London is the greatest city in the world, drawing in tourists from across the United Kingdom and around the world. It’s a city that really has something for everyone, from rich historical pageantry to high culture, fantastic shows and musicals, and nightlife to suit every taste, but there’s one area of London that has all of this and more to offer: Covent Garden. It’s come a long way since its medieval origins as the garden area for the monks of Westminster Abbey, so here are five contemporary reasons for the crowds to flock there.
The Royal Opera House on Bow Street has become so synonymous with the area it stands in that is often referred to simply as Covent Garden and is undoubtedly one of the leading opera houses in the world. It continues to attract the world’s greatest tenors and sopranos, such as Placido Domingo, Jonas Kauffman, and Anna Netrebko, singing sublime arias composed by the likes of Verdi and Puccini, but it is also an opera house that likes to feature contemporary works. If you think opera isn’t for you, think again. Every performance has seats available at around the ten-pound mark, and the stunning architecture of the opera house alone is worth the admission fee.
For many, Covent Garden really comes to life when the lights go down, for that’s when its bars and nightclubs really hit full swing. Alongside its plethora of traditional British pubs, it also has clubs and bars that are innovative and vibrant, such as Bunga Bunga Covent Garden. Situated on Drury Lane and famous across the world for its theatre, it is a playful take on Italian style, from the Caesars to Berlusconi via Mario Balotelli, and has become renowned for its superb cocktails and its metre-long pizzas, as well as for its cabarets and late-night karaoke sessions. It’s typical of the nightlife to be found all round Covent Garden: lively fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
London has many famous markets, from Smithfield’s to Borough Market, but the most celebrated of them all is surely the covered market of Covent Garden. The market was originally renowned for its fruit and vegetables and for its flower sellers, and the good news is that they’re still to be found there selling goods of the highest quality. It’s a traditional market that isn’t afraid to embrace modern life, and there is now an emphasis upon handmade goods, from exquisite soaps to leather purses and handbags. Covent Garden Market is also a great place to eat right in the heart of London, and you’ll find everything from the upmarket Ivy Garden Grill to pie and mash shops that serve up the East End’s favourite delicacy. Whatever day you visit, you’re sure to find it busy and vibrant.
With so many shops to visit around the Covent Garden area, it’s easy to spend a full day there, but there’s no danger of little ones becoming restless because of the great variety of street entertainment that can be found there. Some of the professional street entertainers have regular slots in Covent Garden and have built up loyal followings. Whilst the area’s clowns are experts at bringing a smile to the most bored child’s face, there are also acts that will be especially appreciated by the adults in the party. Mark Sparkles, for one, who specialises in chainsaw juggling whilst wearing skimpy clothing, always a dangerous combination, or Fabienne Borget, a soprano with a beautiful voice but who adds modern and irreverent twists to some of the world’s greatest songs. From string quartets to mind-boggling contortionists, there’s every form of entertainment, and it’s all completely free.
London loves Christmas, and if you love it too, then after seeing the famous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, your next festive stop should be Covent Garden. You won’t find a huge topiary reindeer anywhere else in the city, and there’s plenty more to see and do there. Last year’s fun gave children the chance to find eight colourful reindeer around the piazza, and there’s sure to be similar family activities ready for Christmas 2018. For the romantic at heart, why not take your loved one for a walk through the market and then point out the chandeliers above? With 40 large, and very beautiful, mistletoe chandeliers overhead, it’s a perfect spot to share a Christmas kiss.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter all bring their own character to Covent Garden, as its 44 million visitors every year discover. Whatever your age, it’s a great place to have fun, from spine-tingling singing to metre-long pizzas and karaoke. The monks of the fourteenth century may not recognise Covent Garden today, but they’d soon learn to let their hair down.