Things to do in Covent Garden | A Locals Guide to Where to Eat, Drink & Shop

Covent Garden is located in London’s West End, the city’s theatre and entertainment hub. It’s a must-see destination in the capital for anyone who enjoys shopping, restaurants, bars, theatre and history. The area is also a great base for a stay in London, being centrally located with loads of amazing hotels.

For much of its past, Covent Garden was home to a world-famous fruit and vegetable market, dating as far back as 1654. However, due to continuous expansion and increasing popularity leading to congestion in the area, the market was relocated to the ‘New Covent Garden Market’ in Nine Elms in 1974, where it has remained ever since.

Covent Garden is now one of the cities most popular attractions with both locals and tourists alike, with the original market buildings on the pedestrianised piazza being used for a range of new purposes from a shopping centre to a museum.

To help those planning a visit one of London’s most vibrant areas, here’s my ultimate guide to Covent Garden…

Things to do in Covent Garden London

 

Covent Garden Through the Seasons

My number one piece of advice when it comes to visiting Covent Garden is that just because you’ve been once, doesn’t mean you’ve seen everything this vibrant part of London’s West End has to offer.

Like most of London, Covent Garden prides itself on it’s elaborate Christmas displays, with giant mistletoe chandeliers and baubles, a huge Christmas tree covered in 30,000 lights, a magnificent silver reindeer and plenty of other festive decorations filling the main piazza for most of November and December.

But unlike other areas of the city, Covent Garden also keeps up its ‘Instagram appeal’ throughout the rest of the year too, with its beautiful floral displays over the summer months and Europe’s largest pumpkin in the Autumn. If you get a chance to visit Covent Garden during the different seasons, be sure to check out the main piazza and see what’s going on!

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Things to do in Covent Garden

Covent Garden Street Performers

One of the things that Covent Garden is particularly well known for is its living statues. The street between the underground station and the main piazza is where you’ll find the majority of the statues, from golden minors to floating yodas. A particular hit with the younger generations!

Things to do in Covent Garden London

The West Piazza outside St Pauls Church (referred to as the ‘actor’s church’ because of its association with the theatre community), is where you’ll find some of the best street performers in the whole of London. Be prepared for jugglers, comedians, daredevils, contortionists, escape artists, magicians, acrobats and more. The shows are free for anyone to watch, but if you enjoyed it be sure to leave a tip at the end!

See a list of regular performers here.

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Inside the main Market Building, you’ll often find more street performers such as regular musicians who play in the downstairs area to guests eating in the surrounding restaurants. Sit on the outside tables of one of the cafes or restaurants to enjoy the free live music, or simply look down for the railings above.

Things to do in Covent Garden London

London Transport Museum

Set on the corner of the main piazza in the old Grade II-listed Flower Market building, The London Transport Museum explores the story of London and its transport system over the last 200 years. With its collection of over 450,000 items, the museum highlights the powerful link between transport and the growth of modern London, culture and society.

Some of the exhibitions include vintage red London buses, the world’s first Underground steam train and Harry Beck’s original artwork for the London Underground map. There are even a few interactive exhibitions including a tube driving simulator.

Make sure to book online for cheaper tickets. Tickets are valid for unlimited entry for a whole year.

Things to do in Covent Garden London

 

Covent Garden Theatre

Royal Opera House

London’s Royal Opera House is located on Covent Garden’s main piazza, with performances and events happen almost every day. Check out the schedule to see what’s coming up and book tickets.

There’s also more to do inside than just the evening shows. The Opera House is open every day from 10am so that anyone can step inside and explore the venue. The main foyer, cafes and shop are always open to the public, while backstage tours are available to book throughout the day.

Theatre Royal

The regal Theatre Royal on Drury Lane is a Grade I listed building and the most recent of four incarnations of the theatre, the first of which opened in 1663, making it the oldest continuously used playhouse in London. Take a backstage tour of the world-famous theatre and hear numerous stories from its interesting and somewhat troubling past, which includes tragedy, fire, bankruptcy and even murder.

The Theatre is also currently showing performances of Take That musical ‘The Band’ and the much anticipated ‘Only Fools and Horses the Musical’. Find upcoming shows and book tickets here.

