May 19, 2024

Initially known as Convent Backyard, London’s iconic Covent Backyard was the place Westminster Abbey’s monks grew and offered their greens within the 1500s. When King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, he dissolved all of the monasteries, and Covent Backyard was deeded to John Russell, the first Earl of Bedford. Bedford and Russell Streets had been named to notice the household’s affect in creating London’s first piazza within the 1630s, when the royal architect Inigo Jones was commissioned to construct a church and a residential sq. of posh homes, which attracted meals distributors.

At the moment, Covent Backyard was a rural outpost of the Metropolis of London, so when the plague hit in 1665 and the Nice Fireplace destroyed a lot of London the next yr, scores of displaced Londoners flocked west and landed at Covent Backyard.

To stem the speedy enlargement — and to generate profits from the meals distributors — the fifth Earl of Bedford legally formalized the market in 1670. In the meantime, King Charles II granted permission for 2 theaters to be constructed at Covent Backyard: Theatre Royal on Drury Lane and the Royal Opera Home, cementing the world as London’s theatrical heart.

As Covent Backyard developed right into a bustling daytime market and a night heart for rowdy nightlife (full with prostitutes and pickpockets), the the Aristocracy migrated westward towards a extra genteel surroundings. Opportunists moved in and transformed the luxurious houses into taverns, playing homes, coffeehouses, and brothels. The world was so seedy {that a} pamphlet was printed known as Harris’s Checklist of Covent Backyard Girls — which described every woman’s particular “companies”!

In 1828, the sixth Earl of Bedford transformed the market house to what guests see right this moment. Listed below are 18 free (or practically free) methods to take pleasure in Covent Backyard.

20 Free (Or Practically Free) Issues To Do In Covent Backyard

1. Be part of A Tour

The London Transport Museum presents a Secrets and techniques of Central London tour that begins at Covent Backyard, meanders right down to Embankment, and skirts Trafalgar Sq., stopping at offbeat locations the place the educated tour information presents attention-grabbing details about London’s transport system.

It’s a enjoyable, quirky tour that includes lots of strolling, so put on snug footwear and costume for the climate.

Or, for an much more reasonably priced choice, take your personal self-guided strolling tour round Covent Backyard written by award-winning creator and historian Peter Ackroyd.

A free street performance at Covent Garden.

dinosmichail / Shutterstock

2. Watch A Road Efficiency

Covent Backyard has a wealthy historical past of buskers and performers courting to 1662 Punch and Judy puppet reveals! Following the 1658 dying of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, who had banned theater, King Charles II regained the throne and expanded England’s tradition — together with sanctioning the Opera Home and the Theatre Royal. European avenue performers poured into Covent Backyard, together with an Italian puppeteer who carried out a precursor to Punch and Judy beneath the portico of St. Paul’s Church, which holds a particular service for London’s puppeteers yearly.

Right this moment, the broad stretch of piazza in entrance of Saint Paul’s Church is prime house for jugglers, acrobats, and dancers.

Saint Paul's Church near Covent Garden.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

3. Take A Break In The Actors’ Church

Saint Paul’s Church is named the Actors’ Church for its inventive congregation and its proximity to the Royal Opera Home and the Theatre Royal. In-built 1633 by Inigo Jones and rebuilt after a hearth in 1795, the church options memorials to Charlie Chaplin, Vivien Leigh, and Noel Coward, amongst others. The again gardens supply a stunning respite from Covent Backyard’s crowds.

The church presents quite a lot of performances — together with free lunchtime live shows — and has its personal resident theater firm, Iris Theatre, and symphony, Sinfonia.

The flat of the serial killer from Frenzy.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

4. Stare Up At The Flat Of Frenzy’s Serial Killer

As a baby, Alfred Hitchcock spent many hours at Covent Backyard along with his father, who was a fruit importer. The well-known director’s solely “X-rated” film, Frenzy, was filmed in and round this acquainted stomping floor.

Hitch opens the trailer for the 1972 film by standing available in the market loading a sack of potatoes.

“This,” he intones, “is the scene of a horrible homicide. It’s the well-known wholesale fruit and vegetable market, Covent Backyard. Right here, it’s possible you’ll purchase the fruits of evil and the horrors of greens.”

In a unprecedented monitoring shot, the digital camera follows the serial killer from a pub by the busy London market and up the steps to his flat at 3 Henrietta Road, a block away. Though the home shouldn’t be marked, it’s not laborious to comply with the assassin’s path!

Rules, London's oldest restaurant.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

5. Pop Into London’s Oldest Restaurant

Since its opening in 1798, Guidelines has been the place to stargaze. Many actors, writers, artists, and journalists — together with Dickens, Wells, Chaplin, Gable, and Olivier — have graced its tables and now grace its partitions in framed pictures. Guidelines even has its personal movie creds: It was the setting for a James Bond lunch assembly in 2015’s Spectre.

