1. London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum explores 200 years of London transport history, detailing its important link to the city’s growth.
This is a little gem of a museum, with engaging exhibitions and interactive displays that both you and the kids will enjoy.
The museum's second floor, the start of your visit, is devoted to late 18th and early 19th century London transport, principally horse-drawn carriages (cabriolets and the omnibus), trams, and steam engines.
Next, there is an exhibition on London's first underground line, the Metropolitan Line between Paddington and Farringdon. Opened in 1863, this was the world's first underground railway!
The first floor charts the growth of the network in the late 19th century and is home to the All Aboard Family Playzone (your kids can even drive a London bus!).
The ground floor is the museum's main exhibition space and has displays a number of trains, trams and buses. It is also home to a great soft-play. Exhibitions dotted around the perimeter of the ground floor include:
- Digging deeper (which explains how James Greathead's tunnelling machine allowed deeper tube lines to be constructed)
- London's transport at war (which highlights how women took over a variety of traditionally male dominated jobs during the two world wars)
- Future engineers (complete with a simulator in which you can drive a train)
As a general comment, there are loads of trains, buses, tubes, trams and other forms of transport to jump aboard - making this a fantastic option for children.
The Hidden London temporary exhibition (on show until late 2023) takes you on an immersive exploration of some of the forgotten parts of the world’s first underground network.
You will learn about the role this subterranean transport network played during the second world war, including where Churchill took shelter during the Blitz.
The museum is located on Covent Garden Piazza. Visitors can buy souvenirs to mark their visit from an array of transport inspired items in the museum shop, while the cafe bar offers a choice of refreshments.
The museum also arranges walks, heritage days out and heritage vehicle outings, providing you with even more opportunities to get up and close to London’s important transport history.
Adult tickets cost £18.50, but are valid for a year. Under 17s go free.
2. Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden offers a stream of world class performances and programs for all.
Whether you consider yourself an opera or ballet aficionado, or are a complete novice to these art forms, the Royal Opera House has something for you.
Forget the starchiness often associated with opera, the Royal Opera House is accessible to all. There is no dress code and tickets to performances can be bought for under £10.
Yet there is still a special feeling when you attend the Royal Opera House, a feeling of a special night ahead. This begins once the ornate, glass domed building comes in to view and carries on in to the lush, red velvet seated auditorium.
There has been a theatre on this site since 1732, but the two previous incarnations perished to fire. This beautiful glass and iron wrought building once housed the flower market and eventually became the Royal Opera House in 1892.
It is connected to the Royal Ballet School by the striking Bridge of Aspiration.
The Royal Opera House has a number of options for food and drink. The building houses a selection of restaurants, cafes, and bars where you can enjoy a meal and a drink before and after a performance.
Once home to the famous fruit and vegetable market, Covent Garden still houses three distinctive markets.
The Apple Market continues in the tradition of its famed predecessor by providing a place for independent traders to sell their products. Here you can find unique handmade craft items, including jewellery, prints and soaps.
As well as all the fun stalls, the market is lined with bars and restaurants where you can relax and watch London market life. The market operates from Tuesday to Sunday, opening to the public from 10am.
East Colonnade Market
The East Colonnade market offers stalls selling a similar selection of handmade products. Located on East Piazza this market is open every day of the week.
This market is held within the Jubilee Hall, built in 1904. Located in Tavistock Court, the Jubilee market was officially opened by the Queen in 1987.
The general market operates Tuesday to Friday, with an Antiques market on Monday and an Arts and Craft market at the weekend. Therefore, whichever day you choose to visit Covent Garden, the Jubilee market will be open.
The shopping experience is at the heart of many a visitor’s trip to Covent Garden, and with good reason too.
Covent Garden is the ultimate shopping destination, packed full of the biggest brands and independent stores. You can browse and shop for all your fashion, lifestyle and beauty needs from the 200 or so brands present in Covent Garden.
Covent Garden has an abundance of top end clothing stores for both men and women. Here you will find some of the leading fashion designers, including Burberry, Mulberry, BA&SH, Fred Perry, Free People, Paul Smith, Ted Baker and more.
