Covent Garden is one of most popular places to visit in central London. It’s a lively, colourful neighbourhood with plenty of restaurants, museums, shops and entertaining street performers. In other words something for everyone no matter the age of your children.
Covent Garden is also one of London’s most famous neighbourhoods, home to the Royal Opera House, the excellent London Transport Museum and some of the city’s most well-known theatres. You’re also a stone’s throw from places like Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.
The area is a lot of fun for the whole family to explore and always very busy (especially during summer holidays). If you’re wondering what to do in Covent Garden with kids then this guide is for you!
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The area that we know today as Covent Garden has been around since Medieval times. Then, it was a walled market garden supplying produce to Westminster Abbey. The walled off area was known as “the garden of the Abbey and the Convent”. In 1260 the name was shortened to “Covent Garden” and has stayed that way ever since.
An official market wasn’t established here until 1670 and a fresh fruit and vegetable market then stood here until the 1960s. Traffic congestion meant that the market had to move and so in 1974 the market relocated to the New Covent Garden Market at Nine Elms. The original market features in Enola Holmes, one of the best family movies set in London!
In 1980 the original market building re-opened as a shopping centre, filled with cafes, pubs, shops and a crafts market.
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Fun things to do in Covent Garden with kids
Covent Garden is a neighbourhood to wander and soak up the atmosphere. It’s always busy with something going on – make sure you visit when it’s Christmas in London so that you can see the market area decked out in lights – and is a fun family day out.
London Transport Museum
Undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Covent Garden for kids is to visit the London Transport Museum. This excellent museum sits in the old Grade II-listed Flower Market building in the piazza and is one of those rare museums that is just as good for toddlers as it is for tweens with a wide range of activities for all ages. It’s also a brilliant place to escape to on a rainy day in London.
The museum explores the story of London and its transport system over the last 200 years and is filled with old trains, buses, omnibuses and more. There are lots of interactive activities and a fantastic gift shop as well.
Tickets cost £18.50 (or £17 if bought online) for adults and are free for children aged 17 and under. These tickets are valid for 12 months meaning you go back time and time again!
London Film Museum
A good option for tweens and teens in London is the London Film Museum. They are currently hosting a Harry Potter exhibition (it was James Bond until fairly recently) showcasing hundreds of images from the world of Harry Potter that have never been seen together before.
Covent Garden Street Performers
Kids love to watch the Covent Garden street performers. Come rain or shine there are always magicians, dancers, comedians, jugglers, clowns singers and more performing for encouraging crowds.
Covent Garden has always been a site for street performances with the first recorded show – a marionette show – having taken place in 1662. Head to the open square in front of St Paul’s Church on the West Piazza and you’ll almost always find someone performing.
And, in case you’re tempted to put on a show yourself, you should know that everyone has to audition to perform here. That doesn’t mean they get paid, however, do remember to tip the performer if you enjoyed their show.
One of London’s most instagrammable spots has to be Neal’s Yard. This colourful courtyard is home to a handful of shops, cafes and restaurants (plus possibly the cheapest hairdresser in town). All business here are committed to sustainable and ethical commercial practices.
You’ll Find Neal’s Yard hidden away between Shorts Gardens and Monmouth Street.
Banksy at Covent Garden
‘The Art of Banksy’ is the world’s largest touring exhibition of the street artist’s work. The exhibition brings together some 60 pieces of privately owned Banksy art. On display are some of his most famous works including ‘Girl and Balloon’ and ‘Devolved Parliament’. It’s very good but tickets are expensive.
The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre
The Lion King the musical has been running an impressive 18 years and continues to delight fans and families today. Be prepared to sing along as you follow the adventures of Simba and his friends on stage.
You can buy tickets here or via the Lyceum Theatre direct.
Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre
Another enduringly popular London show is this musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book, Matilda. It first opened in 2011 and the award-winning production is still drawing crowds today.
You can buy tickets here or via Cambridge Theatre directly.
Covent Garden Theatres
Covent Garden is home to lots of theatres including the oldest theatre in London the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane. If you’re keen to see a show, take a look at Theatre Tickets Direct for tickets and deals.
Covent Garden Shops
Covent Garden is a great place to shop with a mixture of high street names and fun British brands as well as a very cool vintage shop, Picknweight, that teens will love
If you’re looking for gifts that are unique to the capital then take a look at this list of the best London souvenirs.
Benjamin Pollock Toy Shop
This toy shop first opened in the 1880s in Hoxton before moving to its current location in Covent Garden. It’s a charming, traditional toy store specialising in cut-out and make Victoria toy theatres, paper shadow boxes and pop-up theatres as well as books, music boxes and other toys that don’t require batteries or charging!
