MAY 07,2013 - MAY 07,2013 (1 DAYS)
Note: Covent Garden is "covered" also in another daily trip of: Hoxton, Shoreditch and...Covent Garden.
Start: Charing Cross tube station.
End : Covent Garden tube station.
Distance: 7-8 km.
Best time: bright / sunny AFTERNOON.
Duration: 3/4 day - 1 day.
Covent Garden is bounded by High Holborn and New Oxford Street to the north, by Kingsway Street to the east, by The Strand to the south and by Charing Cross Road (where we start) to the west. Unformally, Covent Garden can also be extended down to The Embankment along the Thames between Northumberland Avenue and Hungerford Bridge and even to The Temple Inns of Court.
You are surprised but the Charing Cross tube station is not more distant to Covent Garden than Leicester or Covent Garden tube stations.
From Charing Cross tube station head north toward Northumberland Ave. Exit the roundabout onto Trafalgar Square.
Before turning right to Duncannon - Go around the front of St Martin-in-the-fields Church. St Martin-in-the-Fields is a church at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square. It is dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. There has been a church on the site since the medieval period. The present building was constructed in a Neoclassical design by James Gibbs in 1721–1726. Look what concerts are on from Vivaldi to modern music by candlelight. The music is usually sublime and the acoustics are perfect. Underneath, in the crypt there is a solid restaurant (food not bad, moderate prices, full with tourists) and shop. The church runs a soup kitchen and always provides a Christmas lunch for homeless people so is a good place to support:
Turn right onto Duncannon. Turn left onto Adelaide St. There is a drinking fountain on the corner and a sculpture A Conversation with Oscar Wilde (1998) by Maggi Hambling. Oscar Wilde was an Irish author, playwright and poet, most famous for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and play The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He became a popular and notorious figure in nineteenth century London society:
Head west on William IV St toward St. Martin's Lane. Turn right onto St. Martin's Ln and the the London Coliseum, home of English National Opera - ENO will be on the right. Opening Times: Monday - Saturday: 10.00 to 20.00 (on performance nights), 10.00 to 18.00 (on non-performance nights). With 2,359 seats it is the largest theatre in London. It is one of the two principal opera companies in London, along with The Royal Opera, also in Covent Garden. ENO's productions are sung in English. It underwent extensive renovations between 2000 and 2004 when an original staircase planned by Frank Matcham was finally put in to his specifications. The theatre changed its name from the London Coliseum to the Coliseum Theatre between 1931 and 1968. During the Second World War, the Coliseum served as a canteen for Air Raid Patrol workers, and Winston Churchill gave a speech from the stage. After 1945 it was mainly used for American musicals before becoming in 1961 a cinema for seven years. In 1968 it reopened as The London Coliseum, home of Sadler’s Wells Opera. In 1974 Sadler’s Wells became English National Opera. The theatre underwent a complete and detailed restoration from 2000. The auditorium and other public areas were returned to their original Edwardian decoration and new public spaces were created. The theatre was re-opened in 2004. Today ENO is known for producing groundbreaking stagings of new and core repertoire and for its exceptionally high musical standards. In recent years ENO has had particular success in attracting new audiences to opera, forging creative partherships with opera companies around the world and in developing the careers of young British opera singers:
Walk 1 minute further north along St. Martin Ln to find the Duke of York's Theatre, 104 St Martin's Ln. The theatre opened on 10 September 1892 as the Trafalgar Square Theatre. The theatre became known as the Trafalgar Theatre in 1894 and the following year became the Duke of York's to honor the future King George V.
Further north along St. Martin's Ln (on the left) is the ornate Salisbury Pub of 1898 with original fittings, 90 St Martins Lane. It was the third Marquis of Salisbury and Queen Victoria's favorite Prime Minister, from whom the site of the tavern was originally leased in 1892:
Immediately behind it, still on the left side is the Noel Coward Theatre. It opened on 12 March 1903 as the New Theatre and was built by Sir Charles Wyndham behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed with an exterior in the classical style and an interior in the Rococo style. In 1973 it was renamed the Albery Theatre in tribute to Sir Bronson Albery who had presided as its manager for many years. Since September 2005, the theatre has been owned by Delfont-Mackintosh Ltd. It underwent major refurbishment in 2006, and was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre. Noël Coward, one of Britain's greatest playwrights and actors, appeared in his own play, I'll Leave It To You, at the then New Theatre in 1920, the first West End production of one of his plays:
Walk further north along St. Martin's Ln until Cranbourn Street is on your left. At the junction go RIGHT into Garrick Street. Continue walking eastward until the Garrick Club of 1864 is on your right:
Go left into Rose Street. On the right is the Lamb & Flag pub. A Covent Garden institution, dating back to 1623, this is often crowded with drinkers spilling out to the street. Once called the Bucket of Blood, because of the bare-knuckle fights staged in its courtyard, it was frequented by Charles Dickens. Famed for its whiskies and English food:
Rose Street continues as Floral Street.Cross, through the building blocks, northward to the Long Acre Street. I recommend to turn LEFT (we'll immediately return to this point) along Long Acre and not miss the Stanford's noted map shop, 12-14 Long Acre.
