Covent Garden review
Covent Garden used to be a big fruit and vegetable market. If you wanted some fish you'd go to Billingsgate. If you wanted some meat you'd go to Smithfield. If you wanted a carrot you'd come here. For three hundred years this went on, but then the 1970s came along and that was the end of that. The surrounding businesses got sick of all the early morning traffic clogging up the streets and forced it to move out. No more trampled cabbage on the floor. No more stacks and pallets of potatoes being carried around the side streets by old blokes in flat caps. Gone.
It's amazing how the atmosphere of a place can change so completely. If you bought a piece of fruit forty years ago the market man would roughly stuff it in your hands after twirling it around a brown paper bag. But if you want one now then it will probably come wedged on the edge of a cocktail glass. It's all upper class fruit. Their five-a-day used to be four pints of cider and some tomato ketchup on their chips. Now it's four dried banana chips and a fruit smoothie. Welcome to Covent Garden.
But hey... it's still a lively place to have some dinner. Make sure you come here for lunch, because they've got lots of cafes and coffee shops with outside tables. There's a Jamie Oliver place in the middle, and a better one downstairs in the hall where you can sit and listen to some classical music. That's where I recommend going (that's where I go). Look for the tables and chairs outside the 'Crusting Pipe' wine bar and restaurant. They usually have some singers and violins busking by the stairs. They're doing a bit of Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the moment. I don't know whether it's summer, spring or winter they're playing, but it sounds like the sun's out. Now there's a jaunty verse of Bizet's Carmen -- the ear shattering and glass smashing Habanera -- complete with gypsy skirt swishes and twists, and quick little hand claps above her head. Unfortunately she’s having to compete with a builder who's banging and clanging his big metal hammer upstairs, but trust me, when she's shrieking twenty feet from your table you can hardly notice the banging.
You can never be exactly sure when the classical music will start, because they are basically just buskers who do a quick stint and pass round the hat. But it's always classical music, and if you turn up after 10 AM then you can be pretty sure that somebody will be there.
Have a nose around the shops if you want, but remember that it's a tourist trap. Londoners just come here for something to eat, but the tourists get attracted by the shiny objects on the shelves. There's a little market in the middle where you can watch them dawdling by the baubles which they think will go nicely on their mantelpiece. Shall we get that colourful trinket for the house? says the wife. Then she looks at the price and changes her mind: forty quid. The reason they can get away with charging double is because the tourists haven't worked out the exchange rate yet. They still think that forty quid is the same as forty dollars.
Let me have a walk through the Apple Market and describe some of the things on sale for you, to give you a taste of the place. They sell rusty old war medals from a regimental dog; wooden numbers that you can nail to your garden gate; coloured glass bottles for your kitchen windowsill (to give it that country cottage feel); mass-produced photos of a London telephone box; colourful hat pins with huge blue feathers; marbleised buttons for your winter coat... everything you never knew you didn't want.
There's another market outside the Piazza called the Jubilee Market, which is more like a flea market, or a car boot sale. The stalls in there consist of tubular steel frames and flapping plastic sheets around fold-down tables, overflowing with boxes of bric-a-brac. Imagine that your grandad has just died and you've cleared out his house, and now you're trying to flog off all his dusty stuff. Here's a sample of some of the items on sale: pottery Dalmatian dogs; mismatched kitchen crockery; candlesticks still crusted up with candle wax; portraits of Jesus with blood coming out of his hands; faded old photos of Victorian women; back issues of TV listing magazines; old vinyl records with the peeling price stickers still on... it's all here. There are probably a few bits and bobs that you can make use of. My favourite item was a collection of spare arms and legs for a baby's doll. I couldn't see any heads, though -- I wonder what happened to them? Maybe he ripped off all the heads and hung them around his house like tinsel.
Guest – I'm coming down to London for a few days adn would love to see the oepra singers in Covent Garden (as in your previous page). We will be there all day Friday and most of Saturday, what is the best time to catch the students?
Admin – You can usually count on them being there after 10 AM, all through lunchtime and the afternoon (all the busy times). But there are no guarantees because they're just buskers. 9 times out of 10 they'll be there, though
Guest – Hi, I've visited Covent Garden twice this week but not seen any performers. OK the weather hasn't been great, do they simply not bother when there's a threat of rain. Or is there a schedule showing dates, times and things? David
Guest – Hi Craig Just seen your answer above which seems to answer my question above. I want to get photos of a performer talking animatedly, in a nice setting (St Pauls Church is good) ... is there anywhere else, on a damp February? David
Admin – Hi David. Sounds like you were just unlucky because there's usually someone there every day. If it's raining they usually move into the Piazza (like in this review). you can find more performers on the Southbank, on the stretch of river opposite the Royal Festival Hall. (There's actually an advert on the telly at the moment showing one -- that Amazon Pride advert with a dog in a pirate costume. That's on the Southbank.) There are sometimes a few in Leicester Square, near the LEGO store. You might find one in front of the Eros fountain in Piccadilly Circus (but they're usually just dancers). They're the only regular ones I can think of. Covent Garden is still your best bet, though
Guest – Thank you Craig I'm a keen amateur photographer often looking for things to shoot to fit a certain theme, I like "street" so often looking for things around London, this is a useful site, friendly too, I may try picking your brains in future. Thanks again David.
Guest – Hello I visited Covent Garden today Sunday 28 May I saw a fantastic female opera singer around 11:30 - would you be able to give me her name. ? I would really like to buy her CD , as I didn't have time today Many thanks Rich Ham
Admin – They're basically just buskers so I wouldn't have a clue, sorry. You could try contacting the Covent Garden website: https://www.coventgarden.london/content/contact-us
Guest – My son and I will visit London city for 2 days. Is visiting Covent garden worthy to visit if we have only 2 days? What areas would you recommend for 2 days sightseeing in London city? Another two days , we will go to Bath, Oxford and Stonehenge. Thank you. I really enjoy your London blogs and guide book a lot.
Admin – There’s not really anything to see there, unless you want to browse around the stalls. I would only go there if you’re already in the area and fancy something to eat at lunchtime because they’ve got some nice little cafes inside and around the central piazza. It’s nice and lively and busy, but it’s not the kind of place that will excite a kid. Ive put together a few two day itineraries in the planner section - have you seen those? I’ve done a lot of top 10 lists as well. You might like to start with those. https://www.londondrum.com/planner/
Guest – Hiya, are the street performers still there in November?? We'll be there around 5pm, which might be dark - will they have gone home by then?? Thanks!!
Admin – There's no way of knowing for sure, because they're basically just professional buskers. But they are usually there when the crowds are there, so you should be all right. they put the big huge christmas tree up in in mid-november, though, so they might not be in front of the church if that's when you're going.
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