If a visitor from another planet was somehow instantly transported to Covent Garden, the space alien would soon ascertain that the area is a world renowned shoppers’ paradise. From quaint and indie boutiques to retail powerhouses, Covent Garden wows London visitors and residents alike with the its assortment of up-to-date fashions, unique souvenir and gift items and basically any-and-everything for the most sophisticated, finicky or even bizarre of preferences.
The alien visitor might feel at home at Forbidden Planet’s London Megastore on Shaftesbury Avenue. Forbidden Planet is the world’s largest and best-known science fiction, fantasy and cult entertainment retailer. Its Shaftesbury Avenue shop is indeed ‘mega’ and offers the latest in DVDs, books and collectables. Shopping here is truly an out-of-this-world experience.
A few storefronts down Shaftesbury Avenue, our extra terrestrial friend might also find some sympathetic faces at Angels, a fancy dress retailer (that means a costume shop to you non-Brits) that has been in operation for more than 150 years and features six floors “of the best fancy dress in the world.” From catering to West End’s most famous theatres to ensuring everyone has a frightfully fun Halloween, browsing round Angels is a bit like being in a museum of masks and fancy dress.
From there, if our interstellar tourist has any fashion sense at all, it should make a b-line for Neil Street, a quaint pedestrian lane dedicated to shoes and hardly anything more. In addition to the latest trends and hottest brands at a variety of shops, here eco-conscious shoppers can even try on and purchase vegetarian shoes at The Vegetarian Shoe Store. Neil Street is one of a handful of streets that comprise the area known as Seven Dials, known for its extraordinary range of UK flagship stores such as Paul Frank, Diesel, Crocs and more! nearby Seven Dials area presents even more chances to further explore one of London’s most happening retail scenes.
Another happening Seven Dials passageway is Monmouth Street, with retailers such as the upscale (and adults only!) “haven of sensuality”, Coco de Mer and the fabulously designed prints and colours at Orla Kiely’s first European stand alone shop. If pick-me-ups are required to help stay alert or a caffeine boost needed before the next leg of the alien’s shopping expedition, it would be wise to consider popping into Monmouth Street’s tiny Monmouth Coffee Company. It’s a quaint and rustic little gem serving arguably the best coffee in London.
If wishing for something a little more substantial than a coffee and croissant? Quick, tasty and healthy refuellings can be had at Just Falafs. Located on the piazza opposite the London Transport Museum, this friendly little eatery provides organic falafel wraps, salads and more at commendable prices. Of course, all the standard fast food outlets exist along with an abundance of virtually every sort of eating establishment imaginable.
Feeling a little spacy from all the stellar shopping? Take a break in Covent Garden’s airy piazza and be amused by its wealth of entertainment from a number of London’s best street performers and buskers, not to mention the photo opportunities accompanying such activity. From opera singers to jugglers, these performers put their hearts into making visitors feel welcome. There’s also the London Transport Museum just outside the market, sharing London’s fascinating transport history along with a nice little café and gift shop. Plenty of restaurants, pubs and cafés are located on the piazza as well as, obviously, throughout the Covent Garden area.
Bringing this exploration of Covent Garden back to the retail universe, a more recent addition to the Piazza (but one that many would say is still very historic) is the Apple Store. And not just any Apple Store – the world’s largest! Open since summer of 2010, the Grade II listed building restored with English and York stone is already a bit of a tourist attraction and a good place to check your email and see what the latest i-gadget is.
Of course, what would a shopping expedition to Covent Garden without actually visit the historic Covent Garden Market? This bustling covered market is a must see for any London visitor ready for some first-rate retail therapy in a traditional English setting. A fruit and vegetable market from the 1500s and a notorious red light district during the 18th Century, today the market features an impressive range of shopping opportunities from top of the line fashion outlets to souvenirs and antiques – all nestled within the arcades of its lovely Victorian-era structure. Covent Garden Market is an excellent spot to step back in time, pick up all sorts of souvenirs for the folks back home and treat yourself to something special as well.
Although Covent Garden is safe, it attracts large crowds. Furthermore, with the constant bustle of street life and so many interesting sights to take in, it’s simple enough to get distracted. Sadly, pickpockets taking advantage of the situation are not unknown (however they are extremely rare). Staying aware of your belongings and keeping an eye out for any suspicious behaviour is always a good idea.
Covent Garden presents a universe of shopping opportunities for every visitor with shops accommodating every budget in the galaxy. A short walking distance from Covent Garden Station and Leicester Square, Covent Garden is incredibly easy to reach from virtually anywhere in London, and as you’ll see almost any day of the week (and especially on a Saturday afternoon), people coming on on cheap flights to London keep this popular shopping destination buzzing year round.