One other nice vacation spot to check out scrumptious meals is the Twinings.

6. Pay Homage To Turner

Down the road from Guidelines is the place the painter J. M. W. Turner was born within the flat above his father’s barbershop. Whereas the unique constructing is not standing, a plaque marks the spot. Turner was baptized in Saint Paul’s Church, simply two blocks away.

The prolific painter, who produced greater than 550 oil work, 2,000 watercolors, and 30,000 works on paper, helped set up the Nationwide Gallery in close by Trafalgar Sq.. Elsewhere in London, his work hangs within the British Museum and the Tate Britain, and his self-portrait graces Britain’s £20 word.

The shop at the London Transport Museum.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

7. Store Until You Drop

Whereas a plethora of worldwide chain shops ring Covent Backyard, two retailers supply distinctive presents: the Royal Opera Home and the London Transport Museum. The previous options gorgeous notecards, calendars, totes, jewellery, and, after all, tutus! The latter sells classic Tube transport posters and signage, plus jigsaw puzzles, mugs, and shirts that includes the enduring Tube map.

The London Transport Museum near Covent Garden.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

8. Take A Trip Again In Time At The Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum isn’t only for children — though the bottom ground has reproductions of classic buses and prepare vehicles for children to climb although. Because the elevator rises to the third ground, the digital signal above the door doesn’t mark the flooring of the carry’s ascension. As an alternative, it rolls again the years from the current to 1800. When the doorways half, guests are greeted with classic carriages and prepare vehicles. Though the shows are in depth, the general public assortment represents a mere two p.c of the museum’s complete assortment of memorabilia! The rest is warehoused and periodically opened to the general public. (Verify the web site for depot open weekends.)

Professional Tip: You may get half off your admission by taking the Secrets and techniques of Central London tour talked about above.

9. Go to The London Movie Museum

Subsequent to the London Transport Museum is the London Movie Museum, which just lately housed a show of the biggest assortment of James Bond’s automobiles. Watch the web site for upcoming displays.

The Royal Opera House in London.

Willy Barton / Shutterstock

10. Expertise An Opera Or Ballet

Dwelling to each the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, the Royal Opera Home was one of many unique theaters in-built Covent Backyard. It’s doable to search out tickets for as little as £10 to expertise performances by these world-class firms. The Royal Opera Home additionally presents an array of on-line and in-person lessons and lectures.

11. Tour The World’s Oldest Operational Theater

The opposite theater sanctioned by King Charles II in 1663 was the close by Theatre Royal, which can reopen in spring of 2021 with Disney’s Frozen.

The theater presents backstage excursions that not solely present behind-the-scenes glimpses of a few of the West Finish’s hottest reveals, but in addition supply tales of the theater’s historical past that characteristic fires, chapter, and even homicide!

12. Scale An Ice Wall

Launch your interior mountaineer on the Vertical Chill ice wall. What a option to quiet down throughout these London warmth waves!

The plaque where Jane Austen live in Covent Garden.

Electrical Egg / Shutterstock

13. Tip Your Hat To Your Favourite Authors

Dozens of authors have lived round Covent Backyard. Search for the blue and inexperienced plaques indicating the place they lived. Jane Austen lived at 10 Henrietta Road, simply up from Hitchcock’s serial killer. The younger Charles Dickens labored on the nook of Chandos Place and Bedford Road. To flee a jail sentence, the French author and thinker Voltaire lived in exile at 10 Maiden Lane, simply up the road from Guidelines.

14. Discover The Setting Of Your Favourite Film

Covent Backyard has served because the setting for a few of the world’s most beloved movie characters, from James Bond (Spectre, 2015) to Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins Returns, 2018) to Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001).

The Bow Street Police Museum in Covent Garden.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

15. Go to The Bow Road Police Museum

As a consequence of open in December of 2020, this new museum is positioned on the positioning of the previous Bow Road Metropolitan Police Station and Magistrates’ Courtroom, the place Oscar Wilde was tried for “gross indecency” after it was revealed he’d had a gay affair and Emmeline Pankhurst and different suffragettes had been tried for his or her “militancy” when preventing for the fitting to vote.

Though ladies weren’t allowed to follow legislation, defendants had been allowed to symbolize themselves. When Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline’s daughter who had a legislation diploma, defended herself, she turned the UK’s first certified girl to cross-examine witnesses in courtroom.

