Helpful Tour Guide Around Covent Garden-London
This vibrant neighborhood is an entertainment hub with popular theaters, restaurant and shopping centre located on the west area of city. Its everchanging nature, being always in renovation with a new store, or a delightful street decoration attracts locals and tourists alike who always find a new spot to visit and have a great time.
In this opportunity I come up with a super useful guide to tour around this pulsating neighborhood making you easier to find the fashion restaurants and cafeterias, vibrant markets and shops, trendy shopping centres, historic places, among many other things that will make you include the Covent Garden in your next walking city tour.
Do not forget your camera I’ll be pointing out great spots for amazing photoshoots.
How do I get to Covent Garden?
Being a popular neighborhood is easy to get using the public transportation. If you like taking the tube, the lines: Piccadilly, Central and Northern will get you there, being the nearest stations: Covent Garden Station, Leicester Square Station and Charing Cross Station. You can reach the area using the bus routes services. The bus line in the area are: 9, 13, 15, 23, 139 and 153.
Knowing the History About this Neighborhood
Covent Garden as other neighborhoods in London, has a rich heritage obtained by centuries of changes and historic events, and whose vestiges can still be noticed despite modernity, giving the area a unique vibe. The current name came from the words “Convent Garden”, that it’s how this area was called in the 1500’s when was used as vegetables gardens by the monks of the Westminster Abbey. This remains until 16th century when the ruling King, Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries and passed the ownership of this land to the monarchy friends, Russell family.
But it wasn’t until 1630’s that Frances Russell started the construction of its own house in the area and other impressive structures like the Piazza square and the stunning St. Paul’s Cathedral, that changed the Covent Garden forever, being the origins of that we know today. The neighborhood became highly populated due to the immigration of Londoners to West caused by the Great Fire in 1666 that destroyed the City of London, therefore the markets gathered in the area grow rapidly make it the Covent Garden busier and busier.
The area became more popular in the low-profile classes, putting away the aristocrats still remained in the area, appearing more taverns, coffee houses, gambling houses, drinking dens and creating a disordered growth of the markets, that propitiated the construction of the Central Market in 1860, and other buildings like the Floral Hall, the famous Jubilee Market in order to reorganized the area.
Nowadays, it’s a top destination for visitors that want to feel the vibrant atmosphere of plenty of vendors, street performers and gorgeous decoration mixed with the outstanding architectures of antiques buildings.
What Can I do there?
The options are endless when you’re visiting the Covent Garden, having a new restaurant or shop open every time you go, you’ll never feel bored there. This area is popular for its bustling energy and a never-ending seasonal transformation, being the Christmas setting the most famous with outstanding decoration and impressive displays. However, I’m assure you this neighborhood is worthy to visit no matter the time of year.
The markets are main spots in the area, offering different kind of items that ranges from the freshest organic veggies from peculiar handicrafts, surrounded by world-recognized and independent stores made the area the perfect place to do some shopping or just window-shop. The neighborhood offers a buzzing vibe created by thousands of visitors, jazzy street performances and the outstanding decoration of the buildings and streets.
However, the entertainment, is not only on the streets, you’ll find well-known theaters that offers events and performance almost every day, it’s the case of the Royal Opera House and Theatre Royal, a vivid memory of the Covent Garden early days. If you enjoy historical places you cannot miss the Somerset House, a stunning massive neo classical building that was and still is a centre of artistic expressions and from outside an endless source of amazing photo spots. You can also explore the history of the London transportation system at the London Transport Museum located on the piazza.
Where to Eat in Covent Garden?
This question is difficult to answer not for the lack of options, at the contrary for the long list of great places you can enjoy a nice meal in the area. The wide variety of restaurants specialized in different types of cuisine, that will surely satiate your palate for, among many others, French, Italian, Indian, Mediterranean, American and of course British dishes. This has stablished the Covent Garden as a popular destination for foodies. I can mention some of the most visited and well-reviewed: the steakhouses Steak & Co. (at Garrick St.) and Flat Iron (at Henrietta St.), the French food specialists like Frenchie (Henrietta St.) and other cuisine representatives like Monmouth Kitchen and Red Farm at Russell Street.