Return to the point in Long Acre (where you came from Floral Street) and turn left onto Mercer St. GAP store is on your right. There are Edwardian flats along Mercer Street. I liked this narrow, old-atmosphere road. Turn LEFT (west) to and along Shelton Street. The Ching Court development by Terry Farrell is situated on the right. This Courtyard is so small it does not appear on many maps. It is found between Shelton Street and Monmouth Street (each of which has an entrance), and Mercer Street. Although the courtyard is surrounded by apartments, it is open to the public between 8am-6pm. There are a few benches, which means you can sit and eat a snack. What I really like about this courtyard is that it is quiet and peaceful - you won't believe you are in the heart of the city. A charming spot.
Walk in Shelton Street until its (west) end and cross Monmouth Street/Upper St Martin's Lane into West Street. On the right is the St. Martin's Theatre. Here you find the longest running show, of any kind, in the world: the Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. Prices from 17.50 to 45.00 GBP. The Mousetrap is celebrating the 62nd year of a record breaking run during which over 25,000 performances have been given. It is quite simply a great piece of theatrical history - written by the greatest crime writer of all time.
Situated next door is the New Ambassadors Theatre. It is one of the smallest of the West End theatres, seating a maximum of 195 people. Go along Tower Court between the theatres (St. Martin's Theatre to your right and the New Ambassadors Theatre to your left). Turn left onto Tower Street and bear right into Earlham Street - heading to the Seven Dials square. Earlham is the site of a street market. Go right (north-east) along this street until the Seven Dials square. Seven Dials is a small but well-known road junction where seven streets converge: Monmouth (upper and lower), Shorts Garden, Earlham (upper and lower), Mercer (upper and Lower). At the centre of the circular space is a pillar bearing six (not seven) sundials, a result of the pillar being commissioned before a late stage alteration of the plans from an original six roads:
Seven Dials was laid out by Thomas Neale in 1694-1714. As the area became less fashionable houses were converted into shops, lodgings and factories, many with immigrant workers. The column was removed in 1773 and the replica replacement was put up in 1989. From Seven Dials go north along (upper) Monmouth Street. The former French Hospital building is on the left. Monmouth Coffee Company, 27 Monmouth Street - some say this is the best coffee in London and it’s certainly in the best one. This is a coffee lover’s paradise with a ‘wine’ list of different producers. Smell the coffee, nibble a pastries or buy some handmade chocolate truffles to take away.
Go through Neal's Yard (adjacent to number 31) bearing right to exit. Neal's Yard is a small alley between Shorts Gardens and Monmouth Street which opens into a courtyard. It is named after the 17th century developer, Thomas Neale. DO NOT MISS this yard. It now contains several health food cafes and New Age retailers such as Neal's Yard Remedies, Neal's Yard Dairy (smelling far away) and World Food Cafe. The whole site is very colorful:
There is a Tim Hunkin clock on the Holland & Barrett shop in Shorts Garden:
After exiting Neal's Yard from the east side cross Shorts Garden and go through the Neal's shopping centre into Earlham Street:
The Donmar Warehouse non-for-profit Theatre is in 41 Earlham Street. Take the Neal Street until its north end (you turn from Shorts Garden LEFT to Neal Street). At the end go RIGHT (north) into Shaftesbury Avenue ("covered" in our Soho trip) and RIGHT into Endell Street. On the right is the former St Giles' National Schools building designed by E M Barry in 1860 for 1500 children. The next photo was taken from the Victorian Web site:
Further along are the former glassworks of Lavers and Barraud (1859) (junction with Betterton Street):
With your face southward in Endell Street, turn LEFT onto Betterton Street (opposite this pub Cross Keys). The street named in honour of the seventeenth-century Shakespearean actor Thomas Betterton who lived and died in nearby Russell Street. Brownlow House a fine eighteenth-century building is in this street.
