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A Day in Covent Garden

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at and my theatre reviews at
Published February 3rd 2012
Covent Garden

Covent Garden
Giant Reindeer in the Piazza last Christmas

Covent Garden is a vibrant area of central London and is bordered (approximately) by St Martin's Lane and Monmouth Street to the west, High Holborn to the north, Kingsway to the east and the Strand to the south. It started out as a thirteenth century convent garden and expanded into a fruit and vegetable market in the mid-seventeenth century. Until the 1980s it was a bustling wholesale market, but its position in the centre of London meant that it was becoming more impractical for lorries to travel in and out, so it was transferred to a new site by the Thames at Nine Elms.

Following a vigorous campaign to retain the market buildings and central piazza, Covent Garden was redeveloped as a thriving destination, home to shops, both independent and chains, markets, restaurants, theatres and street entertainers. It would not be difficult to spend a whole day there, and I offer a few suggestions for passing the time.

Shopping in Covent Garden

The Bead Shop
Beads in the Bead Shop

Rather than doing the usual fashion and make up stuff you could check out The Bead Shop in Tower Street. I'm sure you'll be so inspired by the beads and related paraphernalia for making jewellery that you'll want to buy everything in sight and start creating your own necklaces, bracelets, earrings etc. If you're a little uncertain, the staff are on hand to offer advice and suggestions to get you started. Here are some of the beads to whet your appetite:

If you're thinking of travelling somewhere, whether just within the UK, or further afield, you should browse the shelves at Stanfords in Long Acre. Here you will be able to consult their huge range of travel guides and maps for further inspiration. You can also buy travel books so that you can theme your holiday reading reading to your destination. Finally you can also treat yourself to travel goods and outdoor clothing. If this has all been too much for you, you can take the weight off your feet and enjoy something to eat and drink at the Sacred Cafe on the ground floor.

Covent Garden
Outside Stanford's

If you can't keep away from perfume, aftershave and other smelly goods, you really should visit Penhaligon's in Wellington Street. You'll be able to test dozens of fragrances, for men and for women, as you wander around this iconic perfumery. Penhaligon's began life as a men's barber shop in 1872 and the fragrances are still made in England.

Covent Garden

The Piazza and Central Covent Garden

Covent Garden
The Portico of St Paul's - The Actors' Church

Once you reach the main piazza of Covent Garden, you could stop to watch the street entertainers performing in front of the portico of ]St Paul's Church before you actually go inside this calm place of reflection. If the weather is fine you may want to sit on one of the churchyard benches, many commemorating famous theatricals, and enjoy something to eat from one of the eateries in the vicinity.

Alternatively you could take yourself off to one of the many restaurants, cafes or pubs in the area or wander round to Paul in nearby Bedford Street.

Covent Garden
Paul Bakery and Cafe

The Markets of Covent Garden

After you've refreshed yourself with food and drink you will be able to face the final shopping onslaught. Aside from the many shops, there are also two markets within Covent Garden. The Jubilee Hall is a covered shopping area and the Apple Market is an open air craft market. You may even be so inspired by the goodies on offer at the Bead Shop that you are able to craft your own jewellery for sale at the Apple Market, or somewhere similar.

Covent Garden
The Apple Market

Some Extra Ideas

If you still have some energy left you could visit the London Transport Museum/ to learn a little about the history of London and its transport system.

Covent Garden
London Transport Museum

You may then feel that your feet need a rest, so you could round off your day culturally with a visit to the Royal Opera House in the piazza, or take in a play at the historic Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.

Covent Garden
The Royal Opera House

On the other hand you may be so worn out that all you can think of us visiting one of the many restaurants in the area and spoiling yourself with a good meal.

London may be your oyster, but Covent Garden is most definitely the pearl within.
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Why? It's the pearl in London's oyster
When: The place never sleeps
Where: Covent Garden, London WC2
Cost: Free to wander
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