Everybody deserves a little pampering and Covent Garden has the stores for just that. Aesop, Chanel, Jo Malone, Charlotte Tilbury and Toni & Guy are a sample of the quality of store offered to shoppers.
Whether you are looking for that ideal home accessory or the perfect gift, Covent Garden has it covered. Lifestyle stores you will find include Fiona Fleur, Godiva, Hotel Chocolat, Sass & Belle and Molton Brown.
5. Neal’s Yard
Neal’s Yard is a quirky, hidden Covent Market gem. You may well have walked past the entrance to this colourful courtyard without even realising it was there.
This quaint, picture postcard courtyard is close to Charing Cross station, and is accessed through a passageway between Shorts Gardens and Monmouth Street.
The yard is home to brightly coloured buildings, housing an array of independent shops, beauty salons, restaurants and cafes. The shops include Neal’s Yard Remedies and Neal’s Yard dairies, while the various eateries and coffee houses offer a good choice of cuisines, including British, French, Italian and Moroccan.
Neal’s Yard has a relaxed vibe, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. With indoor and outdoor eating, delis and takeaway options, this picturesque courtyard offers its visitors a host of little treats
6. Places to Eat
Covent Garden is renowned for its food offerings and is one of London’s top dining destinations. If you love your food you will love the choice of dining venues in Covent Garden.
A sample of the best places to eat by cuisine include:
Maxwells is a popular American-style diner set out cross two floors. The diner is directly opposite Covent Garden station, ideal for sampling their ultimate Cheesebomb burger before heading home. The diner offers daily deals, while their ice cream parlour allows you to indulge your sweet tooth on their ever changing selection of Freakshakes.
Balthazar offers French brasserie and bistro classics, and can be found across from the Royal Opera House. Open all day for lunch and evening meals, Balthazar also offers a weekend brunch menu. The restaurant prides itself on using the best ingredients to provide traditional, classic French cuisine. Treat yourself to a limited edition cocktail to add a little extra decadence to your dining experience.
The Flat Iron is a popular steakhouse located on Henrietta Street. The Flat Iron uses locally sourced meat, with the aim to make steak accessible to all once more. Daily specials such as their steak sandwich are offered alongside a regular menu, which can all be washed down with a good selection of beers, wines and cocktails.
Ave Mario is a newcomer to Covent Garden, offering authentic Italian food to visitors. With two dining terraces and an inner courtyard, Ave Mario is a large restaurant brought to Covent Garden by the Big Mamma Group. The menu includes firm favourites such as Carbonara Ravioli and Cotoletta Milanese, which can be followed with their sizeable stracciatella ice cream, covered in chocolate.
7. Infinity Chamber
When you need to take a little pace out of your day and find time to relax, the Infinity Chamber is the perfect place to head.
The Infinity Chamber is a calm oasis located in Conduit Court, consisting of thousands of LED lights to provide a restorative space where you can take time out from a busy, modern world.
This is a tunnel of lights open all day to the public. The colours of the lights regularly change, so you can experience different colours and sensations each time you visit. The Infinity Chamber is free, offering a little escape to us all from the everyday hustle and bustle of city life, allowing you to recharge your batteries before heading back out in to Covent Garden.
Covent Garden sits right in the middle of theatre land.
The West End of London has some of the finest theatres in the world putting on some of the finest productions in the world. Covent Garden is surrounded by 40 of these theatres, offering visitors a wide selection of shows to attend.
The Lyceum Theatre is the closest and has been home to the Lion King since 1999. The Theatre Royal is another favourite of the area and is due to stage Frozen from August 2021. Other nearby theatres include:
- Vaudeville theatre
- Ambassador Theatre
- Adelphi Theatre
- Novello Theatre
- Aldwych Theatre
9. London Film Museum
The second museum on our list pays homage to the world of movies, and in particular the world of espionage frequented by James Bond.
