In the heart of London’s West End, Covent Garden is one of the city’s most popular dining and entertainment hubs. Home to the Royal Opera House; several top theaters, including the Lyceum and the Donmar Warehouse; world-class restaurants; and many major brand-name stores, most travelers to London plan to explore this area while visiting.
Covent Garden’s original purpose was as a convent garden, where Westminster Abbey monks would grow fruit and vegetables, some 500 years ago. In the 17th century, architect Inigo Jones built St. Paul’s Church (not to be confused with the cathedral) and the Covent Garden Piazza and the area started to take shape. In the streets around the market came theaters, coffee houses, and restaurants, turning the area into a nightlife hotspot.
The market arcades, built in the 1830s, were home to fruit, vegetable, and flower sellers. The original market was moved out of the city in the 1970s, and the arcades were redeveloped into stores and cafes. Nowadays, the piazza is famous for lively street performers, while the surrounding streets—Floral Street, Neal Street, Long Acre, and Mercer Street—offer some of the best shopping in London. Guided walking, bike, and taxi tours visit the area on a regular basis. It's also a stop on hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Covent Garden is wheelchair accessible.
- For same-day theater tickets, visit the TKTS booth on Leicester Square.
- St. Paul’s Church is known as “The Actor’s Church” for the area’s many theaters.
- The churchyard has benches for visitors to sit and rest.
- Covent Garden’s seven main streets converge at the Seven Dials sundial.
How to Get There
Covent Garden is located in the center of West End, London. The nearest subway (tube) station is Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line. Leicester Square station is also a short walk away. The area is walkable from many other points in Central London and is a popular stop on historic walking and bike tours of the city. Hop-on hop-off buses also stop here.
When to Get There
Covent Garden is a public piazza and is open all day. The Apple Market stalls are open from 10am–6pm. Nearby stores, restaurants, and theaters, including the Royal Opera House, have their own separate opening times—check before visiting.
A few streets away from Covent Garden, bordered by Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road is London’s Chinatown, filled with colorful shops and restaurants serving authentic East Asian cuisine. One of the city’s most popular destinations for cheap eats, the area is always buzzing with both locals and tourists.