There are some restaurants in addition to satisfy your desire of delicious recipes, they also have appealing architectures, and/or elaborated decorations that you cannot contain yourself of taking them as settings for your photo shots. Some of the Insta-worthy restaurants in the area are:
-Henrietta Bistro (Henrietta St)
-The Ivy Market Grill (Henrietta St)
-Balthazar (Russell Street)
-Mr Fogg’s Tavern (St. Martin’s Ct)
-Sushisamba (The Market Building)
However, if you’d prefer travel light, you can get something quick to recharge your energy and the plenty of independent shops at the markets, or and the supermarkets and convenient stores located in different part of the neighborhood. The Seven Dials Market and Jubilee Market have plenty of options for snacks, and of course, the big retailers like Tesco has a branch at Savoy St.
Do you like Something Sweet?
As a centre of delicious food, Covent Garden, has plenty of places where to enjoy tantalizing sweet treats and perfectly crafted coffees. Some of the well-rated cafeterias ad bakeries are: Caffè Vergnano 1882 (Charing Cross Rd), the colorful Wild Food Café and The Drury Tea & Coffee Co at Neal's Yard, Bageriet (Rose St) and the Creme de la Crepe (The Piazza).
Other very visited by Instagram’s foodies due to their well-decorated frames are: the whitey corner bakery at Chandos Pl, Brigit’s Bakery, famous for its floral front-door displays, the Monmouth Café, a lovely black two doors façade located at Monmouth St.
Best Walk Tours in Covent Garden
Convent Garden is a quite small neighborhood, but with plenty things to offers to its visitors. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere created by the markets, restaurants, shopping centres while you enjoy the opulence of magnificent edifications built centuries ago. And it’s precisely this changing nature that make this neighborhood so special, making every visit a different and special experience. I come out with this walk tour guides to help you in your next visit to the Covent Garden.
1) Walk No. 1 Markets and Historic Places
The markets are one of the most iconic features when we think in this neighborhood, offering vibrant experiences and many options where to have a great time ranges from the little independent restaurants to the massive theaters, there are a great variety of entertainment sources. In this walk, I’ll focus in the booming market areas where you’ll find many locals, shops, restaurants, and theaters around that buzz with energy from morning until night. The walk takes cover a distance of 1.3 miles and it would take around one hour and half.
Start the walk at Covent Garden Station, this station can get packed on weekends so take your provisions, also if you are not in good shape you probably should do the queue for the lifts, if not prepare yourself for climbing the spiral staircase with almost 200 steps, it will definitely accelerate your heart at the very beginning of your journey. When you exit the underground station, you’ll immediately start seeing wide variety of windows stores and some of the restaurants and bars in the area. Turn right and continue walking to find Floral Street, on the corner turn left where you’ll see more shops to pop into if you like. Getting inside the stores and do some window shopping is surely an important part of your tour around the Covent Garden.
When the street finishes, you’ll be entering on the last stretch of Bow St, veer right to enjoy the impressive building of the Royal Opera House, that despite the major reconstruction it went through in the late 1900’s it still conserved their facades dated 1850’s. Walk south to Wellington St, if you are a cinephile take at look at London Film Museum at the right side, or just continue you’ll walk until the Lyceum Theatre, just one of the many entertainment center in the area. For those fond in plays and performing arts will definitely find something that they’ll enjoy.
When reach the avenue cross the street and turn left and continue your walk to the east on the right side, you’ll see a massive arch that covers the path to the Somerset House, enter and be amazed of the magnificent Victorian architecture building. This structure houses wide selection of exhibitions and collections, and from outside offers plenty of spots to take amazing photos, that include the impressive entrance, or the iconic fountain court, that you’ll see in operations only during the warm season.
Retrace your steps until get the Strand, and veer left to a narrow street, Burleigh St that guide you to Tavistock St cross the street and duck into a courtyard Tavistock Ct, you’ll see the Transport Museum on the right side and be entering in The Piazza well known for its open-air coffee shops, restaurants, market stalls and many other options to have a great time. This pedestrianized area is popular for having street performers that entertain visitors as they are passing by. This area takes a special vibe during Christmas season where the floral displays and decoration invade every corner in this area, creating plenty of Instaworthy spots to enjoy. One of the most popular spots for its lovely decoration is the Apple Market, including impressive Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling, or huge pumpkins arrangements to the autumn season.
At the left side you’ll see the iconic Jubilee Market, where you can find a wide selection of items that ranges from handmade craft to antiques and very valuable collectable piece. Keep your eyes open, and you may encounter a treasure in your exploration among the stalls. After you’re enjoying the buzzing atmosphere along the markets and street performers, you can continue you journey to Henrietta St, where you’ll find a great selection of popular restaurant, including The Henrietta Bistro, with its very popular entrance decorated with floral displays. While you’re walking you can enjoy the architecture of the building in the area.