The Freemasons Museum in Covent Garden.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

16. Study About The Historical past Of The Freemasons

Freemasonry is taken into account the world’s largest secret fraternity. Began within the Center Ages by stonemasons and cathedral builders who needed to guard their work, the group unfold all through the British Empire in the course of the 18th century. Well-known Masons included Henry Ford, Josephine Baker, Rudyard Kipling, Ty Cobb, Ben Franklin, Duke Ellington, John Wayne, Oscar Wilde, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who allegedly took Masonic scarfs to the moon.

Find out about this fascinating and controversial society on the Freemasons’ Corridor, a formidable constructing two blocks from Covent Backyard. Take a free guided tour of the artwork deco constructing and its shows of ribbons and different paraphernalia or take pleasure in a free organ live performance on the two,600-pipe organ.

Somerset House near Covent Garden.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

17. Get pleasure from The Views From The Roof Of Somerset Home

As soon as the house of the younger Queen Elizabeth I earlier than she was topped and later the repository for start, dying, and marriage certificates, Somerset Home has a wealthy historical past. Situated simply 4 blocks from Covent Backyard, it’s additionally the place the place the outstanding architect Inigo Jones — who designed Covent Backyard’s arches and Saint Paul’s Church — died.

Now a multicultural arts heart, Somerset Home hosted the primary Royal Academy Exhibition again in 1779 and right this moment options rotating displays. The Courtauld Institute of Artwork can also be housed right here. The rooftop cafe is a stunning place to view the Thames.

Throughout the road from Somerset Home is the place Guglielmo Marconi first broadcast over his wi-fi telegraph. His places of work later turned the primary station of the BBC. The constructing, positioned on The Strand, now contains 18 luxurious penthouses, one among which is owned by Simon Cowell.

Sarastro, a popular restaurant at Covent Garden.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

18. Eat!

Dozens of world-class eating places, bakeries, coffeehouses, and bars ring Covent Backyard. You possibly can take pleasure in numerous culinary delights. Get pleasure from basic British dishes like fish and chips at The Ivy, or savor connoisseur burgers at Shake Shack. For a style of Italy, go to Balthazar for scrumptious pasta. Dishoom presents distinctive Indian delicacies, whereas Ladurée tempts with beautiful French pastries and macarons. My favourite spot is Sarastro, with its quirky, kitschy decor and dwell music.

19. Discover the Well-known Covent Backyard’s Markets

Constructed again within the nineteenth century, the Apple Market ranks among the many most iconic and among the best issues to do in Covent Backyard. Perched proper within the coronary heart of the neighborhood, Apple Market is stuffed with indie market stalls, boutique retailers, and a few correct quirky locations.

Alternatively, Jubilee Market is your home to go if it’s little souvenirs, antiques, or bobbleheads of the queen you want. Each day markets right here shut between 5-7 pm every night, so the timing of your go to doesn’t matter so long as it’s not too late within the day.

20. Uncover Neil’s Yard and Seven Dials, London’s Hidden Gems 

Situated inside Seven Dials, a novel junction the place seven streets converge at a single level, Neal’s Yard is dwelling to a group of impartial eating places, cafes, retailers, and well-being manufacturers focusing on sustainable and moral practices. 

The enclave accommodates the enduring Neal’s Yard Treatments, Neal’s Yard Dairy, and the favored Monmouth Espresso on Monmouth Road. There’s additionally a tiny nod to the Beatles’ historical past that you could be miss in case you don’t look rigorously – a small blue plaque on 13 Monmouth Road.


What Is Covent Backyard Identified For?

Situated within the coronary heart of London’s West Finish, the Covent Backyard space is one among London’s most-loved neighborhoods. From prime designer retailers, finest reveals, and avenue performers to distinctive museums and iconic sights, no matter you’re searching for, you’ll discover it right here.

How Many Markets Are There in Covent Backyard?

There are three totally different markets in Covent Backyard: the Apple Market, the East Colonnade Market, and the Jubilee Market. All are open seven days per week however are smaller than different London day by day markets akin to Portobello or Spitalfields.

Get to Covent Backyard?

One of the simplest ways to get to Covent Backyard is to stroll. Covent Backyard is centrally positioned and inside straightforward strolling distance of Soho, Leicester Sq., and Trafalgar Sq.. Covent Backyard station is on the Piccadilly Line of London’s Tube. Alternatively, use Leicester Sq. or Trafalgar Sq. Underground stations.

How A lot Time Do I Want at Covent Backyard?

It is going to in all probability take round two hours, however if you wish to get some procuring completed or go on a strolling tour of the streets surrounding the world, you can simply spend a complete day right here. Covent Backyard is open to the general public and may be freely accessed day and night time.

Is Covent Backyard Enjoyable at Evening?

Sure, Covent Backyard takes on a brand new character as night time settles over the cobbled streets. Whether or not you’re into comedy, dwell music, or partying, the bustling daytime market transitions right into a vibrant nightlife scene that mirrors the eclectic spirit of the district.