Generally, Covent Garden is an area that us Londoners tend to avoid – mostly due to the ungodly crowds it attracts. But it should really be recognised for it’s brilliantness! Believe it or not, there are some hidden (or not-so-hidden) gems in this neck of the woods, from restaurants and breweries to stand-up comedy and bottomless brunches. Here’s our rundown of 52 of the best things to do in Covent Garden:
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Things to do in Covent Garden
1. Explore the beautiful Neal’s Yard
Tucked away down a tiny side street in Seven Dials is the colourful Neal’s Yard, one of London’s prettiest streets. It’s easy to miss, but it would be unfortunate if you did. Inside this little enclave, you can get everything from pizza to pedicures… and every business is committed to sustainable and ethical commercial practices.
2. Discover the area from a different perspective on a fascinating cheese walking tour
See Your City offer possibly the most inclusive walking tours in town, with fascinating and entertaining tours in six languages (English, Chinese, Italian, French, German, and Spanish). And they’re not your standard tours either; fully interactive, and hosted by comedians and actors, you’ll find a See Your City tour a non-stop riot from start to finish. The London Cheese Crawl ends up in Covent Garden, and will take you on a fully interactive, incredibly delicious tour of the tastiest cheeses in the capital.
3. Catch a magical candlelight concert at the Freemason’s Hall
Really, you couldn’t pick a more suitable venue for Vivaldi, Bach, and friends, as the splendid Freemasons’ Hall in St Giles is a gilded Art Deco masterpiece and a feast for the eyes. It’s made even more atmospheric by the addition of thousands of softly flickering candles, transforming the ornate hall into a surprisingly cosy spot to kick back and enjoy the concerts. Candles, beautiful music, and one of London’s most impressive venues – what better way to enjoy an unforgettable night?
4. Laugh until your sides split at a comedy show
Think top comedians (e.g. Jack Whitehall, Sara Pascoe) plus a top location (the Seven Dials Club in Covent Garden), minus the top price tag! Walk just two minutes from Covent Garden station, grab a drink in their lively bar, and take a pew for a night of belly laughs for just 16 quid. Now you can’t say fairer that right? You can grab your tickets here. There’s also another comedy offering, the ‘Top Stand-Up Comedy’, just down the road at Covent Garden Studios.
5. Delve into the area’s LGBTQ+ past with an exploration game
Want to find out more about the regions LGBTQ+ past? Well look no further than this exploration game, which will give you insight into the macabre story of the ‘Jack the Ripper of Soho’ and the LGBTQ history of the Royal Family. You’ll also explore the witty ways in which the LGBTQ+ community used to flirt back when homosexuality was a crime, as well as the historical milestones which have been passed in the fight for equal rights.
7. Shop ’til you drop
Covent Garden is a haven for shopaholics! Besides all the designer stores, there are so many quirky Covent Garden shops to browse. Make a trip to Orla Kiely for ultra-chic clothes, art, and homeware – men should make for the Vintage Showroom, which is great for for vintage sportswear, workwear and accessories. Hipsters and the like should take a wander through Berlin-favourite PICKNWEIGHT, which sells affordable vintage clothing by the kilo.
8. Discover the free street performers in the piazza
One of the best free things to do in London, seeing one of the many street performers perform here is something which has to be seen to be believed. There’s everything from mime artists to contortionists here, and what you’ll see will completely depend on the time of day.
9. Nerd out at the London Transport Museum
Trains, planes and automobiles! Well, no planes… and a lot of buses. This Covent Garden museum memorialises the many ways Londoners have schlepped across the city over the last century. Embrace your inner transit nerd, and don’t miss the gift shop, which gives you the chance to spritz up your living room with some classic tube moquette. Adult tickets are £16.50, kids go free!
10. Eat ALL THE FOOD at Seven Dials Market
In the 19th Century, Seven Dials Market, then Thomas Neal’s Warehouse, was used to store cucumbers and bananas. Paying homage to the building’s past, the market is now split into two sections: ‘Cucumber Alley’, where you’ll find fresh local produce, and ‘Banana Warehouse’, which houses an excellent cast of street food traders.
The lineup is killer, and features vegan queens ‘Club Mexicana’, bun huns ‘Yum Bun’, the very nice ‘Rice Guys’, fancy fried fish fiends ‘Ink’, soda sensations ‘Square Root’, as well as the exciting new cheese conveyor belt (!) from Camden’s Cheese Bar team, Pick & Cheese.
