Come to Covent Garden and you're guaranteed the best of produce, both local and international – and the best of performance, both operatic and theatrical.
Covent Garden has been many things in its 500-year history – an elegant area of 17th century London; a notorious district of coffee and vice; and a thriving vegetable and fruit market, until the 1970s. Markets remain at the heart of the Covent Garden area, but so too does culture, with the Royal Opera House and the Theatre Royal both close by. But most visitors are drawn here for the Market itself, a beautiful covered Victorian arcade dating back to 1830.
Here you will find specialist vendors, selling everything from flowers, fruit, and organic meats to artistic works and gourmet coffees. There are also stalls and coffee shops, offering food and refreshments with a distinctly international flavour. Outside the covered arches, the square is given over to fresh farmers' produce, their stalls weaving a dazzling spectacle of colour and aroma. And once you've satisfied your urge to explore its markets, the local area has much to offer.
There are over 60 public houses and bars in the surrounding streets, many serving traditional English ales and hearty London cuisine. And there are 13 theatres close by, making this one of the entertainment hotspots of the West End. Musicals, plays and Shakespearean dramas are all played out here every night, making this one of the more exciting and bustling parts of town in the evening.
And the entertainment here isn't only of the formal variety. Covent Garden has a long tradition of street performers, going back to the time of Samuel Pepys. In 1662, he made the first mention of the slapstick puppet show of Punch and Judy. You may still catch these colourful hand-puppets – more likely you'll find mimes and acrobats, dancers and street artists. Variety is certainly the spice of life when you visit Covent Garden.