Covent Garden

Covent Garden (39)

The history of the current Covent Garden square began in the 17th century, when it passed from being the property of the monks of Westminster to that of the Counts of Bedford. In the 1630s the architect Inigo Jones, who at the time occupied the post of royal architect, was entrusted to build a piazza on the old conventual land. The works to build this open rectangular space began in 1631. 

Thirty years later the fruit, vegetable and flower market that made this district famous was created. This series of colourful stalls was maintained until 1974, when the square was subjected to big reforms. If you are a film buff you will associate this setting with the face of Audrey Hepburn, who in the film My Fair Lady played Eliza Doolittle, the humble young woman who the professor of phonetics Henry Higgins turned into a true lady. You will remember that, in the film, the young girl was a flower seller in Covent Garden market.

At the beginning of the 19th century the architect changed the appearance of the square by building, with the aim of placing a market, until then outdoor, three parallel pavilions with many stalls and covered with glass and wrought iron.

When in 1974 the popular market was moved to Nine Elms Lane there was a danger of this spot losing its liveliness and charm, but finally it was decided to rehabilitate the original building and turn it into a commercial centre. Today the renovated pavilions are a seething mass of people, above all young people, who visit its many cafés and shops, which sell from clothes and books to antiques and decorative objects.

The surrounding area being pedestrian only, there are now a large number of street artists who have appeared with the authority’s permission, who provide a varied programme of entertainment that includes mime, juggling, music and the odd magic trick.

When you have got all your shopping done, you can visit Saint Paul’s Church, the London Transport Museum or even the Royal Opera House to see if there are any last-minute tickets available at a good price for that night’s performance.

You will surely love the atmosphere of Covent Garden and want to return one day.

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