11. Go on a sightseeing bus tour around Central London to see the sights
Make your way around the heart of the city and see London’s best landmarks from the comfort of your very own open-top bus. Points of interest will include the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and of course, Covent Garden, which is where the tour starts. Where else?!
12. Pub crawl your way around the West End
Let’s face it, London isn’t exactly short of pubs, but did you know that the West End has some of the best (and oldest) in town? If you’re new in town or just fancy a fun night out, don’t miss a chance to join a guided pub crawl, where you’ll get complimentary shots at each venue (!), VIP queue jump to some of London’s most iconic venues and a photographer to take snaps of you throughout so that you can *ahem* remember the night. Get the party started here.
Brunches and afternoon teas in Covent Garden
13. Sushi and Asian Tapas Afternoon Tea
No restaurant in London does cutting-edge quite like Inamo. From the interactive menu projected onto the tabletops to the live feed from the kitchen webcam, this place delivers its fine fare in true twenty-first-century fashion. Plus, that’s not all. There’s a selection of mouth-watering pan-Asian dishes to snaffle your way through if you purchase their afternoon tea – think sashimi, maki rolls, gyoza and futomaki. All that delicious food might leave you feeling thirsty, so you can quaff on some bubbly too if you go for the fizz tickets. There’s also an unlimited tapas, sushi and fizz option too.
14. Temper’s BBQ Bottomless Brunch
Covent Garden stalwart Temper has a brilliant BBQ bottomless brunch, a mighty meaty affair that keeps those sizzling vibes going all year round – and we’re already salivating at the thought of it. Indulge in a platter overflowing with barbecued meats, from Adobo marinated free-range chicken, to aged rare-breed beef burger, and Old Spot Cumberland sausages. All paired with bottomless cocktails, ranging from Mojitos to Margaritas. We’ll cheers to that.
15. Cinnamon Bazaar’s Indian-Inspired Afternoon Tea
Cinnamon Bazaar is the home of the famous ‘Traders High Tea’, an Indian-influenced afternoon tea that, like the restaurant itself, has been inspired by the bazaars and spice markets of India. And with former Bake-Off sweetheart Tamal Ray and head chef Vivek Singh collaborating on the menu, you can be sure of something special here.
16. Disco Bottomless Brunch at Blame Gloria
Few places bring glamour and je ne sais quoi in the same measure as Blame Gloria, Covent Garden’s luscious retro cocktail den. That obsession with retro, however, has led Blame Gloria to the discos of the 70s, and it’s given her an idea. You see, disco isn’t dead to Gloria – far from it.
There’s plenty of bottomless brunches running on the regular here – and you all know how much we love them! Get down with icons at the aptly-named ‘icons brunch’ – which features music from legends like Jimi Hendrix and MJ – and you can also enjoy a noughties-themed brunch too which features a trio of drag queens, armed with a playlist that’ll send your iPod into overdrive. They’ve even got one with a karaoke too!
Covent Garden Restaurants
17. Clos Maggiore
There’s a reason this French restaurant in Covent Garden is continuously voted the most romantic restaurant in London. With a glass roof showing off a starry night sky and enough twinkly lights and greenery to make you feel like you’re eating in a fairy kingdom, it’s not surprising that a meal at Clos Maggiore often ends with an engagement ring… no pressure. When you book, be sure to specify if you want to be seated in the fairy room, otherwise you could end up disappointed.
You’ll find Clos Maggiore at 33 King Street, WC2E 8JD.
18. La Bodega Negra
From the outside, La Bodega Negra looks a bit like a shifty sex shop, but enter the restaurant and you’ll be greeted by excellent Mexican food and a huge range of tequila and mezcal. Reopened after lockdown, Head Chef Gustavo Giallonardo has brought to the table dishes such as taco al pastor, with pineapple pico de gallo and salsa verde, or scallop tiradito with serrano, aguachile and kolrhabi. A black truffle mole isn’t to be missed, either!
You’ll find La Bodega Negra at 16 Moor Street, W1D 5NH.
19. Rock & Sole Plaice
Besides having one of the greatest names in the London restaurant index, Rock & Sole Plaice also serve some pretty rockin’ fish and chips. They’re also one of the oldest chippies in town.