Top Secret Comedy Club

Voted the best stand-up comedy club in the UK, the Top Secret Comedy Club hosts daily comedy shows with a whole range of hilarious comedians. Depending on the day of the week, you could be seeing some of London’s newest talents or existing big names on the comedy scene trying out their new material. With tickets costing just £10, Top Secret Comedy Club isn’t just one of the funniest nights out in London’s West End, but also one of the best value for money.

 

Where to Eat in Covent Garden

When it comes to choosing where to eat in Covent Garden, there are so many different options to suit all taste buds and budgets. So here I’ve decided to list just a few of the top restaurants in Covent Garden, from the best quick and cheap restaurants to the slightly more luxurious…

Quick & Cheap Restaurants in Covent Garden

Shake Shack – The UK’s first ever Shake Shack still sits in its original location in the historic Market Building, serving gourmet takes on fast-food classics such as tasty burgers and crinkle fries.

Address: The Piazza, 24 Market Building, London WC2E 8RD

Maxwells Bar and Grill –  An all-American diner-style venue exclusive to the West End, serving American classics including burgers, steaks, ribs, fajitas, wings, steaks and ginormous freakshakes. Maxwells is certainly one of the most fun restaurants in Covent Garden, with affordable prices for the large size of the dishes. Plus, on ‘Monday Madness’ there’s up to 50% off of all main courses.

Address: 34 King St, London WC2E 8JD

Farmstand – Taking inspiration from the roadside stalls of the American Midwest, Farmstand specialises in homegrown, local and seasonal food for affordable prices. The restaurant serves quick but healthy and nutritious dishes, with several meat, vegetarian and vegan options.

Address: 42 Drury Ln, London WC2B 5AJ

Meat Liquor’s MEATmarket – London’s well-known chain Meat Liquor has taken a slightly different approach with its Covent Garden branch, with more casual counter service. The restaurant serves a wide selection of delicious and innovative burgers, hot dogs, wings, fries and sides. During weekdays from 12-5pm you can grab a burger, fries and drink for just £10.

Address: Jubilee Market Hall, The Deck, Tavistock St, London WC2E 8BE

Battersea Pie Station – Located downstairs in the central Market Building, Battersea Pie Station serves some of the best proper British pies and mash in London, with old-fashioned pastry, free-range meat and fresh vegetables sourced from the British Isles. A pie, mash and a drink will set you back around £12 and food is served in just a matter of minutes for eat in or take away.

Address: 28 The Market, London WC2E 8RA

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Mid-Range Restaurants in Covent Garden

Palm Court Brasserie – A Parisian brasserie with 1920’s art nouveau decor serving classic French and Mediterranean dishes. A lovely and elegant setting with loads of affordable options and set menus. Read my full review of Palm Court here.

Address: 39 King St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JS

Buns and Buns – Set right in the centre of Covent Garden market, Buns and Buns is a fine-casual restaurant offering a curated selection of traditional and innovative dishes paired with breads and buns from around the world. Buns and Buns is a particularly great place to sit and people watch while grabbing a bite to eat.

Address: 5 Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 8RA

Flat Iron – The Covent Garden branch of the capital’s affordable, walk-in only steak restaurant chain. Get a flat iron steak for just £10, then spice it up with plenty of tasty toppings, sides, sauces and drinks.

Address: 17-18 Henrietta St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8QH

Fire and Stone – Branding itself as ‘gourmet global food’, Fire and Stone serves pizzas and burgers inspired by different countries all across the world. Their unique dishes include the likes of the ‘MUMBAI’ pizza, with chicken tikka and spinach paneer served with poppadoms, mango chutney and tzatziki, or the ‘SEVILLE’ burger, a 6oz beef patty with grilled goats cheese, Serrano ham and sweet red onions. Main dishes cost roughly £12-15, however, the restaurant often offers 2-4-1 so make sure to keep an eye out!

Address: 31/32 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7JS

Chez Antoinette – A quaint French restaurant filled with antique furniture and crockery, serving delicious and authentic traditional dishes from the food capital of France, Lyon. The restaurant specialises in Tartines, which are slices of toasted organic bread topped with a variety of ingredients, including brie de meaux, jambon crux and rillettes. From the pre-theatre menu (12-7pm), you can pick up a tartine, soup or salad, soft drink and dessert for just £16.