At the end of Betterton Street turn LEFT in Drury Lane and, immediately, RIGHT onto Macklin Street (a narrow and clean road...). We shall return to Drury Lane a bit later. At the end of Macklin Street go right into Newton Street and second right along Great Queen Street. Now our direction, along Great Queen Street is south-west. The left hand side is dominated by the Freemasons' Hall, the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and a meeting place for the Masonic Lodges in the London area. Opened in 1933 and called the Masonic Peace Memorial in tribute to 3,225 masons who died in WWI, the name was changed to Freemasons' Hall at the outbreak of WWII. The Masonic Order offers free tours of this magnificent Art Deco building to help dispel some of the mystery that has long surrounded it:
The hall was built in 1927-33 as a memorial to Freemasons killed in WWI. Go left into Wild Street. Watch the nice Peabody Estate of 1880. Turn RIGHT onto Kemble Street and, immediately, LEFT to Kean Street. It is a half-circular road. At the end is the Aldwych Theatre (opposite, left). Its seating capacity is 1,200 seats on three levels and it has fairly large auditorium:
Turn RIGHT along Drury Lane. We walk along Drury Lane in the north-west direction. There are four theatres in this street, the earliest of which dates back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London. For its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre" For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" (meaning spoken plays, rather than opera, dance, concerts, or plays with music) drama in London. We pass Kean Street on our right and Tavistock Street on our left. On the right is St Clement Danes School of 1907 and on the corner of Kemble Street is the Sarastro restaurant a distinctive restaurant with oriental, sensual atmosphere and Ottoman interior. As imaginative and remarkable as a scene from The Arabian Nights, the interior of Sarastro is ablaze with swirling colour and visual excitement. A vulgar restaurant with amazing decor throughout. Opinions on the food and service are ....mixed.
Return to the junction and go along Russell Street. On the left is the Theatre Royal, rebuilt for the fourth time in 1810-2. The columns and lamps date from 1831. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. Built four times on the same site. The first building, 1663-1672. It was destroyed by fire on 25th January 1672; The second building, 1674-1791. Re-built by Sir Christopher Wren and opening on 26th March 1674 in the presence of King Charles II. It was demolished in 1791 because it was too small and out of date; The third building, 1794-1809. Designed by Henry Holland. Opened on 12th March 1794. This building burned down for the second time on 24th February 1809; The fourth and present building, designed by Benjamin Wyatt. Opened on 10th October 1812 with a performance of "Hamlet". The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is currently owned by The Really Useful Group:
In the middle of Russell Street Go right into Crown Court.
The Fortune Theatre of 1922-4 has a small foyer and only 440 seats. The Fortune Theatre was opened in 1924 and stands on the site of the old Albion Tavern. In 2005 The Fortune Theatre London hosted the long running play The Woman in Black, which was adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the book of the same name by Susan Hill.
It adjoins the Crown Court Church of Scotland built in 1909:
Continue along Crown Ct and cross Martlett Court and turn left into Broad Court. There is a statue Young Dancer by Enzo Plazzotta and several K2 telphone boxes. The Young Dancer Enzo Plazzotta’s bronze sits opposite the Royal Opera House, home of the Royal Ballet. Plazzotta also sculpted a male dancer, Jeté. He first came to live in London after WWII, when he was active in the Resistance in his native Italy, and only started serious sculpture when he was already in his 40s:
Go left into Bow Street. The Magistrate's Court and police station were built in 1879-80. These replaced an earlier building on the west side. The court closed its doors for the last time on 14 July 2006. The conversion of the Bow Street Court into a hotel never materialized and it was sold to Austrian developers in 2008 who intends to retain the prison cells and establish a police museum. In Bow Street the Royal Opera is on your right. It is open ONLY Mon - Sat 10.00 - 15.30. Go into the main entrance
The present (third) building was designed by E M Barry in 1857-8. The building was extended and remodelled in 1997-9. The Royal Opera, under the direction of Antonio Pappano, is one of the world’s leading opera companies. The Backstage Tours include an introduction to the colourful history of the theatre, an insight into the re-development of the Royal Opera House and a look at aspects of current productions. As the Royal Opera House is a fully working theatre, each tour is a unique experience, and may include opportunities to see The Royal Ballet in class, or the magnificent backstage technology in operation. The current building is the third theatre on the site following disastrous fires in 1808 and 1857. The façade, foyer, and auditorium date from 1858, but almost every other element of the present complex dates from an extensive reconstruction in the 1990s. The Royal Opera House seats 2,256 people and consists of four tiers of boxes and balconies and the amphi-theatre gallery.