You’ll find Rock and Soul Plaice at 47 Endell Street, WC2H 9AJ.
Rules was established in 1798, making it the oldest restaurant in London. It serves proper British grub and specialises in classic game, oysters, pies and puddings. The tables of the famed Covent Garden restaurant have sat some pretty important people, including Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells. It’s also appeared in various novels by the likes of Evelyn Waugh and Penelope Lively.
You’ll find Rules at 34-35 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7LB.
We’re not ‘avving you on – there’s actually an Avobar for avocado-loving Londoners. Serving up all things green and photogenic, Avobar’s menu features the likes of sourdough or sweet potato ‘toast’ with smashed avocado, topped with tasty things like beetroot hummus and feta. And, of course, the infamous (or should I say Insta-famous) avocado bun. The menu changes quite regularly as the staff experiment with fresh new recipes, but there’ll always be brunch dishes and burgers, and Californian-style sharing plates in the evening.
You’ll find Avobar at 24 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8ND.
This Turkish restaurant encapsulates everything we know and love about the theatre and isn’t afraid to hold back with its decor choices. Inside, you’ll find props of all ages from productions over the years while outside there’s a floral doorway to complete the look. Go for a pre-theatre menu (the Tenor menu) for a slightly cheaper meal out and ask for a balcony booth to get the best seats in the house.
Turn up later in the day to eat your meal to the sounds of a live singer or band. But if there’s one thing you have to do when you visit Sarastro, it’s take a visit to the X-rated toilets. Filled with some very non-PG paintings, it’s probably one of the few places in London where they can pull the pictures off as vaguely classy rather that downright offensive.
You’ll find Sarastro at 126 Drury Ln, London WC2B 5SU.
23. Salon de Thé, Mariages Frères
Hidden away inside a beautiful five-storey Georgian townhouse in central London, Mariage Frères boasts an amazing restaurant, retail space, museum and two private event spaces. On the ground floor, you’ll discover a seriously long apothecary-style wall, home to the world’s largest tea collection. Salon de Thé is the on-site restaurant, found on the first floor, and it uses tea in every dish; either as a delicate ingredient, spice or flavouring.
For example, dip sweet potato crisps into guacamole made with matcha green tea, or scoff on Thai-style beef tartar seasoned with tea, honey soy sauce, ginger, cashew and toasted sesame. There are also some seriously decadent desserts, like the dark chocolate pudding covered with black tea and 24-carat gold leaves.
You’ll find Salon de Thé at 38 King Street, WC2E 8JS.
SUSHISAMBA’s second London restaurant sits atop the historic Market Building in Covent Garden. Their second home is based on the same unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian culture and cuisine as SUSHISAMBA’s other restaurants, along with some pretty interiors.
There is, of course, a chance to try some of the restaurant chain’s signature dishes, such as the ‘Brazilian Churrasco Rio Grande’ (ribeye, chorizo and aged picanha), and plenty of Japanese sushi and sashimi. There are also some dishes that are specific to the Covent Garden branch, as well as a ridiculously large selection of sake, Japanese whiskies and signature cocktails.
You’ll find SUSHISAMBA at 35 The Market, WC2E 8RF.
25. CoCo Ichibanya
For those who’ve never heard of CoCo Ichibanya, it’s widely regarded as Japan’s favourite katsu curry restaurant, which certainly explains the 1100 restaurants they’ve got over in Japan. They have thrown open their doors in Covent Garden to serve all katsu everything to hungry foodies. And when we say ‘all katsu everything’, we really do mean it.
You’ll find CoCo Ichibanya at 17-18 Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JE.
26-35. Other great foodie options
Also worth considering: The Ivy, an iconic dining spot long-favoured by celebs; The Petersham, a floral branch of the celebrated Richmond restaurant, or Café Murano, from highly-regarded chef Angela Hartnett. Barrafina Drury Lane serves up some of the best tapas in the city, but is all counter-seated.
A good alternative is Opera Tavern, also delicious, but more relaxing. Meanwhile, Cora Pearl might just be the best restaurant named after a courtesan, and Din Tai Fung is the first UK site of a chain widely claimed to have the world’s best dumplings.
