A neighbourhood guide to Covent Garden
March 18, 2022
A traveller’s bookshop
Named after its original owner, Edward Stanford, Stanfords was founded in 1853 – at a time when cartography was a burgeoning art – and received a royal warrant as Queen Victoria’s map maker in 1893. Florence Nightingale and the explorers Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the first Brit to reach the South Pole were early customers. Today this special bookshop caters to modern explorers with maps, globes, flags and travel accessories whilst also hosting prestigious travel writing festivals and awards.
7 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA
With its Victorian street lamp and hand-painted wooden hanging signs from the early 19th century, the pedestrianised alleyway of Cecil Court is London from another era. Stumbling upon it feels serendipitous, as it’s easily missed and lined with shops selling antique prints, rare books, coins and medals. Tim Bryars of Bryars & Bryars says, “I think we must be the last street in London where every single shop is independent. We don’t sell reproductions; everything is original, such as first edition books by Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and Agatha Christie.”
7 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ
Established in 1798, Rules is one of London’s oldest restaurants, specialising in traditional British dishes such as Whitstable rock oysters, steak and kidney pie and golden syrup sponge. It also has a selection of game dishes made with birds bred on its own estate in the Pennines in northern England. Dine here and step into the shoes of famous guests including Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier and HG Wells. The novelist Graham Greene and the late Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, were also patrons, and both lend their names to the restaurants’ private, wood-panelled dining rooms.
35 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7LB
Seven Dials derives its name from the heptad of streets that surround a pillar topped by a sundial, designed by stonemason Edward Pierce in 1693. Offering seven lanes to explore, the area is known for its buzzy atmosphere and independent boutiques such as the Experimental Perfume Club and an array of independent bars including Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials. Here, 400 wines await to be discovered, tucked away in Neal’s Yard, a rainbow-hued courtyard named after the 17th century MP behind the design of Seven Dials.
Seven Dials, London WC2H 9HU
Experimental Perfume Club, 53 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9DG
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials, 8-10 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP
Covent Garden has a thriving creative spirit, its streets lined with theatres, galleries and pop up exhibitions. The contemporary art gallery LUMAS specialises in hand-signed, limited edition prints by both emerging artists and established names such as Ai Weiwei and Jeff Koons. On the same street, artistic director Michael Longhurst draws theatre goers to Donmar Warehouse, which has built a reputation for new writing and contemporary interpretations of classics. With 250 seats, the audience is never more than four rows away from an actor.
LUMAS, 21-23 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LL
Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LX
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