Clowns and classical music at London's Covent Garden Market

By Kevin Hughes, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on London.

Overall rating:4.4 out of 5 (based on 5 votes)
Enjoyable
4.4
4.4
Useful
4.8
4.8
Inspirational
3.8
3.8
Recommended for:
Cultural, Shopping, Short Break, Budget, Mid-range, Expensive

For centuries the site of an important market Covent Garden has been transformed into a modern, major tourist attraction where street entertainers and musicians add to the bustling market atmosphere.

Sitting on a bench, eyes closed, the enchanting melody of Ravel’s Bolero rises and falls as the smell of freshly brewed coffee competes with the heady aroma of scented candles and freshly cut flowers.
The classical musicians play faultlessly and it’s impossible for your mind not to wander as you dream of embracing a beautiful woman on a moonlit Parisian Street.
But, just as the violins reach the masterpiece’s intense crescendo and at the precise second you are to about taste the warm, tender kiss of your imaginary lover, street entertainer Sham the Bum chooses to noisily announce his arrival at Covent Garden’s Piazza.
Somehow it’s impossible not to be drawn past the candle shop, the flower sellers and the multitude of craft stalls to watch the comic antics of one of Covent Garden's best street entertainers.
Watching Sham, who bases his character on Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, play the crowd is an anarchic lesson in slapstick on the greatest stage of all - the street.
He rapidly throws out spontaneous one line gags before somehow, with the aid of several members of his enthralled audience, climbing onto a four meter high giraffe unicycle for a daredevil display of zany and intensely funny stunts.
Visit www.shamthebum-show.biz for more.
Covent Garden, whether listening to classical musicians play for loose change or watching street entertainers thrill audiences with their comic routines and daring stunts or simply browsing the fantastic varied market stalls and unique shop units is a must-do London experience.
The market’s historic location can be traced back to Roman and Saxon times but it wasn’t until around 1650 that 'fruit and veg' markets were being held regularly at what is now the market's modern site.
And after the Great Fire of London destroyed many other London markets Covent Garden quickly became established as the most important fruit, vegetable and flower market in England.
But by the mid 1970’s the majority of market traders had moved out and the site was earmarked for redevelopment with plans for office blocks and a new road system. However, public outcry saw restoration work carried out and, in 1980, Covent Garden Market re-opened as a purpose built speciality shopping centre that rapidly established it self as a major tourist attraction.
Now, although modern and new, there is plenty of reminders of the markets incredible history. A few hundred years ago when the first markets were being held pineapples were considered exotic beyond belief and became a symbol of wealth and generous hospitality. The fruit was adopted as a symbol by Covent Garden architects and artists and eventually it was adopted as the market's emblem.
Look carefully as you wander around the Apple and Jubilee Markets at Covent Garden and you can see the shape of pineapples is woven into the very fabric of the building. Lights, banister ends and doorways are decorated with pineapple shapes.

Market stalls:

The Apple Market is filled with a mind-blowing variety of craft, antique, jewellery, fashion and specialist stalls.
On Mondays the Jubilee Market is crammed full of antique stalls while from Tuesday to Friday, traders sell clothing and household goods and on Saturday and Sunday the market throws open its door’s to sellers of arts and crafts and collectables.
Prices are as cheap or expensive as you want. Personally I always make a bee-line for the traditional sweet stall to stock up on sherbet lemons, chocolate limes, jelly beans, humbugs and all those other traditional sweets I remember from my long lost childhood.
It really is easy to lose yourself strolling around the multitude of market stalls and unique shop units stopping every now and again for a coffee or to be entertained by the street artists or musicians.
If you have never been, go, you won’t be disappointed.

Visit www.coventgardenlondonuk.com for more information.

Culture:

Covent Garden isn’t just about street entertainers and markets. The area immediately surrounding the market is also home to the English National Opera, The Royal Opera House, The Royal Ballet and London Transport Museum.
Visit www.eno.org, www.roh.org.uk, www.ballet.co.uk and www.ltmuseum.co.uk for more information.

Getting there:

Covent Garden is on London Underground’s Picadilly line and the tube station is just a few hundred yards from the market. However, Covent Garden Station gets exceptionally busy, especially at weekends. It is often easier to get off at Leicester Square, Charing Cross, Embankment or Holborn and walk. Leicester Square is the closest station and is only a five minute stroll from the market.
Parking restrictions and the congestion charge means going by car is really not an option while there is a good bus service for those that don’t like the tube with number 24 buses stopping at Leicester Square.

Eating and drinking:

Covent Garden, as you would expect of a major tourist area, has a multitude of restaurants, bars and cafes to suit all tastes and pockets. However, these are just two I have visited regularly and can recommend.