Dishoom is a crowd-pleasing Indian restaurant in an elegant dining room, perfect for all occasions, including (surprisingly) breakfast, when their legendary bacon naan has cured many a hangover. Flat Iron is famous for its cheap and delicious steak (and cute little meat cleavers) while Hoa Sen Restaurant is the place to go for mean tender pork belly stew, warming bowls of Phở and tasty bánh mì sandwiches.
Bakeries and Dessert Bars in Covent Garden
36. Santa Nata
Santa Nata have two Covent Garden cafés specialising in pastéis de nata, coffee and port. The pastelaria’s glass frontage shows off the process of creating the tarts, as the master pastry chefs roll, shape, and fill batch after batch. With Santa Nata owned by a family of second-generation bakers, you can be sure that this recipe has been perfected over the years.
You’ll find Santa Nata at 17 Russell Street, WC2B 5HP or 7 New Row, WC2N 4LH.
37. Zizi Factory
As you might know, Secret London has a sister site over in Paris. And whilst we’ve loved seeing their guides to the city, there’s one phenomenon in particular that’s caught our eye: the fact that Paris has gone wild for dick-shaped foods.
Happily, if you’re envious of this, and would like to be equal parts hungry and horny in London, great news: you can! For in the heart of Covent Garden, you’ll find the French dessert spot Zizi Factory, which serves up waffles that’ll teach you about the birds and the bees. They’ve also got fanny-shaped waffles here too, so whatever you’re into, you’re all set here!
You’ll find Zizi Factory at 65 Neal Street, London, WC2H 9DA.
Covent Garden Bars
38. Eve Bar
Hidden beneath Covent Garden is London’s very own Garden of Eden. This dimly-lit bar is full of temptation, indulgence and hedonism. With a huge list of inventive and beautifully presented cocktails, as well as some seriously stunning interiors, Eve is pretty close to being Heaven on Earth. Trust us.
You’ll find Eve at 34 Southampton Street, WC2E 7HF.
This intimate hidden bar is located beneath Aldwych in an underground space that used to be a public toilet, and you can expect live entertainment in the form of cabaret, blues and burlesque shows. CellarDoor even transforms into a secret cinema every Sunday afternoon, featuring a cult movie and a classic silent comedy with a beautiful live pianist.
You’ll find CellarDoor at Wellington Street, WC2E 7DN.
40. The Den
Within St Martins Lane Hotel, you’ll find The Den – a lovely place for afternoon tea during the day and a lively place for a G&T during the evening. Make yourself at home on the cosy leather sofas, or step out onto the terrace for a rum cocktail – it’s filled with palm trees, cacti and all the tropical vibes.
You’ll find The Den at 45 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4HX.
Another hidden basement bar with an epic cocktail list, Freud has been around for decades and not a lot has changed since the 80s. Head down to the minimalist, industrial-style cellar to try the Holy Freud Lemonade with vodka, lychee, lemonade and elderberry, or get your lips around one of their brilliant mojitos. There’s also a rotating “gallery” displayed on the walls.
You’ll find Freud at 198 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8JL.
London’s infamous prison-themed cocktail experience Alcotraz has a secret venue in Covent Garden, and it takes the concept to a whole new level. Hidden beneath the streets you’ll find Alcotraz Penitentiary: Cell Block Six Eight, a basement speakeasy-cum-prison cell hosting some of Alcotraz’s longest-serving inmates. After purchasing your ticket you’ll immediately be given a processing number and some stern instructions, including what to bring and where to meet the Crooked Guard. Sounds pretty fun to us.
Covent Garden Coffee Shops
43. The Black Penny
Though there are plenty of great coffee shops in Covent Garden, this one is a great little find. The Black Penny has been lovingly designed to highlight its gorgeous original features; including exposed brick and wood panelling – making it the perfect environment for latte and chill. You should definitely stick around for a spot of brunch, too – and perhaps check out their event space in the basement.
You’ll find The Black Penny at 34 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5AA.
44. Monmouth Coffee Company
The Monmouth Coffee Company have been roasting and retailing since ’78, when they were using rather old-fashioned methods in their basement. Fast forward to now and they’re flaunting some of the best coffee in the capital. If you fancy buying some of their beans for drinking-coffee-at-home purposes, let them know what method you’ll be using to make it (cafetière, filter, etc), and they’ll grind it for you.
