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Once the "Larder of London", now a magnet for visitors with open air stalls, street entertainers and stylish shops

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Covered Market
Street Entertainers
Punch & Judy Pub
Royal Opera House
Transport Museum
St Pauls Church
Apple Store

The front of Covent Garden Market
Photo TourNorfolk
The open air stalls, street entertainers and stylish shops, make Covent Garden a magnet for visitors, day and night. The central square and surrounding pretty Victorian buildings have all been converted into one of London’s liveliest districts. The covered piazza contains an array of small shops and stalls selling clothes, books, arts, crafts and antiques.

Covent Garden Stall
Photo TourNorfolk
Covent Garden started life as the convent of St Peter Westminster. A large kitchen garden was maintained throughout the Middle Ages to provide its daily food and it became a major source of fruit and vegetables in London. In 1540 King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and he divided up the land between various individuals to be privately owned. During the 17th century, Francis Russell redeveloped his part of the land and built a central piazza surrounded by colonnaded town houses, modelled on the classic Italian colonial towns. The piazza was used as a market and following the great fire of 1666, which destroyed “rival” markets in the city, Covent Garden market became the principle market in London for fruit, vegetables and flowers.

Covent Garden c1865
Photo in the public domain

Did You Know?

Covent Garden is the setting for Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. It tells the story of Henry Higgins, who makes a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can successfully pass off a Cockney flower girl as a refined society lady by teaching her how to speak with an upper class accent and training her in etiquette. The play was the basis for the famous film and musical My Fair Lady

Covent Garden Today
Photo TourNorfolk

Did You Know?

In 2007, Covent Garden launched the first ever Food Night Market. Fresh produce from over 35 different stalls included specialist cheeses, mushroom sandwiches, ginger pig sausages and burnt sugar fudge. The aim of the Night Market was to bring Covent Garden back to its roots as the "Larder of London".

Enjoying a drink on the balcony of the Punch & Judy pub. The Covent Garden area has over 60 pubs and bars!
Photo TourNorfolk
The first mention of a Punch and Judy show in Britain was recorded by diarist Samuel Pepys, who saw such a show in Covent Garden in 1662. The exact spot is marked by the location of the Punch & Judy pub in the market. Today, Covent Garden is the only part of London licensed for street entertainment, with performers having to undertake auditions and signing up to timetabled slots. Artists charm the crowds with their humour and acts include plate spinning, juggling, unicycle riding, ball catching, mime, dance and acrobatics.

Punch and Judy Pub
Photo TourNorfolk

A Street Performer
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Did You Know?

On the second Sunday in May, a service is held at St Paul’s church which commemorates Punch and Judy puppet shows! There is a brass band procession around Covent Garden, followed by puppetry performances.
Around the edge of the square you will find the Royal Opera House, the London Transport Museum, the Theatre Museum showcasing a fascinating collection of theatrical memorabilia, and St Paul’s Church, known as the “actor’s church”.

St Paul's Church, known as the actors church and dating around 1630
Photo Steve Cadman

Did You Know?

Covent Garden contains the world's largest Apple Store!

Covent Garden Piazza at Christmas time
Photo Richard Mushet
Visitor Information
London Transport Museum is open daily, 10am to 6pm. Entry costs around £10 for adults, children FREE. Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7BB. Tel: 0207 379 6344

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