The Moomin Shop
Finland’s most famous residents have a shop in Covent Garden. The Moomin Shop has been designed to resemble Moomin Valley and stocks all manner of Moomin memorabilia from books and tableware to clothing, stationery and rare collectables. The perfect place for kids to use their spending money.
Another Covent Garden shop dedicated to a famous fictional character is the Tintin Shop. The shop first opened in 1984 selling the complete collection of Tintin adventures as well as a handful of posters and greetings cards. Today you can find all this and more including limited edition models, figurings, homewares and more.
Hardy’s Original Sweetshop
One store that all children are guaranteed to love is Hardy’s Original Sweetshop. Selling all manner of traditional sweet treats this candy store is also the place to come for Harry Potter themed sweets.
Stock up on liquorice wands, sherbet lemon sweets. chocolate frogs, popping candy and the infamous Bertis Bots Every Flavour Beans. There are several Hardy’s sweetshops around town but you’ll find the one in Covent Garden located on New Row.
Tweens and teens will love Tatty Devine! This wonderfully British jewellery brand was established in 1999 in east London by two friends, Harriet and Rosie. Their bold, colourful and fun jewellery is made predominantly from perspex and features everything from trapeze artists to lobsters!
What teens will love, however, are the personalised necklaces. Choose from a range of colours, fonts, sizes and charms and have your own Tatty Devine necklace in no time!
Tatty Devine have stores in Brick Lane and in Covent Garden on Monmouth Street.
Cambridge Satchel Company
Another shop that will be popular with tweens and teens is the Cambridge Satchel Company. The bags are modelled on the traditional British, leather school bags and come in a huge range of colours from black to fluorescent pink! You’ll find the Cambridge Satchel Company in Covent Garden on Neal Street.
A third shop that will be popular with tweens and teens is the Dr. Marten’s store. The company started way back in 1901 and established itself as a work boots brand. In 1945, soldier 25 year-old soldier Dr. Klaus Maertens was nursing a broken foot back to health and came up with the air-cushioned sole for which the boot is now famous.
The boots are still popular today and are available in all sorts of colours and designs. You’ll find the Dr. Marten’s store in Covent Garden on Neal Street.
One of my favourite bookstores in London is Stanfords, the UK’s leading specialist retailer of maps and travel books. The shop was originally established in 1853 by Edward Stanford and features a hugely impressive collection of books and guides for both adventurers and armchair travellers. There’s also a great collection of children’s books, travel games, globes and accessories.
You’ll find Stanfords in Covent Garden at 7 Mercer Walk. For more ideas on bookstores, here are my favourite book shops in London for kids.
This shop is a great one for all mums. British jewellery designer Alex Munroe has recently opened his first shop in Covent Garden and it’s beautiful. Honestly, even if you’re not going to buy anything you should pop inside and look around this whimsical space.
All of Munroe’s nature-inspired jewellery is all hand crafted in England and is, quite simply, beautiful. They also use recycled materials wherever possible. Be warned, the jewellery is not cheap but for a special occasion they are definitely worth it!
You’ll find the Alex Munroe Covent Garden store on Floral Street.
A popular place in London for Instagrammers is pretty Petersham Nurseries. This is the store that belongs to the original Petersham Nurseries based in Richmond, south-west London.
If you’re visiting Covent Garden with young kids then this might not be the store for you, there are a lot of breakables! But it is extraordinarily good-looking and well worth a peek inside if you can. They also have a florist, a deli and a wine cellar. The shop is located on King Street.
Covent Garden Hotels
Covent Garden is also a very fun place to stay if you’re visiting the capital. This post has more ideas on the best London neighbourhoods to stay in.
Covent Garden Hotel
This good-looking hotel sits in the heart of Covent Garden, just moments from Seven Dials. The eclectic interiors have been designed by Kit Kemp and look like something that you would see in a magazine.
For families, interconnecting rooms are available as are extra beds and cots. The hotel does provide a babysitting service as well as children’s menus, books and bathrobes.
Check the best prices for The Covent Garden Hotel here.
Not far from the Covent Garden Piazza, on Henrietta Street, is the Henrietta Hotel. For years from the 1920s the building was the offices of publisher Victor Gollancz and saw authors including Kingsley Amis enter and leave through its doors. The hotel is home to 18 bedrooms and a fun, playful and quirky decor.
For families there are cots, high chairs and baby baths available but no dedicated family rooms.
Check the best prices for The Henrietta Hotel here.
For a central London family hotel that doesn’t cost a fortune, try the Z Hotel. Located right behind the Piazza, the Z offers compact comfortable rooms and a daily three-hour cheese and wine session!
For families there are Family Rooms that sleep up to four people.