Since 2014 the London Film museum has housed the Bond in Motion exhibition, including displays of classic cars and Bond film props.
In fact the museum, which is located on Wellington Street, plays host to a large collection of Bond movie cars. Movie fans will get a thrill from seeing some of these iconic cars up close. These include cars featured in the classic Bond film Goldfinger, such as the Aston Martin DB-5 and a 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III.
Classic cars from other films including The Spy Who Loved Me and Diamonds Are Forever can also be found in the London Film museum. Visitors will also be treated to quirkier Bond film vehicles such as the submarine in Octopussy which looked like a crocodile.
A new exhibition is due to be added at the London Film, and will display cars and props from the latest Bond film, No Time To Die.
10. Public Places and Festivals
Covent Garden is centred around the historic Piazza square, an iconic pedestrianised zone. This is the ideal spot for al fresco dining, and where events such as festivals are held.
A festival planned for 2021 is the Rosé festival, which will be held over three weeks from 17th May. Pop-up bars on the Piazza and in-store experiences will allow visitors to sample all things rosé.
Live performances entertain you as you stroll through the Piazza. From singers to actors, live statues to acrobats, there is always something to amuse. The Piazza leads on to the nine streets which constitute Covent Garden and house the attractions which brings millions of people to the area each year. Covent Garden Piazza is easily reached on the underground via Covent Garden station on the Piccadilly line or via Charing Cross station, just a two minute walk away.
Look out for the elephants in Floral Court when you visit Covent Garden. These are stunning life sized sculptures made from dried plant fibres, positioned among the shrubs and trees within the court. Another example of the quirky surprises the public spaces of Covent Garden have to offer.
11. A Few More Places to Visit
The following are a few more places in or around Covent Garden which are well worth a visit.
The wonderful Victorian facades of Cecil Court are home to a host of independent stores. Packed with second hand bookshops and antique stores, Cecil Court is believed by many to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.
Cecil Court dates back to the late 17th century and is one of Covent Garden’s oldest thoroughfares. Today it has the look of a Victorian street and is sometimes used as a location by movie makers. The court stages events and festivals through the year, such as the Flicker Alley festival which was a celebration of British cinema heritage.
7 Dials Market
This is another must for the foodie visiting Covent Garden. Located in Earlham Street, this food market is open every day of the week. There is a vibrant, community feel helped by a central communal area where you can sit and eat your food. More seating can be found on the gallery overlooking the main central court.
The stalls within the market offer a good selection of cuisine styles. Choose from Mexican, Japanese, Texas barbecue style food and more. There are also stalls selling pizza, burgers and fish dishes, while a trip to the Cheese Bar will present you with a conveyor belt of expertly chosen cheese pairings to try.
St Paul’s Church
St Paul’s is the parish church of Covent Garden and is also known as the Actor’s church. Completed in 1633 and consecrated in 1638, the church is entered through the gardens. These gardens were the church burial grounds, with victims of the Great Plaque of 1665 among those buried here.
This lovely church has much to see and admire including the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, the Icon Chapel and the Sanctuary. There are also a good number of memorials to actors and other members of the theatre. St Paul’s connection to the theatre stretches back to 1662 with the establishment of the Theatre Royal within the parish.
Covent Garden has its fair share of comedy clubs to get you laughing. The Covent Garden Comedy Club is the largest of the venues and viewed by many as one of the best in London. Some of the UK’s top comedians have played to the 200 seater club in the course of its nearly two decade history.
Meanwhile, the 7 dials club hosts the Top Stand Up Comedy in Covent Garden sessions every Friday and Saturday night. Among the list of renowned comedians who have featured here are Sara Pascoe, Milton Jones, Reginald D. Hunter and Jack Whitehall.
The Courtauld gallery holds a stunning collection of art from some of the world’s greatest masters. Located in Somerset House near Covent Garden, a visit will reward you with works from Manet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rubens and Picasso.
The gallery also houses the largest collection of works by Cezannes. Alongside this impressive collection of artwork visitors are also treated to collections of drawings, prints, sculptures and other fine works of art.