Covent Garden is one of central London’s biggest tourist areas. It’s sometimes hard to move as crowds gather round street performers and wander through the market. The area has a rich history in market culture, although these days it’s more geared towards tourism than everyday goods. The area really comes into its own on a sunny day when people eat and drink outside.
What to see and do in Covent Garden
It’s worth exploring the side streets and nooks away from the main drag. Secluded down a small alleyway, Neal’s Yard feels like a seaside town with colourful, independent shops with brightly painted facades. If it all feels a bit concrete, St Paul’s Church (also known as ‘The Actor’s Church’) has a small, pretty, bench-lined garden, which makes for an ideal lunchtime retreat, and the Seven Dials is home to independent shops, restaurants and cafés. The area is also home to the Royal Opera House, but don’t be intimidated by the ornate surroundings. Day tickets can be bought for as little as £4.00 for all performances by The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera if you’re prepared to join the queue from 10:00am on the day of the performance.
What to eat and drink in Covent Garden
As the area is part of Theatreland, you can take advantage of pre-theatre set menus where you can get 2 or 3 courses for between £14.00 and £30.00 in places like Le Garrick, Petersham Nurseries or Margot.
Elsewhere, Korean restaurant On the Bab serves up street food for around £8.00, or if you fancy Italian from a Michelin-star chef without the price tag to match check out Cafe Murano.
For stodgy British food head to Battersea Pie Station (confusingly not in Battersea). You’ll find pies of both meaty or meat-free varieties, complete with mash and lots of gravy for under a tenner.
For veggie and vegan options, there’s the colourfully hip by CHLOE (all the way from NYC and LA), healthy raw and plant-based food at Wild Food Café and Sagar for South Indian food.
Where to stay in Covent Garden
As you might expect, staying in central London comes with a price tag, but there are a few budget/cheaper options in the area.
You can book a room at the Queensland Hotel for as little as £40.00 per night. It’s an Airbnb-style apartment, in which three rooms share the flat. The kitchen, bathrooms and living space are all communal, but each room has its own locks.
a stay at the Hotel Strand Continental hostel costs from £19.00 for a dormitory and double rooms for around £70.00 per night. It’s a bit of a time warp though, and there are lots of stairs but no lift, so consider that before you book.
If ‘pod’ hotels with capsule rooms are your thing, check out hub by Premier Inn, where you can get a double room for £64.00 a night. These no-frills rooms include a place to stow your suitcase under the bed, a pull-out desk and app-controlled lighting.