Scores of tourists head each day to the ever popular Covent Garden, but as a local, I too love wandering around the square in my free time--it's one of the liveliest spots in town.
Originally in medieval times, the location of a produce garden supplying Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden has changed in many ways through the years. In the 1630's, the Earl of Bedford commissioned Inigo Jones to build an elegant residential area for his wealthy friends. Jones designed the homes around a piazza modeled after one he loved in Italy.
Even at this time, there was an open air market on the south side of the fashionable square surrounded by arcades of fine houses.
The St. Paul's Church, also built on one side of the square was completed by Inigo Jones in this period of development. It was under the portico of this church that the infamous Professor Henry Higgins met up with the cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle in the "My Fair Lady" story.
The area fell into disrepair and suffered in reputation over a couple of centuries, but in 1833, the central market was covered and fruit and vegetable wholesalers moved in.
Today you might find one or two fruit stands,
but the Apple Market is better known today for its craft vendors
who take great pride
in their wares.
Nearby is the Royal Opera House, but on most days crowds gather inside the covered market to
be entertained by opera singers or classical musicians playing below.
You can always find snacks and a great meal both inside
or at one of the outside cafés
and have a ringside view of the crowds who gather to watch
entertainers and comedians put on popular shows. I can't recall what this entertainer was doing, but the by-standers seemed quite willing to participate in his little plan!
Street entertainers are abundant
on all paths leading to the square.
Shopping in the Apple Market shops is always fun, as well as just outside in the Jubilee Market, where vendors set up different stalls daily. There's something for everyone during the week: general items, arts and crafts and antiques rotating in and out.
Quite popular and recently opened is the mega Apple store which is the largest in the world.
And exciting for me was the opening this year of the Covent Garden Ladurée cafe and shop
with its towers of macarons in their front window display.
If you make it to London, be sure and include Covent Garden in your plans!