The name Covent Garden is a corruption of the ‘convent garden’ that once stood on the site. In medieval times this area provided fresh produce for the Abbey of St Paul at Westminster.
Covent Garden Tube In the 1630s Francis Russell, the 4th Earl of Bedford, commissioned Inigo Jones to develop the centre of Covent Garden to provide accommodation suitable for ‘Gentlemen and men of ability’. Influenced by the Italian neo-Classicism of Palladio, the architect created an arcaded, three-sided square of tall terraces, overlooked by St Paul’s, a plain Tuscan-style church.
As London’s first planned square this was a success but the growth of the fruit and vegetable market, established in 1656, meant that Covent Garden’s well-to-do residents left for the new, exclusive, developments to the west.
In Victorian times the area’s gin palaces became notorious, but continued to be a venue for theatre and opera.
In 1974 the wholesale fruit and vegetable market moved to Battersea, and the covered central market, was redeveloped to provide a space for a range of shops, craft stalls and open-air cafes.
Covent Garden Piazza The pedestrianised Covent Garden Piazza surrounding this Victorian building has become a great draw for visitors.
Not to be missed, visit the newly redeveloped Royal Opera House, then stroll around the interesting streets leading off the piazza. Floral Street is noted for its designer fashion, while Long Acre has more mainstream chains. Pedestrianised Neal Street is a street of former 19th century warehouses, converted into small art galleries, restaurants and shops selling everything from oriental goods to kites.
Neal’s Yard, off Shorts Gardens, is an oasis with health food shops and cafes, and Denmark Street, near St Giles-in-the-Fields, is famous for its musical instrument shops.
To the east of Covent Garden is Bow Street, where Henry Fielding, the novelist and barrister, established the Bow Street Runners.
Some Suggested Places To See And Go In Covent Garden
Visit the Royal Opera House
Shop, in the Covent Garden with its small shops and stalls, you can also visit the London Transport Museum shop.
Enjoy the streets around the Square, and make sure you visit the new redeveloped Royal Opera House, as well as the small streets with specialist shops, often in converted warehouses. Lots of restaurants and cafe’s around here.