Covent Garden

Sitting roughly between Soho and the City of London, Covent Garden is a popular tourist destination and the only place in London where street entertainers and performers are actually licenced to perform.

This was a market or trading place as far back as the 7th century when it was the centre of an Anglo-Saxon town called Ludenwic, although it is believed to have been subsequently abandoned because of Viking raids.

The name 'Covent' is originally a misspelling of Convent. It was where the Convent of St Peters at Westminster Abbey had their market garden. Inigo Jones the 17th century architect created the stylish buildings and arcades, drawing on Italian piazza (not pizza) architecture and creating a kind of blueprint for architectural planning in Britain ever since.

It's one of Britain's most expensive places to live, but in the 18th century it was a well-known red light district, and the local prostitutes were sometimes called 'Covent Garden nuns,' which must have irked the actual nuns! It was also once one of London's worst slums, and said to be the inspiration for the novel Nicholas Nicholby by Dickens.

Did you know? Covent Garden is the site of the world’s first Punch and Judy puppet show, in 1662. It’s also where the humble sandwich was invented exactly 100 years later. In 1762 John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich, was playing cards in a club, and he ordered meat between two slices of bread to keep his fingers from getting greasy. Or so the story goes.