This small district, straddling the border of Westminster and Camden, was originally a large open field owned by Westminster Abbey. In the seventeenth century, the area began to be developed. The fashionable new neighborhood was centered on a fruit and vegetable market. In the eighteenth century, vagrants and prostitutes moved in, and the area became a notorious red-light district. In the last century and half, the process reversed itself and today Covent Gardens is one of London’s liveliest neighborhoods.
There’s something for everyone here. There is excellent shopping, and the small boutique shops sell just about anything you could ask for. There are also lots of restaurants to choose from. At night, Covent Gardens turns into one of London’s most happening places. It is also known for street entertainment and is London’s answer to Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard, and Tokyo’s Akibahara District. There are singers, classical music, costumed characters and much more. Covent Gardens might be a little touristy, but the atmosphere is fun. At the very least, it’s a great place to people watch.
Covent Gardens is also home to the Royal Opera House and a couple of interesting museums. The Royal Opera House was built in 1858 and remodeled in the 1990s. Catch a show here if you can. Nearby is London’s Theater Museum, which covers British performing arts from the sixteenth century until today. The nearby London Transport Museum traces the history of London’s transit systems from 1800 until today. It is relatively expensive, but also interesting.
Covent Gardens is a great place to spend a day, or at the very least an evening.
Metro: Covent Garden (Picadilly)
The Theater Museum
Address: Russell Street, Covent Garden, WC2E
Telephone: +44 020 7943 4700
Opening Hours: Open daily 10:00-18:00; closed Mondays and holidays.
London Transport Museum
Address: Piazza, Covent Garden
Telephone: +44 020 7379 6344
Hours: Monday-Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 10:00-18:00; Friday 11:00-18:00
Admission (tickets good anytime for one year): £13.50 Adults (16+)