Address: Unit 30, The Market, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RE

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Luxury Restaurants in Covent Garden

The Ivy Market Grill – A sophisticated all-day dining restaurant with a lovely terrace overlooking the piazza, The Ivy Market Grill serves an extremely extensive menu of quintessentially British dishes. It is also one of the best spots in Covent Garden for brunch and afternoon tea.

Address: 1a Henrietta St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8PS

SUSHISAMBA – London’s original SUSHISAMBA is located on the 38th and 39th floors at 110 Bishopsgate in the city and is well-known for having the highest outdoor dining terraces in Europe. In 2018, SUSHISAMBA made their iconic restaurant more accessible by opening a second (much nearer to ground level) restaurant in Covent Garden’s main piazza.

Address: 35 The Market Building, London WC2E 8RF

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Lima Floral – Younger sibling to its Michelin starred sister restaurant Lima London, Lima Floral serves contemporary Peruvian cuisine using fresh and seasonal ingredients. This vibrant restaurant is a great place to try some unique new flavours or simply enjoy a pisco sour in its lively Latin American bar. Read my full review of Lima Floral here.

Address: 14 Garrick St, London WC2E 9BJ

 

 

Ice-Cream in Covent Garden

One thing that Covent Garden has a particularly good offering of is ice cream parlours, and therefore it was only fair to give it its very own section. No matter what time of year it is, make sure to pop by and pick up a scoop of your favourite dairy (or non-dairy) treat and take a walk around the piazza watching the living statues and street performers.

Morelli’s Gelato – A family business which dates all the way back to 1907 when the Morellis brought their ice-cream over to the UK from Italy to sell by bicycle. Over the last 100+ years, the ice-cream company has continued to grow, now with 12 gelato shops across different parts of the world (but just this one in London).

Address: Unit 20A, The Market Building, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RB

Venchi ‘chocogelateria’ – Venchi’s is a chocolate and artisan gelato haven in the centre of Covent Garden, serving a wide selection of authentic Italian ice-cream from the Italian city of Turin.

Address: Unit 18, The Market Building, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RB

Udderlicious – An independent ice-cream parlour in Covent Garden serving both dairy ice cream and vegan ice cream, with new flavours every month made freshly in-store.

Address: 24 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LN

Milk Train – The ice-cream shop which became insta-famous thanks to being home to the first candy floss ice cream cone in the UK. Make sure to have your camera at the ready when purchasing one of Milk Train’s elaborate creations!

Address: 12 Tavistock St, London WC2E 7PH

 

 

Coffee Shops in Covent Garden

There are loads of great coffee shops in Covent Garden to stop for a quick drink while exploring. Here are a couple of my favourite…

Covent Garden Grind – A hip espresso bar with a cool atmosphere and walls lined with neon signs, serving a wide range of hot drinks and a small food menu with pastries and breakfast dishes. In the evenings, Grind also has its own cocktail menu.

Address: 42 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7LJ

Ladurée – One of the most centrally located coffee shops/eateries in Covent Garden, Ladurée is a cafe by luxury French bakery and sweets maker of the same name. Enjoy hot drinks, pastries, macaroons and more while people watching from their lovely outdoor terrace stretched out across the main piazza. A little more on the expensive side but worth it for the high quality and location!

Address: 1 The Market, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RA

Things to do in Covent Garden London

 

Where to Drink in Covent Garden

Best Pubs in Covent Garden

Punch and Judy Pub – A Green King Pub in the central Market building, fittingly named after the first ever Punch and Judy puppet show which is thought to have taken place on the same spot. The upstairs terrace looks out over the West Piazza and has a great view over the street performers below.

Address: 40 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8RF

The Nags Head – A traditional English pub with a Victorian interior serving draught beers and proper pub grub. Conveniently located opposite the Covent Garden tube station.

Address: 10 James St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8BT

Best Bars in Covent Garden

Dirty Martini – A glamorous and sophisticated basement bar renowned for their bespoke range of Martinis and extensive selection of cocktails. Dirty Martini’s Happy Hour has half price martinis, £20 bottles of Prosecco, £12.50 bottles of wine and £3.50 bottled beer and cider.