There are level entrances to the Royal Opera House from : The New Arcade in the corner of Covent Garden Piazza. Bow Street immediately to the left of the Paul Hamlyn Hall (close to the Box Office and Information Desk). There is lift access to all levels of the main auditorium except the Orchestra Stalls, which is reached by a single flight of stairs.
There are some display cases in this area. It is sometimes possible to go up to the Crush Room via the Grand Staircase. Access the Vilar Floral Hall (built 1858-60) from the new stairs if this is not available.
Take the escalator up to the Amphitheatre Bar. To the right are exhibition areas. Straight ahead through the glass doors gives access to the terrace with stunning views of the costume making department and over Covent Garden. Return down the escalator and stairs and exit via the box office and exit into the Piazza:
From the Opera House head southeast on Bow St toward Martlett Ct. Turn right onto Russell St. Tuttons restaurant , 11/12 Russell Street - was formerly Turkish Baths.
Turn left and the London Transport Museum will be on the left. The London Transport Museum occupies former Flower Market premises of 1872. Open: Monday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 10.00 - 18.00 (Last admission 17.15), Friday 11.00 - 18.00 (Last admission 17.15). Adults 15.00 GBP, Concessions 11.50 GBP.
From the London Transport Museum head southeast toward Tavistock St. Turn RIGHT onto Tavistock St. Walk along Tavistock Street westward and turn left into Southampton Street and, immediately, right into Maiden Lane which runs behind the Strand. On the left is Corpus Christi Church - founded in 1873 and consecrated on the 18th of October, 1956.
Note the Rules restaurant, 35 Maiden Lane. The brass plates outside ‘London’s Oldest Restaurant’ have been polished for so many years they are almost illegible – which is the point. Hearty game, oysters, solid puddings, friendly service and its atmosphere make Rules as popular now as it was when it was founded in 1798:
Turn right into Bedford Street. Walk along Bedford Street. Pass Henrietta Street on your right. First laid out in 1631, and rebuilt through the centuries, moving more and more up-market in the process, Henrietta street now typifies late Georgian/early Victorian style. Jane Austen's brother Henry (a banker) lived at No.10 and she stayed here in 1813 and 1814 when visiting her London publishers. A few steps later on Bedford Street and you arrive to Inigo Place, to your right. This leads to St Paul's Church (not to be mixed with St. Paul Cathedral) designed by Inigo Jones in 1631-5. It is known as the actors' church because of its theatrical connections and there are several memorials within the church. Note: there is no entrance to the church from the Covent Garden Piazza as this is the east (altar) end. The church of St Paul's was the first building, and was begun in July 1631 on the western side of the square. In year 1974 the Covent Garden market moved to a new site in south-west London. The square languished until its central building re-opened as a shopping centre in 1980. The central building re-opened as a shopping centre in 1980, with cafes, pubs, small shops and a craft market called the Apple Market. The Piazza, at the heart of Covent Garden, hosts a variety of talents, performances and family events. Shows run throughout the day and are about 30 minutes in length.
Street performers among St. Paul Church pillars:
The western side of the PIazza - opposite St. Paul Church:
View from St. Paul Church to the Piazza and the Apple Market:
We are now in the Covent Garden Piazza - spending there at least one hour of bright afternoon sun. The central square in Covent Garden is simply called "Covent Garden", very often marketed as "Covent Garden Piazza".
Antiques Market, on Mondays, in Covent Garden Market:
Please note that the courtyard (in Apple Market) space is dedicated to classical music only:
James Street - off Covent Garden Piazza:
Our final point, in Covent Garden is the St. Martines Court. With your back to St. Paul church and your face to the Apple Market signpost - turn left (north-west). Turn right at King St. Turn left onto Floral St. Turn right onto Slingsby Pl (partial restricted usage road) and the St. Martines Court will be on the left. It is a luxurious shopping centre just opened during year 2012-2013:
From here it is 5 minutes walk to the Covent Garden tube station. Head southeast on Slingsby Pl toward Long Acre. Turn left onto Long Acre. Turn right and the tube station will be on your right.