on December 7, 2011
Covent Garden is an area in central London, in the eastern part of the West End between Drury Lane and St Martin's Lane. It is located on the site of the old fruit and vegetable market, itself built in the 1830s to normalise and tame what was then a notorious theatre and red-light district (as well as an open-air market). The market was relocated east in the mid-seventies and the area re-developed as a fashionable shopping, entertainment and tourist centre.Currently, the Covent Garden is one of the most popular tourist destinations in London and is known for its shops (many of them independent, clustered around Neal's Yard), bars (over sixty pubs are located in Covent Garden) and restaurants on one hand and entertainment on the other. The entertainment in Covent Garden ranges from the stately splendours of Royal Opera House (whose colloquial name is, in fact, Covent Garden) to the Theatre Royale in Drury Lane (now owned by Andrew Lloyd Weber and devoted to staging musicals) to other theatre venues (Adelphi, Aldwych, Lyceum Fortune and Vaudeville Theatres) to numerous street performers that have their designated areas (North Hall, West Piazza, and South Hall Courtyard) and time slots. The district has its own church (Inigo Jones' St Paul's, commonly known as the Actors' Church) and a popular museum (London Transport Museum). It's hard to judge whether Covet Garden is just a tourist trap or a more genuine place with a life of its own. As most freshly-designed redevelopments of older, less salubrious or industrial areas, it started out as pretty sterile and manufactured, but over the years developed a bit more of a real personality and life. Many of the shops and bars are popular with Londoners as much as with the tourists and other visitors and the theatrical life of the area is very much a genuine thing. Covent Garden sits somewhat on a cusp between the City and the West End, where the tourists, bankers, actors and shop assistants rub shoulders if not always exactly mingle with each other. It's worth a visit during the day for the street performances and a quick browse round the shops (although it's very easy to spend too much on fancy artisanal products from cheese to dress up costumes) as well as for a drink or a theatre show in the evening. If you look carefully, you might see a shadow of Eliza Doolitle's, the flower seller from Pygmalion lurking around the Opera House; or somebody who remembers John Logie Baird's first television transmission of a Covent Garden ventriloquist's dummy.
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