17th century. This makes it the oldest intentionally built market square in London.
The shops are really an added bonus to the beauty of the place. There are lots of retailers you’d find on most High Streets, as well as market stalls selling those must-have souvenirs and trinkets.
Entry to the market is free, but obviously all of the shops, restaurants, and cafes are not free.
Royal Opera House
As well as being home to London’s theatreland, Covent Garden is also the place to find the headquarters of the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, namely the Royal Opera House.
This spectacular building dates back to 1858 and has seen some world-famous performances over the years. Including the debut of one Luciano Pavarotti.
It still has a full calendar of performances throughout the year but booking in advance is normally essential.
Museums in Covent Garden
London’s museum district is generally considered to be the Kensington area, but Covent Garden and the surrounding streets have lots to boast of in this particular area too.
London Transport Museum
Located right on the Covent Garden Piazza, this is one of the most popular museums in London for families. A favourite among kids but also plenty to enjoy for the adults too.
It looks at tubes, trains, buses, and taxis and sees how they have changed and shaped people’s lives from the 1800s to the present day.
There are plenty of examples of these modes of transport on display and the refreshing thing about this museum is the encouragement to interact with the exhibits.
There’s also famous poster art used by the transport companies as well as an impressive archive of photos.
Tickets cost £18 for adults but entry is free for children.
National Portrait Gallery
Directly opposite Covent Garden is the oldest art gallery in the world which is dedicated to portraits. The oldest pieces in the gallery date back to the 1500s and there are examples of works from every era, right up to the present day. It’s not all ancient unknowns either, there’s a portrait of David Beckham for a start!
It’s not just paintings these days. There’s now a selection of media on display including sculpture, video, and photography.
The gallery is free to enter but donations are encouraged.
London Film Museum
A relative newcomer in terms of London museums, this museum was founded in 2008 as the Movieum of London and moved to its current location in Covent Garden in 2012.
The museum puts on long term exhibitions in which it shows props, costumes and other memorabilia from a particular set of films. Previous displays have included creatures from Ray Harryhausen films and a Charlie Chaplin exhibition which featured his original hat and cane.
Since the beginning of 2014, the exhibition on the show has been ‘Bond in Motion’, which is the largest collection of vehicles from the James Bond series ever put together.
Adults have to pay £14.50 for a ticket, whereas children only pay £9.50.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
In 1837, the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane died. He left his house and all of its contents to the general public on one condition, that it be left exactly as he had left it.
This was the start of one of London’s most unique museums.
Soane was an avid collector. He loved art, books, and antiques and the contents of the house makes that very clear. He even managed to secure pieces by Canaletto and Turner during his lifetime which are prominently displayed.
The museum also plays host to a number of temporary exhibitions. Check before booking to see what’s on.
The museum is free to enter but, like most museums in London, donations are encouraged.
Quite simply the ‘daddy’ of all London museums, the one that simply has to be seen. And, as luck would have it, one of the world’s best museums is just a few minute's walk from Covent Garden.
The museum is huge and it will literally take days to see it all considering it covers the last two million years of human history. Infamous treasures include the Elgin marbles and the hugely important Rosetta stone.
The spectacular museum is free to enter, but it is best to donate as some of these wonders can’t be seen anywhere else.
Churches in Covent Garden
As with most places in London, Covent Garden has its fair share of churches in and around the area. There are Presbyterian churches as well as French, Chinese and Danish churches. There’s even a London Underground church!
St Paul’s Church
Not to be confused with St Paul’s Cathedral, which is a much bigger church located near to the City of London (in an area helpfully called St Paul’s).
St Paul’s Church is right in the heart of Covent Garden and is famous as the place where the Covent Garden street performers have their shows.
In fact, this is very apt. As well as being the parish church of Covent Garden, St Paul’s is also known as the ‘Actor’s Church’ due to a long-standing connection with the theatre industry.
Trafalgar Square is only a short walk away from Covent Garden and it is here where one of London’s most famous churches can be found.
The present building dates from around 1726 but there has been a church on the spot since medieval times.
The church is famous in modern times for its program to help the homeless people of London, an initiative started by a vicar at the church back in 1914.
Since the multi-million pound refurbishment in 2006, the church’s crypt has also been well known for its jazz concerts which take place in the cafe area.
Corpus Christi Church
This is a Roman Catholic church located very near Covent Garden. It is a grade II listed gothic building which was opened by the then Archbishop of Westminster in 1874.
It was originally dedicated to Corpus Christi in some attempt at an apology for the way in which the Catholic church was treated in the sixteenth century.
The interior is much more modern than the interior of most churches and features a statue of St Genusius, the patron saint of actors, very much in keeping with the area in which the church stands.
Notre Dame de France
Most people would expect to be somewhere a little south of London if they were visiting a church with Notre Dame in the title. This French Catholic church, however, is located just north of Leicester Square.
The church was established in the middle of the 19th century although the building in which it is located is actually a bit older.
The idea of the church was a place where support could be given to the growing French population in the area at the time.
Crown Court Church
From a church people would expect to find in France to a church people would expect to find a little further north.
The Crown Court Church is a Scottish Presbyterian church which has been established since James I (who was also James VI of Scotland). Later records suggest that the church has been in its present location since around 1711.
One of the most fun aspects of this church is finding it, as just a doorway is visible. Look next to the Fortune Theatre which is opposite the Theatre Royal.
Food & Drink
One thing is impossible in Covent Garden and that’s the avoidance of a good time. The place is teeming with all things entertainment, including theatres, shopping and of course, bars and restaurants.
Fire & Stone
Quite simply an unmissable treat for anybody who loves pizza, which is just about everybody, ever.
This is gourmet pizza at its finest, with an unrivaled selection of international flavours on top of a classic Italian dish. Try the London (with sausage and bacon), the Acapulco (with chili and jalapeño) or the Madrid (with chorizo and prawns) amongst many others.
The restaurant also has a fantastic new burger selection added to the menu too.
Address: 31/32 Maiden Ln, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7JS
An Italian restaurant situated ideally for people who don’t want to venture too far outside of central Covent Garden.
This is classic Italian cuisine which means the focus is on fresh ingredients that are currently in season across all of Italy’s regions. The restaurant is literally in the middle of theatreland so it is well versed in serving up a quick meal for those who have a performance to get to.
The wine list isn’t bad either. It contains over 350 wines that come from across the world.
Address: 45 Great Queen St, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AA
Grays & Feather
A modern wine bar with homemade food. During the day, this place is renowned for its food alone, queues sometimes form down the street as office workers wait for something with the quality of a homemade meal, which most certainly isn’t fast food.
The wine list is what makes space an all-day attraction. It covers all possible bases with sparkling English bottles from the south coast wine regions, Italian and South African classics, alongside more obscure tipples from places such as Japan and Brazil.
Address: 26 Wellington St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7DD
A treat for carnivores with a pretty good view, of Covent Garden Market from its balcony setting.
This is a meat dish specialist and is ideal for people looking for a quick bite before a show., although tables can’t be booked ahead. Remember, the queue is a sign of quality and it goes down quickly. This isn’t just fast food, it’s quality fast food.
Address: Jubilee Market Hall, The Deck, Tavistock St, London WC2E 8BE
A beautiful restaurant laid out in a classic style with polished wooden furnishings and mirrors. It’s the polar opposite of Meatmarket but no less tasty.
Tuttons has been a part of Covent Garden for over thirty years. It’s a favourite for pre-theatre meals but also a great place to people watch with a coffee or perhaps even a cheeky cocktail.
Address: 11-12 Russell St, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5HZ