Continue your walk until the street becomes Bedford St turn right and walk up until you get the corner. At this point you can go to the right and find Floral Court, a lovely courtyard with beautiful spaces to dine in the open air or relax on the tree benches, it’s a great place to snap some Instagram shots. If you go left, you’ll enter at New Row, a narrow street full of many options to have delicious desserts and well-crafted coffees.
When the street finishes, you’ll be at St Martin’s Lane walking to the south you’ll find the popular butterfly spot on Instagram, after a couples of shots you can turn around over your feet and find the way back to reach at Garrick St, veer left to a narrow cobbled street with a lovely inclination and tall brick walls making a nice place to take lifestyle photos. The tour walk ends here, so you can go to Cranbourn St where the Leicester Square Station is located.
The Covent Garden is always changing with new restaurants and shops opening, lovely display decoration, or street performers debuts, creating a booming atmosphere that make every visit a different experience, so go to the Covent Garden more than once is a rule.
2) Walk No .2 Streets
In this walk you’ll be visiting a very popular streets in the Covent Garden, despite this walk will not include the markets area, you’ll find a great selection of restaurants and coffee shops to have a bite. This neighborhood is very popular on Instagram because its hidden colorful courtyard, charming decoration, everything wrapping up with the vibrant ambiance that make this area so unique. This tour walk covers a distance of 0.9 miles and take around 1 hour to do it completely.
Because the two walks are relatively short, if you’re seeking more from this vibrant neighborhood, you can do both, continuing your journey from the last stop of the walk No. 1.
The walk No. 2 starts at Leicester Square Station, when you exit the underground station turn left to get Cranbourn Street and when you reach the intersection walk up to Upper St. Martin’s Lane. While you’re walking on the right side will appear a hidden narrow street, St. Martin’s Courtyard, duck into it where you’ll find more restaurants and shops and lovely benches where to sit and see people passing by.
Go back to look for Monmouth street, before heading this street you can take a picture next to the e booth, usually you’ll find some floral displays in the area getting a very London vibe to your shots. At the end of the street you’ll get the famous round junction, Seven Dials, where seven streets converge, the monument in the middle of the round is decorated with floral arrangements and light displays making it a great place to take great shots with a wide variation of angles.
If you like to eat something quick, you can visit Seven Dials Market at Earlham St, this chic food court has great options of smalls restaurants and pubs. The continue your walk taking the north stretch of Monmouth St, this cobbled street hides an entry to Neal Yards, you’ll find it in the right side of the street. Once get into this lovely colorful tiny village full of independent restaurants and shops, you’ll understand the popularity of this spot.
Take your time to enjoy this little heaven full of colors in the middle of the bustling city, the atmosphere is incredible, and you cannot miss to have the brick buildings with bright windows frames as setting for your photos. The space is reduced, so if you want to take the best of this place taking amazing photos, visit the area early in the morning.
After soaking up the colors in the lovely courtyard, you’ll go out to ending at Short’s Gardens, walk east towards Neal St, at this point turn right and continue your walk along this street. At the corner you’ll find a popular bar/restaurant that has charming floral displays. Keep walking until the street become a pedestrian path, along your walk you’ll see a lot of shops and stores at both sides of the road. Then turn left at Long Acre and walk to get Bow Street that will guide you to your next destinations in this tour. When you see the first narrow street at the left, named Broad Court, go into to find a popular Instagram spot with several phone booths organized side by side.
Once you take those amazing photos, make your way back to head Floral Street, this street gathers plenty of shops you can end your walk pop into in some of them and do some shopping therapy to relax. At the end of this street you’ll find a spectacular place to take incredible photos, continue your walk and turn right at Conduit Court where the Infinity Chamber is placed, this must-snap spot consists in thousands of LED bulbs that forms a bright tunnel allowing you to create stunning photos. It opens 24/7 and it is free of charge, so it can get crowded. This is the spot of this walking tour.
Covent Garden is an area with a special atmosphere difficult to find in any other place. With its buzzing markets full of people, street performers and wide variety of stalls attracts thousands of visitors. It’s the perfect place to taste tantalizing meals on independent restaurants, have delicious desserts at the trendy coffee shops, find treasures at the antiques stalls, or buying the newest artifact at the many stores. The options are endless to immerse in this iconic neighborhood.
To make your walking tour easier, I’ll give you the links to access the route through Google Maps.
First Walk: https://goo.gl/maps/gECGyS3cAGDAmB8d8
Second Walk: https://goo.gl/maps/uDGBGDwDmniCQtH3A