You’ll find the Monmouth Coffee Company at 27 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9EU.
We bet you’re no stranger to the Grind; neither the daily slog, nor the fast growing London-based mini-chain. Covent Garden’s branch is particularly beautiful, with a neon sign replicating Bowie’s handwritten lyrics to ‘Heroes’, as well as plenty of greenery. They roast their own coffee and are famous for their Espresso Martinis, so it’s safe to say that these lot know a thing or two about beans.
You’ll find Grind at 42 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7LJ.
West End Musicals And Covent Garden Theatre Shows
46. The Lion King, Lyceum Theatre
There’s a reason this musical has been on the stage in London for eighteen years. The tale of Simba and pals is a timeless tale that perfectly evokes the beats and rhythms of Africa – and let’s be honest, you know most of the songs already, don’t you? Get your tickets with Fever and you’ll have Hakuna Matata!
You’ll find the Lyceum Theatre at 21 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7RQ.
47. The Choir of Man, Arts Theatre London
The Olivier-nominated, worldwide smash hit is returning to the West End! Welcome to The Choir of Man—the best night in your local you’ve ever had. It’s a party, it’s a concert, it’s a lock-in like no other. Featuring breathtaking reinventions of chart-topping hits from artists including Guns’N’Roses, Fun!, Adele, Avicii, Paul Simon, Sia and many more, this musical has something for everyone. Get your tickets now for The Choir of Man in London here.
You’ll find the Arts Theatre London at 6-7 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB.
48. &Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
& Juliet starts like this… In the final scene of Romeo & Juliet, ‘Juliet picks up the dagger and… gets a life’. From there, it’s a riotous romp through the untold story of Juliet, fully in control of her destiny and making her own rules. And because it’s a jukebox musical, that story is backed by embarrassment of pop riches, including tunes from Katy Perry, Backstreets Boys, Britney Spears, and The Weeknd. Sounds like a bang-up good time to us! Cop your tickets here.
You’ll find the Shaftesbury Theatre at 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8DP.
49. Pretty Woman: The Musical, Savoy Theatre
With music by Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams and direction and choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell, this is an outstanding musical theatre take on the Pretty Woman film we all know and love so well. Meet the iconic characters and relive your favourite moments from the big screen as you head back to Beverly Hills and enjoy one of Hollywood’s most beloved romantic stories live on stage. Get a hold of your tickets here.
You’ll find the Savoy Theatre at the Savoy Court, Strand, London, WC2R 0ET.
50. Tina: The Musical, Aldwych Theatre
A global phenomenon, emerging from humble beginnings: really, there’s no way that Tina Turner’s life wouldn’t be turned into a musical. Featuring all her hit songs, the musical has the Turner stamp of approval, and we’re sure it’ll get yours too. Grab your tickets here.
You’ll find the Alwych Theatre at 49 Aldwych, London. WC2B 4D.
51. Back to the Future: The Musical, Adelphi Theatre
Our penultimate entry on this roundup of what to do in Covent Garden is a real ‘electrifying ride’ and one of London’s hottest new theatre shows. You’ll follow the story of Marty McFly, who finds himself transported back to 1955 in a time machine built by the eccentric scientist Doc Brown, who accidentally changes the course of history.
Now he’s in a race against time to fix the present, escape the past and send himself… ‘Back to the Future’. A winner of ‘Best New Musical’ at both the Olivier and What’s On Stage awards in 2022, this one’s a real hot ticket in town.
You’ll find the Adelphi Theatre at the Strand, London, WC2R 0NS.
52. Watch a show at the Royal Opera House
It’s impossible to wander through Covent Garden without gazing up at the Royal Opera House. And, really, is there any classier way to spend the evening than by being serenaded by some of the best names in the business? You’ll find world-renowned shows, a lively atmosphere and beautiful architecture.
Not only can you watch some opera or ballet at the ROH, but you can also check out the restaurant, cafe, shop and rooftop terrace for a fully-planned evening in London’s cultural capital. If you find yourself in the area on a Sunday afternoon and without a ticket, you can still visit the building for some free music and activities.
You’ll find the Royal Opera House at Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD.
So there you have it – a rundown of 52 of the best things to do in Covent Garden. From fab restaurants to some of the best theatre shows in the world, there’s something for everyone here. We’ll see you there!
Also published on Medium.