Situated in the beating heart of the West End and sharing a border with the lively, vibrant Soho, Covent Garden has been at the centre of the action for quite literally a millennia – the original settlement here dates back to the 7th Century AD!
Nowadays the area is most famous for the hordes of street performers and the beautiful Victorian covered marketplace in the central piazza, designed in a Greco-Roman style with stone pillars and elaborately carved pediments. The original market may be long gone, but in its place Covent Garden has transformed into a shopping hub, packed throughout the week with residents and tourists exploring the wide range of boutiques, restaurants and cocktail bars on the streets surrounding the piazza. In contrast with the brash nature of nearby Leicester Square however, Covent Garden always seems much more serene, even on the busiest of Saturdays.
There’s more to Covent Garden than just shops though, as the Royal Opera House and a number of major theatres are based here, making it a cultural hub for anyone interested in ballet, opera, theatre and musicals. Many creative businesses have also based their offices in Covent Garden, with freelance employees often found enjoying the perks of the Hospital Club on Endell Street when not at their desks. The bars and restaurants of Soho have gradually spread into Covent Garden making it an ideal spot for drinks and dinner, particularly around Seven Dials where cool new spots and hidden gems can usually be found.
Similar to Soho, Covent Garden isn’t usually thought of as a residential area although if you can afford it, its certainly possible to live here and enjoy the buzz of the area right on your doorstep – just as long as you don’t mind putting up with the odd juggler or human statue on a regular basis!
On a map
Covent Garden is located in the Boroughs of Westminster and Camden in Zone 1. It borders Soho to the west and Temple to the east, and covers the postcode WC2.
History of Covent Garden London
Life in Covent Garden dates all the way back to the 700s, when it was a Saxon settlement in an early version of London known as Lundenwic. When threat from the Romans caused the settlers to move back into the old Roman walled city (now the City of London), the land here was abandoned and became farmland over time. During the Middle Ages it was a garden belonging to Westminster Abbey, which led to the name Convent Garden.
During the 1600s a piazza was built to be used as a food market and spread rapidly through the area, before becoming a formal market in the 1670s with the right to sell fruit, flowers, roots and herbs. However, neighbours often complained about the noise, mess and crime surrounding the market, and in the 1830s a new building was constructed to help manage the space, with clear slots for stalls and better hygiene. While most of the food stands are long gone, replaced by shops and restaurants, this market building still stands in the centre of Covent Garden today.
Transport from Covent Garden London
Covent Garden has good transport connections for commuting around London on buses and the Underground, and is also within walking distance of many popular areas in London including Waterloo, Soho, and Oxford Street.
Covent Garden Underground Station serves the Piccadilly Line, which connects directly to South Kensington in 10 minutes, and Hammersmith in 19 minutes. Leicester Square Underground Station is also very close by (around a 5 minute walk) for the Northern line. The area is also served by plenty of buses both day and night.
Cost of living in Covent Garden London
While it’s very rare to find a whole house for rent or sale in Covent Garden, there are plenty of different types of apartments here, ranging from high-spec contemporary properties in modern blocks to apartments with large sash windows and period features in historic buildings above shops and restaurants.
Unsurprisingly prices are reasonably high here, but it’s still slightly cheaper to rent in Covent Garden than in neighbouring nightlife and restaurant hub Soho, and more expensive than Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury. As of 2016 the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Covent Garden is £3800 per month, although properties can be found starting from £2100 per month.
Restaurants in Covent Garden London
Cosy, candle-lit and family-run, this independent French restaurant on Garrick Street is quite possibly the most authentic Gallic experience you’ll find this side of the channel – complete with the romantic ambience our closest neighbours are famous for. Tuck yourself away into one of the corner tables downs, order a meaty cassoulet and a bottle of red, and share a special evening with your paramour.
Address: 10-12 Garrick St, London WC2E 9BH
Phone:020 7240 7649
Hi Sushi Izakaya
A short walk from Covent Garden Market, this hidden gem is famous among sushi-lovers for its generous all-you-can-eat offer, something rarely found in any sushi restaurant that you’d actually want to go to. Choose from a selection of rolls, sashimi, hot dishes and more made fresh to order for less than £20 – ideal for lining your stomach before a night out in Soho!
Address: 27 Catherine St, London WC2B 5JS
Phone:020 7836 9398
A recent addition to the Covent Garden restaurant scene and situated in the pretty Neal’s Yard, 26 Grains is a breakfast cafe with a difference. Specialising in a variety of seasonal porridges (including some unusual savoury options) and top-notch coffee, it’s an excellent spot for a warming bowl of gourmet oatmeal before a long day at work.
Address: Neal’s, 2 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP
Sister restaurant to ramen specialist Bone Daddies and Shakfuyu, cool Japanese Izakaya-style eatery Flesh & Buns is unmissable if you’re a fan of squishy meat-filled bao buns. With starters of tuna tataki and Korean chicken wings it’s easy to order the whole menu, but make sure to save some room for their infamous s’mores dessert.
Address: 41 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LX
Phone:020 7632 9500
Shops in Covent Garden London
Forget today’s high street style and pick up a cool throwback piece from Rockit Vintage, where you’ll find a curated selection of pieces from the last fifty years, including fur coats, leather handbags, cowboy boots and endless rails of perfectly worn-in T-shirts. You’ll never find yourself with an accidental outfit doppleganger again!
Address: 42 Shelton St, London WC2H 9HZ
Phone:020 7836 6547
Italian stationary brand Moleskine made a name for themselves producing their now-iconic black lined leather notebooks, designed in the style of the preferred jotting pads of famous creatives including Oscar Wilde, Vincent van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway. They’ve since expanded into colourful planners, leather goods and other accessories, and this store on King Street is the perfect place to peruse the high-quality collection.
Address: 40 King St, London WC2E 8JS
Phone:020 7836 4432
Got a sweet tooth? Indulge in a little (or a lot) of what you fancy at this specialist Covent Garden sweet shop, which sells a range of international sweets and drinks. Popular products include Twinkies, Lucky Charms cereal and Hershey’s chocolate, but check out the Japanese products for something really different – anyone for a Sweet Potato Kit Kat?!
Address: 3 Garrick St, London WC2E 9BF
Phone: 0845 838 0958
Things to do in Covent Garden London
Enjoy a deluxe night on the town with a visit to the Royal Opera House, where you can watch live performances of award-winning operas, ballets and dance shows. With everything from modern interpretations to classic Shakespearean texts being performed and tickets ranging from just £6 up to over £100, there’s something for everyone here.
Address: Bow St, London WC2E 9DD
Work in a creative field, and looking to network with similar folk? Check out the members-only Hospital Club, where freelance and full-time professionals in fields such as film, photography and journalism work, play, and make connections. With two restaurants, a window-lined bar, a private cinema, hotel rooms and various production studios, it’s a great place to mix business with pleasure.
Address: 24 Endell St, London WC2H 9HQ
Phone: 020 7170 9100
Pay a visit to Henry VIII, William Shakespeare or even Margaret Thatcher at the National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square, where many of the UK’s finest portraits are on display. Arranged by date and theme, the galley manages to expertly combine history, art and the human fascination with iconic figures all under one roof.
Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN