One of the most famous parts of London, Covent Garden is awash with out-of-towners and locals alike, all looking to take advantage of all the shopping, dining and entertainment options in the area. There's no shortage of things to in Covent Garden, whether you're looking to buy some gifts, have a nice meal before catching a West End production, or just enjoy a pleasant day in the city. Read our guide on how to spend a day in Covent Garden for guidance and inspiration!
How to spend a day in Covent Garden
In this guide
- Start off right with some breakfast
Do a spot of shopping
- Covent Garden Market – World-famous crafts market
- Sass & Belle – Groovy gifts for all occasions
- Alice Through the Looking Glass – A world of Alice's own
- London Graphic Centre – For all things art
- Finisterre – Outerwear for outdoorsy types
- Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop – Tending children's imaginations for over 100 years
- Grab some lunch
- Things to do, places to see
- Pre-dinner drinks
- Dinner ...
- ... and a show
- Post-show drinks
- Dance the night away
Start off right with some breakfast
Exotic fusion brekkies
Tuck into a globe-spanning menu of Australia-meets-South American breakfast fusion at this cosy, welcoming spot, away from the crowds trundling around Covent Garden. You'll find all-day egg feasts, minced beef and red bean toasties, empanadas, green pea & jalapeño fritters and more here, along with cuppas of properly brewed Aussie-style coffee.
Purveyors of the finest coffee beans
If you're the type that equates a good breakfast with a good cup of coffee, Monmouth Coffee Company have the brew for you. Having established direct relationships with independent coffee growers around the world, they curate and source small lots of quality speciality coffee with varied flavour notes, from cranberries to malty chocolate and more. You can try them at their Covent Garden café, as well as stock up on all sorts of accessories for the coffee connoisseur. Artisanal pastries and sweet treats are also served.
One of the best-rated cafés in London
Starting out as a collaboration between two long-time friends who took the plunge and ventured into the indie café business, Drury 188-189 brings a friendly neighbourhood vibe to Covent Garden. As evidenced by the many drawings on napkins lining the walls, they've successfully imbued their place with a spirit of community, while breakfast staples such as scrambled eggs, porridge, juices and coffee prove they haven't held back on the flavour front either.
Do a spot of shopping
World-famous crafts market
Originally a fruit and veg market when first launched in 1845, this globally recognised market has since evolved to include a range of handmade crafts, jewellery, collectables, souvenirs and much more. It's divided into different sections, with the roster of traders changing according to the day of the week, so it's worth checking the website before you leave home if you're after something in particular. Otherwise, just stroll, browse and see what catches your eye.
Groovy gifts for all occasions
A quirky store in the Covent Garden Market Building, Sass & Belle is packed with an eclectic assortment of desirable gifts, designed exclusively for the store. The ethically minded business supports charitable causes and uses environmentally-friendly materials and processes for its products. These range from homewares and decor to travel accessories, stationery and toys. A gift-wrapping service is also available.
A world of Alice's own
Situated on one of the streets that inspired Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, Alice Through the Looking Glass focuses on another British fantasy classic. This upmarket bookstore stocks iconography related to Lewis Carroll's titular character, as well as first edition books and other rarities. Even the renowned Fortnum and Mason department store gets its wares here. You can also browse a Alice-related cultural artefacts in the by-appointment-only museum section.
For all things art
The London Graphic Centre encourages creativity, stocking high-quality art supplies by leading brands for amateur and professional artists alike. Across two floors, you'll find all sorts of artistic materials, ranging from fine oil paints and printmaking tools to coloured papers for crafts. The staff are always on hand if you need help finding the right things, and the store also runs its own annual art prize.
Outerwear for outdoorsy types
A well-known sustainable British brand with shops around the UK, this certified B Corp company produces hardy outerwear for even the worst weather conditions. It also offers a full range of clothes for sports and activities in the great outdoors, including surf gear. They're always striving to pioneer new approaches and products in their pursuit of environmental responsibility.
Tending children's imaginations for over 100 years
For more than a century, Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop in Covent Garden has been selling games and toys to kids from London and further away. The store focuses on creative and traditional toys that help children become budding storytellers, for example shadow boxes, toy theatres, and puppets. Nurturing young imagination and creativity, the store is crammed full of toys and gifts, with friendly staff able to provide helpful advice on what to choose.
Grab some lunch
Having incited a proper feeding frenzy among the city's seafoodies, this compact eatery with a leisurely maritime vibe serves whole fish and other seafood dishes, with the menu largely dependent on the catch of the day. The à la carte menu is certain to float your boat regardless, as whatever ends up on your plate, it'll be fresh, tasty and accompanied by something nice and carby.
Michelin-starred tasting menu
Acclaimed chef Adam Handling's Michelin-starred flagship is an ideal choice when you want to give yourself over to the cuisine and revel in languorous, pleasurable dining. The upmarket chef's table menu highlights the finest British ingredients in dishes with optional wine pairing. As explained during your meal, the food has personal connections to Handling and the team, adding to the intimacy of the experience.
Stately Italian dining
Suffused in Italian class, Margot provides an elegant setting and an intimate ambiance, whilst serving classic Italian dishes from all over the country. The two- or three-course lunch menu includes starters such as asparagus with parmesan or swordfish carpaccio with aubergine, followed by mains such as tonnarelli pasta with cacio e pepe, and classic desserts to finish things off. You can accompany your meal with signature cocktails or a bottle off the award-winning international wine list.
Located in Somerset House, this restaurant with a conscience is headed by chef Skye Gyngell and committed to serving quality produce while reducing food waste and plastic usage. A changing, seasonal set lunch menu is available on weekdays, with options such as spiced rubbed quail with onion squash, marjoram and brown butter, or Fern Verrow broccoli with leeks, black olives and anchovy mayonnaise.
London's Indian food darling
Successfully replicating the formula that's proven to be a hit at Dishoom's other locations, the Covent Garden eatery combines tasteful, pastel-hued furnishings with a menu inspired by flavours found on the streets of Bombay. The all-day dining elevates comfy Indian street food, including classics such as biryanis and the signature Dishoom black daal. The Covent Garden exclusive masala fish makes for a perfect lunchtime sharer, and you can accompany your meal with one of the carefully crafted cocktails or a teetotal tipple.
Buzzy food market
A lively food court run by renowned street-food accelerator Kerb, Seven Dials Market is home to a variety of food vendors, offering everything from pizza, pad thai and dumplings to curries, Filipino specialties, plant-based tacos and even a cheese conveyor belt. The contemporary space has plenty of seating, with drinks, sweet treats and smaller bites available as well.
Things to do, places to see
Dartboards and sharing boards
The London branch of the internationally successful Oche group offers gastro gaming, a concept combining dining, drinking and darting. You can organise your own darts tourney in one of the many playing areas, choosing different games to play on the high-tech dartboards. While you're trying to hit the bullseye, you can nibble on various sharing favourites from around the world, from ceviche to feta cheese croquettes, as well as pizzas, and drink creative cocktails.
The down-low on the transpo
Anyone who spends any time in London knows that public transport is the lifeblood of the city. The award-winning London Transport Museum in Covent Garden features exhibitions about the past, present and future of the transport network. A particular highlight are the special tours of abandoned tube stations and other disused parts of the network, and the gift shop is well worth a visit too.
Cultural and community hub
This prominent arts centre is housed in a magnificent building dating back to Georgian times and home to all sorts of organisations and professionals in the fields of arts and social innovation. The Somerset House community includes cafes, bars, restaurants, a gallery and other facilities. The Neoclassical structure also regularly hosts events such as concerts, exhibitions and fairs in its courtyard, as well as indoors.
Iconic London square
Unless you happen to be a pigeon (feeding the feral birds is banned here), you can visit one of the capital's most famous sights on the edge of Covent Garden. From atop his column, Admiral Nelson oversees the goings-on at this public plaza, which commemorates his victory over Napoleon's navy at the Battle of Trafalgar. There are many other statues scattered around Trafalgar Square, including the fourth plinth, which is reserved for large-scale rotating contemporary art pieces.
Covent Garden's vibrant secret
Neal's Yard will have you forgetting all about Covent Garden's crowds and somewhat drab structures with an abundance of colours and intriguing boutiques. One of the most picturesque and Instagrammable streets in London, you're surrounded by rainbow buildings on all sides as you walk through, browsing the shopfronts and trying to decide which eatery to plop down at.
London's oldest wine bar
This London institution was established in 1890 and remains a hit among the city's wine connoisseurs to this day. The distinctive, weathered interior is rich with heritage, and there's also an outdoor terrace where you can make like a grape vine and catch some rays. The extensive wine list features bottles from around the world, including vintage ports and vegan-friendly wines. Snacks are offered as well, including a lengthy assortment of cheeses, each with its own wine pairing.
A piece of bartending history
London's longest-surviving cocktail bar, The American Bar at The Savoy, is where classic cocktails such as the White Lady and the Corpse Reviver were first developed during the prohibition, to be enjoyed later by the likes of Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe. The lavish Art Deco establishment is regularly recognised as one of the best bars in the world, a place where you can sip on classic and inventive new creations while listening to a live pianist tinkling away.
Must-see Thames View
The Radio Rooftop Bar is a must for broadcasting buffs, as its situated right above where the first BBC programme was transmitted in 1922. Beyond its historical importance, however, it's also one of London's top bars for taking in panoramic views of the Thames. Along with the cocktails and other drinks on offer, you can get a head start on dinner with the seasonal menu of locally sourced dishes.
London's oldest restaurant
Open since 1798, Rules' enduring popularity is a reflection of the restaurant's attentive service and flavourful British cuisine. Countless celebrities have passed beneath its landmark red canopies into the lavish interior over the past two centuries, seeking classic game delicacies sourced from the proprietors' estate, as well as other traditional British staples. After dinner, you can pop Upstairs for one of London's top cocktail bars.
Master of the Seven Seas
Another mainstay of London's dining scene, this beloved seafood establishment has been dredging up delicacies from the deep for more than a century. The iconic red façade hides an elegant wood-panelled interior with a recently added crustacean bar, while the menu features underwater specialities of all kinds, from oysters and caviar to stacked seafood platters
Playful trattoria with stunning decor
Another stunner from the international Big Mamma group, Ave Mario injects carefree frivolity even into the most sedate of meals. The restaurant decor overwhelms the senses from the moment you set foot inside, the elaborate furnishings taking their cue from the Italo disco era. The trattoria's monthly changing menu always includes Italian standbys such as pizza and pasta, along with an extensive list of Italian wines. The restaurant's signature showstopper dessert is the Gelato Tower, a giant Stracciatella ice cream cake, cut tableside.
A kebab shop unlike any other
For a unique culinary experience that brings together haute cuisine and street food, book a seat behind the counter of this hidden kebab shop in Seven Dials. There, the chefs will lead you through multiple courses of Middle Eastern culinary excellence, honed with Michelin-trained techniques and a gourmet approach. For an added delight, the dishes are assembled on and eaten straight off the heated countertop.
Arguably the best dumplings in the world
Dim sum is the name of the game at London's flagship outpost of the Asia-based chain. Din Tai Fung has won a Michelin star for its xialongbao dumplings, pockets of authentic flavour that are carefully crafted to have exactly 18 folds of their delicate wrapping, no more, no less. Plenty of other dim sum options and Chinese specialities are available at this stylish, meticulously furnished and though-out restaurant as well.
Two Michelin stars
Crafting its own culinary expression, Ikoyi draws inspiration from West African cuisine, providing a unique dining experience that's committed to seasonal produce and sustainability. A highly sought-after foodie hotspot, the restaurant's innovative cooking is shown through a tasting menu with a strong focus on meat and seafood. An international wine list and a menu of signature cocktails are also available to complement your meal.
... and a show
Home to the longest continuous theatrical run
Agatha Christie's murder mystery The Mousetrap is not only a mainstay of the West End, but a global recordholder. First opening at St. Martin's Theatre in 1974, it is the longest continuously running show in the whole world. The theatre itself is privately owned and is a local landmark in its own right, its grand Edwardian architecture making it immediately recognisable.
London's oldest theatre
Over the last century, Theatre Royal Drury Lane became known as the home of spectacularly produced shows and acclaimed productions, including My Fair Lady with Dame Julie Andrews and Sweeney Todd without Johnny Depp. Mainstream crowd-pleasers such as The Lord of the Rings, The Witches of Eastwick or Frozen are still a fixture of the theatre's programme, but you can also catch wide variety of talks, stand-up comedy, live music and other such events here.
The home of opera and ballet in London
This grand classic theatre in Covent Garden is a magnificent building that dominates the area. It houses a Grade I listed main auditorium, the third largest one in the capital thanks to its seated capacity of 2,256. This premiere destination for fans of the performing arts is home to the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies, and also hosts exhibitions, discussions and other events.
All that jazz
This elegant townhouse brings together New York, New Orleans and Paris in a sophisticated setting in the heart of Covent Garden, serving the three cities' culinary highlights in a glitzy restaurant that has hosted famous faces such as Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet. Louie also encompasses a sleek bar and a terrace, with live jazz musicians bringing the tunes every Tuesday.
Burlesque beneath the street
Literally an underground bar, CellarDoor is an intimate 1930s Berlin-meets-NYC bar found in what was once a public loo beneath Aldwych Street. The venue puts on live music, cabaret, burlesque, drag shows and other fun events every night, serving a range of classic and house cocktails along with the entertainment. Spirits, wine and beer are also available, and you can even purchase snuff here.
As pub as it gets
An award-winning ale house that's regularly mentioned among London's top pubs, The Harp is peak pub, to the point where you might incorrectly assume it's been set up for the benefit of the tourists that flock to Covent Garden. In fact, it's a traditionally charming joint that's brimming with character. Choose from an array of classic cask ales and rotating guest brews on tap or peruse the curated selection of ciders and perries from all over the country, and relax.
Female empowerment through wine
Supporting female wine producers, Lady of the Grapes serves around 25 wines by the glass or carafe and a further 200 by the bottle, which can be plucked off the wine shop wall and taken home as well. All the vintages are organic, biodynamic and natural, and the kitchen serves seasonal, French-inspired small plates to go alongside.
A star is born, maybe
If you're looking to wail the night away, Brazen Monkey Karaoke is the spot for you. This colourful contemporary karaoke bar features private rooms where you can sing your heart out to over 60,000 songs from all over the world. Food and drinks can be ordered straight to your space, so there's no need to leave your harmonious bubble.
No siesta, just fiesta
The largest of London's Barrios, this vibrant cocktail bar brings lively Latin-American vibes to Covent Garden across two bars and a stage. Capable of hosting up to 600 people, the bar is covered in prints and patterns and provides all sorts of signature cocktails and Mexican-inspired bites to keep you going late into the night. Check the programme to see what's on, as the bar hosts a wide range of events, from bingo to bottomless brunches.
Dance the night away
One of the more famous nightclubs in London, Zoo Bar keeps the dance floor going with commercial bangers, pulsing house beats, silky R&B and other genres. The venue encompasses two floors with three rooms and four bars, each decorated in an eclectic, varied manner. Catering to a diverse crowd of both locals and tourists, Zoo Bar's lively parties are fuelled by cocktails, beers and spirits.
Legendary gay superclub
Heaven is one of the most famous gay clubs in the world, a pioneering venue that has hosted the likes of Madonna, Lady Gaga and New Order on its concert stage, while also putting on spectacular drag shows and wild parties each week. It's located beneath Charing Cross station over 40 years ago and still draws a varied crowd, ready to dance and have fun all night long.
One size fits all
The multifaceted Sway Bar combines a menu of classic pub fare with cocktails and shots that pack a punch, letting you first line your stomach before dousing it in booze and finally unleashing all the energy on the dance floor. The late-licence venue is spread across two floors, with private rooms available as well. Offers such as Bottomless Thursdays and happy hour mean you can enjoy the commercial, hip-hop and R&B tunes late into the night without breaking the bank.