Things you might not know about Covent Garden

Covent Garden is rich in centuries worth of history, pop culture moment and a couple of surprises. Think you know Covent Garden? Think again with these little known facts from around the neighbourhood.

Covent Garden London (6)

If the streets could talk

  • Long Acre in Covent Garden is named after the acre strip of market garden that was once owned by the monks of Westminster Abbey.
  • Covent Garden has run a market in some way shape or form since 1656.
  • There used to be another street off the Piazza called Mart Street. Don’t believe us, watch the 1948 classic The Red Shoes where you can spot it.
  • The lamps in the Market Building are shaped liked pineapples and this is because Covent Garden was the first place you could buy the fruit when it first arrived to these shores.
  • The journey from Covent Garden Tube station to Leicester Square on the Piccadilly line is the shortest trip on the whole London Underground network, covering 260 metres and taking only about 20 seconds. This blink-or-you’ll-miss-it trip costs £4.80, best save your pennies and jump off at Leicester Square and leave through exit 4 to simply walk up Long Acre.

Royal Opera House Covent Garden

All the theatrics

  • The first Punch and Judy puppet show was performed in Covent Garden in 1662, as documented in the diaries of Samuel Pepys. There is still a plaque to this day on the St Paul’s Church commemorating this moment.
  • Covent Garden is home to the oldest theatre in London. The oldest theatre in London is the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane which dates back to 1663. Rumour has it there is an underground tunnel so the stars of the show could swiftly get to the nearby pub.
  • Ever looked up when you’re standing on Floral Street and wonder what is that bridge between two buildings? The Bridge of Aspiration provides the dancers of the Royal Ballet School with a direct link to the Grade I listed Royal Opera House. A concertina of 23 square portals with glazed intervals is supported from an aluminium spine beam. These rotate in sequence for the skew in alignment, performing a quarter-turn overall along the length of the bridge.

In 2014, Willemijn Verkaik surprised audiences by performed Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked on top of Ladurée’s terrace at the Olivier Awards 40th anniversary celebration in Covent Garden.

Covent Garden is the birthplace of the sandwich

John Montagu, otherwise known as the Earl of Sandwich, first ordered a slab of meat between two pieces of bread in 1762, at a society club called the Beef Steak Club at the Shakespeare’s Head Pub which was on the now disappeared Wych Street, off Drury Lane, thereby inventing Britain’s most popular lunchtime meal. The sandwich was invented out of necessity to keep the Earl’s fingers and playing cards clean from grease while he was gambling.

Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke filmed a TV movie based in Covent Garden in 1974

In 1974, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke starred in a TV special which was called Julie and Dick in Covent Garden. The show included song and dance numbers mixed with slapstick fun. Ironically, none of it was actually shot in Covent Garden but actually on a soundstage in America.

The walls have ears

Soho may have noses but Covent Garden has ears. Walk along Floral Street and try to spot the two ears mounted on the walls by artist Tim Fishlock who made casts of his own ears to create them.

Legendary Performances

Paul Mccartney Covent Garden

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney hosted and improtu gig in Covent Garden in 2013. To celebrate his newest album at the time, 2,000 people were said to have watched from the West Piazza.

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Bon Jovi Covent Garden

Bon Jovi

In 1994 Bon Jovi took a break from arenas in their ‘These Days’ tour to busk in Covent Garden. You can watch the set on YouTube, just don't expect HD.

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Naomi Campbell was discovered in Covent Garden

As the world famous supermodel recalls of being spotted

“I remember the day she spotted me in the street. It was a warm April afternoon. I was hanging out in Covent Garden with my friends Suzanne Howard and Maxine Restall, who were blonde and beautiful like most of my friends at the time. I should have gone straight home after school but Covent Garden was always such a fun artsy place, full of music and people dancing in the square, that I liked stopping there on the way home.”

Covent Garden is home to the first Paul Smith store

In 1979, the first Paul Smith store in London opened at 44 Floral Street, Covent Garden. Today, Paul Smith’s Covent Garden store sells everything from suits to suitcases for men and women. Visit Paul Smith Floral Street to discover the latest clothes, shoes and accessories from all Paul Smith collections.

Famous for shopping

Covent Garden was developed into a luxury shopping and entertainment district in 1632, commissioned by Francis Russell, the 4th Earl of Bedford. The architect, Inigo Jones, was heavily influenced by Italian piazzas and created the elegant shopping arcades that Covent Garden is now famous for.

Pop Up Performances

Liam Payne and Zedd Get Low Covent Garden

Liam Payne and Zedd

In 2017, Liam and his pal Zedd turned up in Covent Garden and surprised fans with the recording of their song ‘Get Low’ which turned in to the official music video

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Róisín Murphy

Róisín Murphy

In 2008, Róisín Murphy performed her upcoming single 'You Know Me Better' on the West Piazza, Covent Garden.

→ Watch here