the 1630s Francis Russell, the 4th Earl of Bedford, commissioned
Inigo Jones to develop the centre of Covent Garden to provide
accommodation suitable for 'Gentlemen and men of ability'.
Influenced by the Italian neo-Classicism of Palladio, the
architect created an arcaded, three-sided square of tall terraces,
overlooked by St Paul's, a plain Tuscan-style church.
As London's first planned square
this was a success but the growth of the fruit and vegetable
market, established in 1656, meant that Covent Garden's well-to-do
residents left for the new, exclusive, developments to the
In Victorian times the area's
gin palaces became notorious, but continued
to be a venue for theatre and opera.
In 1974 the wholesale fruit and
vegetable market moved to Battersea, and the covered central
market, was redeveloped to provide a space for a range of
shops, craft stalls and open-air cafés.
pedestrianised Covent Garden Piazza surrounding this Victorian
building has become a great draw for visitors.
Not to be missed, visit the newly
redeveloped Royal Opera House, then stroll around the interesting
streets leading off the piazza. Floral Street is noted
for its designer fashion, while Long Acre has more mainstream
Neal Street is a street of former 19th century warehouses,
converted into small art galleries, restaurants and shops
selling everything from oriental goods to kites.
Neal's Yard, off Shorts Gardens,
is an oasis with health food shops and cafés, and Denmark
Street, near St Giles-in-the-Fields, is famous for its musical
To the east of Covent Garden
is Bow Street, where Henry Fielding, the novelist and barrister,
established the Bow Street Runners.