The Punch and Judy is a large pub with a balcony overlooking Covent Garden Piazza. It’s a great place to watch the street artists performing outside. The pub gets exceptionally busy however, if you can find a seat, the reasonably priced menu has scores of traditional British dishes. There's a great selection of pies and old favourites such as sausage and mash at around £5.95 and other main courses such as Thai green curry and rice at £8.95. They also sell a range of sandwiches and baguettes at around £3.75 and jacket potatoes with various fillings.
Visit www.fancyapint.com for more.

Covent Garden Grill at Henrietta Street serves up mouth-watering steaks all cooked over a charcoal grill and at reasonably affordable prices for central London. An 8oz sirloin will set you back £15.95 while a same size fillet is £17.95. All steaks are served with a side order of your choice. Chose from chips, baked potato, salad or green vegetables. There is also a good selection of vegetarian choices including chilli and garlic marinated vegetable and haloumi kebabs served with herb and pine nut couscous and yoghurt and mint sauce at around £11.95.
Visit www.coventgardengrill.com for more.

Where to stay:

Whenever I head for a weekend in London I try and book a room at the Grange Fitzrovia, Bolsover Street, W1P 7HJ. Just a short walk from Euston Station, or one stop on the tube from Euston Square to Great Portland Street, I find it ideally located.
Just across the road from Regent’s Park yet only five minutes walk from Oxford Street it means I can avoid the tube at busy times and enjoy the walk if the weather is good.
Rooms are large for a London hotel and I have always found the staff very accommodating.
Expensive at around £220 a night in the week they have some great deals for weekends and you can normally get a double room for around £100 a night.
I usually stay room only and walk the 200 meters or so to Great Portland Street Station for breakfast at the Turkish, Mezes Café. There, a really good full English breakfast will set you back a mere £6 including a piping hot mug of coffee or tea.

The Central Park Hotel, Queensborough Terrace, W2 3SS is also a great hotel in a good location. Just across the road from Hyde Park and a short distance from Marble Arch and central London both Queensway and Bayswater Road tube stations are less than five minutes walk away. Rooms cost around £125 for a double. However, book early on-line and there always deals to be had which can substantially reduce you overall bill leaving you paying less than £80 a night.
Rooms are a reasonable size, modern and clean.

Save money on booking

flightshotelscar hire

by following our money-saving guides. They are written by our Simonseeks team of travel gurus.

More information on Clowns and classical music at London's Covent Garden Market:

Author:
Kevin Hughes
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4.4
Average: 4.4 (5 votes)
Total views:
679
First uploaded:
1 July 2010
Last updated:
4 years 6 weeks 6 days 1 hour 39 min 13 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Cultural, Shopping, Short Break
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
shopping, antique markets, history and culture, city break culture

Kevin recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Grange Fitzrovia
£57
N/A
2. Central Park Hotel
£33
N/A

What do you think of this guide?

Did it tell you what you needed to know?
Do you agree with the writer's recommendations?

Share your views by leaving a comment on this page.

Community comments (6)

Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

A lovely easy read, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I love Covent Garden and it is one of the places I have often whiled away time waiting for shows etc.

There is a lot of very useful information such as the tip about not getting the tube to Covent Garden station itself - this is certainly non-negotiable in my opinion. I once did 'attack' the 193 steps over waiting for the lift. Never again.

I also really enjoyed the facts and history bits - next time I visit, I will look out for the pineapples!

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Well, I suppose I must admit I'm an ex-pat Londoner, but what an enjoyable read - and what an opening! Sounds like magic!

I visited only recently, very much the area you mentioned, and hadn't realised Covent Garden had changed so much. Next visit will be enhanced by time spent relaxing over a beer and watching the show! Thanks for the market tips, and all that excellent hotel information.

Really! - affordable entertainment is worth its weight in gold (!!!) at the moment, and you brought it to us!

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Kevin,

You have a nice writing style and have brilliantly captured the happening atmosphere at the Covent Garden.

Just to clarify a small point, do these activites happen round the year or between specific months of the year?

Was this comment useful?

Arif,

Covent Garden street entertainers and musicians are pretty much in evidence all year although summer months, when you can sit in warm sunshine, is my preferred time to visit.

Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Kevin - Covent Garden is a great theme for an article, and I loved how you captured the atmosphere in your piece.

I know a few folk that recommend giving the Grange Fitzrovia a chance for a reasonably priced weekend room, although I usually stay Bayswater way in a place like your other recommendation.

My only suggestion is that readers might prefer a line between paragraphs to really break up the text a little.

Paul

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Kevin- an enjoyable read. It's always a fun place to visit and your guide and especially the photos reflect that. I think you need to have another read through as I spotted a few grammatical errors and bits missing ("an" anarchic, "climbing" onto are a couple and the "n" in clown is missing from one of your photos. Sorry to nitpick). The Fitzrovia sounds like a good recommendation- will give it a go next time I'm there

Was this comment useful?