London is such a large and varied city that it's easy to get lost, both in planning a trip and in the city itself.
I have to recommend making your home base in Covent Garden - a gorgeous pocket in the center of the city that has everything you'll need during your stay! And even if you aren't staying in Covent Garden, let's discuss what you should see in the area when you visit!
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**Post updated, April, 2019
Smack dab in the center of everything, Covent Garden really must be on your to-visit list for any trip to London. Restaurants, theatre, shopping, and historical sights - what more could a person want?
If you haven't booked a spot to stay in yet, definitely consider making Covent Garden your home base.
Staying in Covent Garden, London: Location
Various factors go into picking a hotel for a lengthy vacation, but location within the city you’re hoping to learn to get to know has got to be #1.
While walking in London is easy, and London's Tube is extremely accessible, you definitely want to make sure that you're picking a location that is both central to what you want to do and desirable in and of itself. Many tourists looking for a high end experience end up in Mayfair ($$$$) or Westminster (thinking they’re near the sights) only to find that St Paul’s is not even remotely walkable and it’s quite a journey to the inevitable London Eye trip.
From Covent Garden, we spent many an evening having a relaxing, after-hours drink in the City, then strolling along the Thames after a long day shopping at Fortnum's. All on foot (with the caveat, of course, that are huge walkers). You’re about a 20-minute walk from St Paul’s and a 24-minute walk from Westminster Abbey. You can tour the two greatest royal wedding locations all on foot - what more could you ask for?
Additionally, taking the Heathrow Express, getting to the airport is about as easy as it can ever be from Central London - the Express drops you at Paddington Station, and then I'd recommend a quick cab ride over to Covent Garden.
Why's it called "Covent Garden?"
If you're anything like me, the first thing I started asking when my husband and I decided to stay in this area was "Covent?"
What on earth does that mean?
Well, if you can imagine, this area - now the heart of London's theatre district, used to be owned by Westminster Abbey (think Pillars of the Earth) and used as an orchard and farming district.
Londoners called the region "the garden of the Abbey and Convent," and within a few short centuries, that first "n" was nowhere to be found!
With the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the King instead gave the land to the Earl of Bedford, whose descendants commissioned Inigo Jones to construct ritzy townhouses.
Staying in Covent Garden, London: Covent Garden Market Shopping
Covent Garden is, of course the name of the neighborhood itself, and it's also a specific structure you'll need to be sure to visit.
Covent Garden itself (the former "fruit and veg" stalls, which were redeveloped in the end of the 20th century) is an incredible structure. Certainly worth seeing, even if you aren't a shopper, it is the nucleus of the area, and also home to a number of restaurants, coffee shops, and pubs on the nearby streets, as well.
The structure and surrounding streets have *amazing* shopping.
From classic, luxury mainstays like Chanel and Dior to great English names like Mulberry, if you're looking for a relaxed shopping experience, look no further.
A recent favorite of mine is The Cambridge Satchel Company, which offers a variety of simple, tasteful leather bags, generally around $150-$250. Walking just outside the confines of the Garden, you'll find Eileen Fisher, H&M, and Barbour, among many others.
Staying in Covent Garden, London: West End Theatre
In our recent 10-night stay in Covent Garden, we saw *5* shows, often buying the tickets that same day. What is better than eating dinner, seeing a show, grabbing a drink, and being able to walk back to your hotel?
I must particularly recommend The Mousetrap - a London classic. We attended the 27,297th performance. Personally, I’d pair The Mousetrap with dinner (before or after at The Ivy, see below)- and remember - don’t spoil the ending! If you're lucky enough to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Palace Theatre is easily walkable. For more on Cursed Child, check out the blog post on trips and tricks for seeing Cursed Child in London.
Staying in Covent Garden, London:
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