Stuart Forster looks at fun things to do in Covent Garden in London.
Exploring London’s Covent Garden is a great experience at any time of the year. This guide for fun things to do in Covent Garden explores the area, highlights key attractions, things to do plus places to drink and eat.
I visited Covent Garden during the festive season so many of my pictures contain seasonal decorations and illuminations. Visiting at this time makes it particularly rewarding to see the decorations but there are still loads of fun things to do in Covent Garden at any time of the year.
Booking a Covent Garden Hotel puts you in the heart of London, within easy walking distance of many of the British capital’s principal tourist attractions.
Disclosure: This post is a collaboration with Hotels.com. My spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.
Exploring London’s Covent Garden
The heart of the district is Covent Garden Market. The covered, neo-Classical market building formerly sold fruit and vegetables. It’s now occupied by boutique stores that I visited to browse for gift ideas.
The market houses the likes of the Moomin Shop (43 The Market Building), which sells books by Finnish author Tove Jannson and memorabilia depicting characters from her popular series.
In the Ladurée shop (1 The Market) I was impressed by the Champagne Christmas hampers, delightfully presented yule logs and boxes of macaroons. Patrice Demers, the Canadian pastry chef, designed items in Ladurée’s 2019 Christmas range.
Within the market’s South Hall I listened to a talented string quartet before stepping outside to view the Christmas decorations by the compact ice rink.
Covent Garden attractions
The entrance to the London Transport Museum is on the south side of the marketplace. The family-friendly attraction tells the story of public transport in London. It’s inside of the Victorian building that once housed England’s principal flower market.
Old-fashioned horse-drawn omnibuses, Underground cars and red double-deckers count among the museum’s exhibits. I found it easy to while away a couple of hours looking at photos and reading the legends that convey the evolution of transportation in Britain’s biggest city.
The London Film Museum (45 Wellington Street) is currently hosting the open-ended Bond in Motion exhibition. More than 100 vehicles and other artefacts from all 24 of the James Bond films are displayed.
Into art? The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are a five-minute stroll from Covent Garden.
Entertainment in and around Covent Garden
Covent Garden is part of London’s West End theatre district. The Aldwych Theatre, Lyceum Theatre, Theatre Royal and Drury Lane count among the entertainment venues within just a couple of minutes’ walk from the covered market.
It’s possible to enter the Royal Opera House from the colonnaded walkway of The Piazza.
Places to eat
As you’d expect of somewhere set among upscale shops and entertainment venues, it isn’t short of places to eat at Covent Garden. There’s a broad choice of restaurants, cafés and places selling food to go to.
For fine dining in a relaxed environment, it’s hard to look past Frenchie Covent Garden (16 Henrietta Street; tel. 020 7836 4422). The five-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings is a chance to experience chef Greg Marchand’s creations.
Pizza Pilgrims (23 Garrick Street; tel. 020 7240 4145) is ideal for an informal lunch or dinner. I popped in and ordered the Nduja, a pizza whose toppings include spicy sausage from Calabria.
Best bars in Covent Garden
There are also plenty of bars and pubs in and around Covent Garden.
The White Lion (24 James Street; tel. 020 7240 1064) is a traditional British pub operated by the Nicholson’s chain. It’s a good bet for a pint of cask ale and is just a matter of steps from Covent Garden Underground Station.
Opposite stands The Nag’s Head (10 James Street; tel. 020 7836 4678), which shares its name with the Trotters’ local pub in the vintage television comedy series Only Fools and Horses. Pubs have occupied the location since the late 1600s and the current neo-Jacobean-style building dates from 1900. So you could argue that having a drink is integral to experiencing the heritage of Covent Garden.
The Harp (47 Chandos Place; tel. 020 7836 0291) was named by the Evening Standard newspaper as the 2019 and 2020 London Pub of the Year. It’s a couple of minutes’ walk from Covent Garden, in the direction of Trafalgar Square. The Harp serves a broad selection of cask ales and is a good place for a pint of London Pride, London-based Fuller’s Brewery’s flagship ale.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, hopefully you’ll find fun things to do in Covent Garden. Feel free to drop me a line with your suggestions in the comments below. Or if there’s somewhere or something that I haven’t mentioned and shouldn’t miss next time I’m in London.
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A version of this post was initially published on 5 December 2019.
Ferne ArfinDecember 6, 2019 at 10:13
Don’t miss St Paul’s, Covent Garden. It’s known as The Actor’s Church. Inside there are memorials to many famous actors and actresses. The buskers who perform in front of it, attracting crowds all year round, are practicing a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. Diarist Samuel Pepys wrote about seeing the first Punch and Judy show under the portico in the 1660s and later, Shaw set the meeting between flower seller Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins on the steps of the portico of this church. It’s a real landmark of London’s Theatreland and the garden is a very peaceful place to get away from the crowds and plan your next foray. In the summer, the church’s own theatre company performs there.
Stuart ForsterDecember 6, 2019 at 12:19
Thanks, that’s a fabulous suggestion. What lovely insights into Covent Garden’s heritage.
Kathryn BurringtonDecember 7, 2019 at 17:49
I love Covent garden any time of year but especially at Christmas and even more so as it gets dark. Really magical.
Stuart ForsterDecember 23, 2019 at 14:32
The Christmas decorations at Covent Garden look tremendous.
Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me)December 12, 2019 at 14:12
I love the Moomin shop! Haven’t been there for years, though. Covent Garden’s one of those places you need to see at this time of year, if you’re visiting London. So festive.
Stuart ForsterDecember 23, 2019 at 14:31
It really is a joy to wander around at this time of year!
Kacie MorganDecember 19, 2019 at 12:37
I love Covent Garden and I bet it looks beautiful at this time of the year. I never knew about the Moomin shop before – I’ll have to keep an eye out for that on my next visit.
Stuart ForsterDecember 23, 2019 at 14:33
It’s one of several stores that I browsed seeking inspiration for Christmas presents.