For more hotels in Covent Garden and the surrounding area take a look at these from Booking.com.
Family-friendly restaurants in Covent Garden
There are lots of child-friendly restaurants in London and plenty of them are in Covent Garden. The following are some of our favourite family-friendly restaurants in Covent Garden. Many of these do have a kids’ menu.
Without doubt my favourite Indian restaurant in London is Dishoom and fortunately, it has a branch in Covent Garden. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and we’re fans of all three meals. My kids love the bacon or sausage naan rolls for breakfast; we all enjoy the Roomali roti rolls for lunch; and for dinner there are friendly biryanis, spicy curries and much more.Dishoom does have a children’s menu.
You can only book for parties of six or more so do be prepared to wait as Dishoom is always popular. Dishoom in Covent Garden is located on Upper St. Martin’s Lane.
For amazing pizza head to this lively restaurant in Neal’s Yard. Be prepared to wait, however, there is always a queue at Homeslice Pizza (but I promise you that the pizzas are worth it!).
Located in Neal’s Yard is Redemption Cafe that promises sin-free cakes and muffins. The cafe and restaurant offers a menu that is gluten-free, low in natural sugars, alcohol free and 100% vegan. If that all sounds too virtuous then try St John’s Bakery next door.
Cafe Murano Covent Garden
This excellent eatery falls under the same umbrella as Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred Murano. Fortunately, however, it’s much more family-friendly and affordable. The kids’ menu at Cafe Murano includes all kinds of fresh pasta and a range of sauces plus fruit or ice cream for pudding.
Wahaca is not my favourite Mexican restaurant in London (for that you’ll need to look at Santo Remedio) but it’s reliable tasty fare that a lot of kids like. Plus, they have a kids’ menu which does make eating out with the family more affordable. Their branch in Covent Garden is typically colourful and serves favourites including pork pibil, fish tacos and crab and avocado tostadas.
Seven Dials Market
Located in what was once an enormous banana warehouse is the fantastic Seven Dials Market, one of the best places to eat in Covent Garden.
Apparently, the first commercial refrigerated shipment of bananas arrived in Britain in 1902 and were stored here to ripen under the steel-framed glass roof. They were then sold from the “foreign fruit exchange” in the nearby Covent Garden Market. Today, this building is filled with fun, family friendly restaurants and food stalls.
At Seven Dials Market you’ll find everything from The Cheese Bar (a sushi-inspired conveyor belt cheese restaurant) and Claw, popular for its crab rolls to Yum Bun, which serves delicious steamed buns and Big Shot doughnuts (they are delicious!) and plenty more.
If you’re interested in more fruity facts then you’ll be pleased to hear that the nearby world famous Pineapple Dance Studios is located in a warehouse that once upon a time stored pineapples!
Seven Dials Market is open from 11am to 11pm Monday to Friday, from 10am to 11pm on Saturdays and from 12pm to 10.30pm on Sundays.
Din Tai Fung
If your kids like dumplings then Din Tai Fung is the perfect place to go. This Covent Garden branch of the world-famous Taiwanese chain delivers delicious dumplings and street food. Don’t miss their signature Xiao long bao (delicate steamed dumplings). Be prepared to queue.
For the best coffee in town head to Monmouth Coffee, a small coffee shop on Monmouth Street. They also serve a small selection pastries for those in the family who prefer a sugar high to a caffeine kick.
Ice Cream in Covent Garden
There are lots of great places for ice cream in London, here are some of our favourites in Covent Garden.
This family-run business creates delicious organic ice cream that’s “hand-moo’d” in store daily. But don’t come expecting regular vanilla or boring chocolate, Udderlicious is the place to visit when you want something a little more exciting. Flavours of the month are voted for by customers and have, in the past, included Marmite, seaweed, apple crumble and custard and plenty of other fun flavours.
If you like experimental flavours then this is one of the best places to try. After all, there aren’t many ice cream shops serving up porcini mushroom chocolate cream ice cream. Honey, rosemary and orange zest is their best seller but there are a vast array of flavours to choose from including fresh watercress and lime and peanut butter, chocolate and caramel.
This family-run Italian ice cream parlour has been serving gelato to Londoners for the last ten years. Flavours range from peanut butter and cookies and cream to the more whimsically titled Breakfast in Turin, a coffee flavoured gelato, and Fior de Latte.
The creations coming out of the Milk Train Cafe look more like magical cloud formations than ice cream. Fortunately, however, they taste just as good as they look. The Milk Train is home to the UK’s first candy floss ice cream cones and candy floss milk shakes. There are also travel inspired ice cream pints.
Choose from one of the three flavours on offer then pick your toppings and your sauces, and watch the ice cream be wrapped in a mass of fluffy white sugary candy floss.