Covent Garden today is a tourist destination and popular shopping location in the heart of London. You could say it is as famous as New York’s Times Square. Once a fruit and vegetable market, the old market hall, situated in the centre of the square, now houses chic boutiques and eateries. The world renowned Royal Opera House occupies the North Eastern corner and one street to the east is one of the oldest theatres in London, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. In the South East corner is the London Transport Museum and on the Western side you’ll find St. Paul’s Church (not the St. Paul’s - a different one) outside which, clowns and acrobats draw the crowds with their antics. Oh, and there’s something of a flagship Apple store as well. All in all, Covent Garden buzzes with activity and commerce.

Roll back to 1769, and you’d find everything pretty much the same as it is today, save that the buildings in the centre of the square are rude shacks instead of a lovely 19th century market hall, and there is no London Transport Museum or Apple store. For the better part of the 18th century Covent Garden was known colloquially as the “Square of Venus” because of the numbers of prostitutes who plied their trade thereabouts. By the 19th century most of the whores had moved east to St. James or Soho, and ever onward to the newly built ‘suburb’ of Marylebone, leaving Covent Garden to the fruit and vegetable wholesalers. This trade moved away from the district in the 1970s, and the square was saved from redevelopment by local public outcry. In the 1980s the market hall was reopened as a shopping centre. Mindful of the historical importance of the area, improvements have continued to the present day.


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