The market-place is as full with street-performers and stalls as it is with great shops and cafes.
Best known for the days when it was a fruit and vegetable market, or as an opera venue, Covent Garden derived its name from the Benedictine Convent that stood on its grounds until the "Dissolution of the Monasteries" (1536-1541). It was then used to train the King's falcons, until Henry VIII, tired of it, gave the land to the Bedford family who ordered the construction of the central square and the streets around it. A fruit and vegetable market settled there after the Great Fire of 1666, remaining until the 1970s, when the traffic congestion forced it to move to New Covent Market about three miles (5 km) south-west at Nine Elms.
Today it is a hive of activity - with street performers, market stalls, bars and restaurants. There has always been something to see here, from the aristocrats who contested world-title boxing bouts, to John Logie Baird who transmitted the first television programme from here, or the hoaxer who exhibited a 'mermaid' he caught in China.
Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RD
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