Discover Covent Garden—London's Entertainment & Shopping Hub

This small neighbourhood in central London is heaven for shopping and live entertainment—with street performers as a bonus

The cobbled streets of Covent Garden have altered over the years from the original market trading days, but today’s lively neighbourhood is a hub for shopping and entertainment.

Walk past the Royal Opera House, and you’ll see Enzo Plazzotta’s statue of a ballerina, which symbolises what the area is famous for: performing. As you walk along the cobbled streets, it’s hard not to be dazzled by the bright lights of the West End shows, which beam the names of its latest stars. Even street signs commemorate actors: Garrick, Kemble and Kean. As the build up begins for Get into London Theatre season (1 Jan-14 Feb), offering reduced tickets to top West End shows, there’s even more reason to visit the area. 

It's Show Time!

Many of the big musicals are located in Covent Garden. "The Lion King", located in the grand Lyceum Theatre, has been a roaring success—running for 15 years. Enjoy the award-winning songs, such as "The Circle of Life", created by Sir Elton John.

Be charmed by the street performers across James Street and the Piazza, which include living statues, classical musicians, acrobats and mimes. If you enjoy one of the shows, show your appreciation by giving them a few pound coins.

The Lion King, London, UK
The Lion Kings is one of London's best-loved shows (©Lion King photo by Catherine Ashmore)

If classical opera and ballet is more your scene, check out the programme for the prestigious Royal Opera House. Great operas such as "Tosca" (9 Jan-5 Feb) and "La Traviata" (16 Jan-19 Mar) are powerful performances. If you book early you can get tickets for as little as £9.

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Spending Sprees

Covent Garden area is most famous for its market that is in the Piazza. Laid out in 1630 by Inigo Jones, it was famous for selling fruit and vegetables. Today, it sells everything from clothes to candles. Long Acre includes high-street brands; Shelton Street has vintage clothes; and Floral street has high-end designer labels. If you are on the lookout for souvenirs, visit the Apple Market, Jubilee Market and East Colonnade, which sell prints, handmade jewellery and confectionary.

Covent Garden Market, London, UK
Wraught-iron roof of Covent Garden's famous indoor market (©D Withers/iStock)

Away from the market area, Long Acre street has good high-street fashion and independent shoe shops, lotions and potions at Neil’s Yard Remedies and quirky boutiques in Seven Dials.

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The World on a Plate

The area has the right mix of charming cafés and fine dining experiences. Masala Zone, located on Floral Street, offers affordable food—a thali, which comes on a stainless steel plate and contains a variety of dishes, costs £11.75. The restaurant pays homage to its theatrical location with its décor: hundreds of Rajasthani puppets hang from the ceiling waiting to greet you.

It’s a great location for pre-theatre menus or an after-show drink, with myriad cuisines. There’s everything from Indian street food at Dishoom, the romantic setting of Clos Maggiore and meat galore at Sophie’s Steakhouse and Bar

Or when the weather allows take a seat in an alfresco café in the piazza and watch the world go by as you dine.

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Covent Garden piazza, London, UK
Pull up a chair in the piazza to watch the world go by (©Visitlondonimages/Britainonview/Pawel Libera)

Culture on Show 

Famous museums in the area include the London Transport Museum, which showcases the glorious history of the public transport in the city, including old vehicles and advertising posters.

The London Film Museum has on show the major exhibitions "Bond in Motion". Celebrating James Bond, there are cars, ranging from Rolls Royces to Aston Martins, boats, motorcycles and even submarines, in addition to recently added vehicles used in "Spectre". The exhibition is a must for Bond fans—there are original sketches, and next to each vehicle video clips showing when they featured in the films.

Exhibit at Bond In Motion exhibition, London Film Museum, London, UK
At the Bond In Motion exhibition, you can see originals from the films including the BMW and rocket from "The World Is Not Enough" (courtesy London Film Museum)

Nearby, towards Trafalgar Square, is the landmark church St Martin-in-the-Fields, home to a crypt and brass rubbings. It also has regular jazz and classical concerts.

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