Address: 11-12 Russell St, London WC2B 5HZ

Roadhouse – By day, Roadhouse is a restaurant serving American classics, while by night, the venue turns into Covent Garden’s biggest bar and nightclub, with live music, entertainment and DJ’s until 3am Monday to Saturday. A night in Roadhouse is one of the best things to do in Covent Garden at night.

Address: 35 The Piazza, London WC2E 8BE

 

Where to Shop in Covent Garden

One of the most popular things to do in Covent Garden has to be shopping, with everything from market stalls to high-end brands in and around the central piazza.

Covent Garden Markets

The Apple Market Covent Garden is a craft market in the central Market Building. From Tuesday to Sunday the market is filled with handmade goods, artwork and beautiful crafts, whilst on Mondays, you’ll find a one-off antiques and collectables market.

In the South Piazza, you’ll find the lesser known Jubilee Market Hall, with an antiques market on Mondays, a general market on Tuesdays to Fridays, and an arts and crafts market at the weekends. The Jubilee Market is particularly good for picking up London souvenirs.

Covent Garden Markets are open every day from 10am to 6pm.

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Inside the central Market Building there are plenty of other shops including luxury brands such as Channel, as well as many quirky independent stores that you’ll only find in Covent Garden. Here are just a few of my favourites…

Sass & Belle – An innovative gift and homeware shop selling exciting and original products, from unicorn lamps to map covered travel accessories. One of my favourite shops in London for picking up cute unique gifts for friends and family.

Address: 31 The Market, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RE

Segar and Snuff – A cool little store selling a selection of Havana cigars, handcrafted English briar pipes, as well as snuff blends dating back to Jacobean times.

Address: 27a The Market, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RD

The Moomin Shop – A shop selling everything branded around kids cartoon characters ‘The Moomins’ from the series of books and a comic strip by Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, dating back as far as 1945.

Address: 43 Covent Garden Market, London WC2E 8RF

Benjamin Pollacks Toy Shop – Covent Garden’s boutique toyshop which has been selling toys and games to adults and children alike for over 100 years. The shop is particularly well-known for it’s beautifully intricate card toy theatres which are worth popping by to look at, even if you don’t plan on taking one home.

Address: 44 The Market, London WC2E 8RF

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Covent Garden Piazza

Surrounding the central piazza itself there are many well-known high-end stores, with beauty brands such as Bobbi Brown, MAC Cosmetics and Clinique, fashion brands including Molton Brown and Mulberry, and electronic shops such as a large Apple store. Covent Garden is an ideal shopping spot for those who enjoy a little luxury.

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Covent Garden Area

As I mentioned previously, Covent Garden is not just restricted to the main piazza and its market halls. Covent Garden incorporates the surrounding streets where you’ll find loads of amazing shopping opportunities, from high street to high-end.

Find a full list of all of the shops in and around Covent Garden here.

Things to do in Covent Garden London

For book lovers – Literary lovers should head down to southern Covent Garden and seek out 10 Henrietta Street where Jane Austin lived with her brother in 1814. Close by is Cecil Court which dates back to the 17th century and is now referred to as Booksellers Row due it’s numerous second hand and antique bookshops. It is also believed to be the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.

Address: Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4EZ

For travel lovers – Make sure to check out Stanford’s, the World’s biggest and best map and travel bookshop. The shop dates back 160 years, moving to its location in Covent Garden in 1901.

Address: 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9LP

CLOSED For chocolate lovers – Certainly don’t miss a visit to Choccywoccydoodah, an absolute haven for chocolate lovers. Admire their offering of beautiful bespoke cakes and amazing chocolate creations, while trying to stop yourself from purchasing every item in the shop.

Address: 27 Short’s Gardens, London WC2H 9AP

For fashion lovers – One of my favourite shops in Covent Garden has to be Melissa Galeria, iconic shoe brand Melissa’s UK HQ. The shop-cum-art gallery is in partnership with designer Muti Randolph, who has given the store a futuristic feel with LED lights which change with each unique installation. And for those who are actually interested in buying the shoes, you’ll find them in museum-esque glass boxes lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling.

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Things to do in Covent Garden London


Enjoyed this post? Pin it for later:

Things to do in Covent Garden London

 

Follow:
*The spending money for my recent day out in Covent Garden was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are entirely my own.