Exploring Covent Garden
I’ve lived in London for over ten years now, and so I think I know the city fairly well, but I love exploring and finding new places to eat and drink, and I always find it fun being a tourist in my own city.
Growing up, a lot of what I did revolved around ballet and the theatre, and so whenever I came to London it would often be to stay at one of the amazing hotels in Covent Garden and see a show at the Royal Opera House, or head to a musical somewhere in the West End, but since living here, and especially since having Dougie, my time spent in central London has really dwindled. So, when Hotels.com* challenged me to explore Covent Garden I was really excited to head back to somewhere that I had loved so much.
Covent Garden is really easy to get to on the tube. Covent Garden station is served by the Piccadilly line, there are a few steps (not fun with a buggy!) and then there are lifts to the street. It can get really busy, but Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines), Holborn (Central line) and Embankment (Circle, District, Bakerloo and Northern lines) are only a few minutes walk away. You can’t cycle in the piazza, but there are nearby bike racks. The cobbles of Covent Garden are definitely best explored on foot, and the square is pedestrianised.
The area has an incredible history, dating back to the 7th century. A fruit and vegetable market was located on the south side of the square in 1654, but the area ended up becoming known as a red-light district. An Act of Parliament was drawn up to help the market, and the market steadily grew. Now the district is home to many theatres, including the famous Royal Opera House, numerous bars, pubs and restaurants, shops, St Paul’s Church and the London Transport Museum…
London Transport Museum
Dougie has been obsessed with trains and cars for several months now, and as the London Transport Museum is in Covent Garden, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take him. Located in the Covent Garden Piazza, the London Transport Museum explores the transport heritage of London and the growth of the city. The collection is really impressive, with trains, underground carriages, buses, trams, taxis and bikes. There are interactive features (Dougie was a big fan of pressing a button that moved models of old underground trains) and a play area for kids.
The museum often hosts workshops and there is a café and gift shop. Dougie attempted to walk off with half the toy trains in the shop, but eventually chose a wooden underground train which he hasn’t let go of. The museum itself is really interesting, there are a lot of kids running about but it’s definitely somewhere I’ll go back to with Dougie.
London Transport Museum
Adults: £17.50 (ticket is valid for a year)
Covent Garden in winter is absolutely stunning. Festive floral displays are so popular at the moment, and I think Covent Garden has really outdone itself this year. The area is always busy, and there were a lot of people taking photos and getting into the festive spirit, but there are plenty of displays so you’ll be spoilt for choice if you’re hoping to get that perfect shot for Instagram!
Covent Garden is licensed for street entertainment, and there are street performances all year round. Samuel Pepys actually recorded the first mention of a Punch and Judy show in Covent Garden in his diary in 1662! The street performers are a mix of musicians, mimes, circus acts, jugglers and comedians, and they are always so entertaining to watch.
Eating and drinking
Whether you’re after a pre- or post-theatre meal, breakfast or brunch, fine dining or a quick snack, there are so many incredible places to eat in Covent Garden, including SushiSamba, Petersham Nurseries, Buns & Buns, Shake Shack… there’s even Avobar – London’s first all-avocado dining concept! I was meeting the lovely Marie (who was kind enough to take the photos of me attempting to be festive!) for brunch, and so we chose to head to The Ivy Market Grill. It looked beautifully festive outside and the service was excellent. I opted for the vegetarian breakfast (£12.50) and the peach and elderflower iced tea (£4.50), both of which were delicious.
There are also many pubs, bars and cafes, several of which are listed buildings. I’d really recommend Covent Garden Grind if you’re after a coffee catch-up with friends, and Blind Spot if you fancy yummy cocktails after work.
The Royal Opera House
I can’t do a post about Covent Garden without mentioning The Royal Opera House. Founded in 1732, it is home to the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera companies. I’ve been to see several ballets at the ROH, and been on a couple of backstage tours. Backstage tours are often booked up very quickly, but they are absolutely fascinating, so I’d highly recommend it if you get the chance. Ticket prices for the tours are around £12-£15. There is a café and a gift shop at the ROH which are open to the public – my bedroom walls used to be plastered in posters from the shop!
I had so much fun exploring Covent Garden. One of the great things about the area is that it’s one of those places that you can spend hours without actually spending any money because there is so much to see – it’s an excellent place for people-watching! It can get really busy as it’s a popular tourist spot, but it’s so beautiful and full of life that it’s an amazing place to visit. I loved visiting it with Dougie as well – the cobbled, pedestrianised area meant he could run around a bit, and there is plenty for kids to see and do.
Have you visited Covent Garden before?
*The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.