Covent Garden is one of the top shopping and entertainment areas in London. Filled with exquisite restaurants and big fashion labels, it has become a popular venue for tourists to visit. It is also the home for the Royal Opera House and the London Transport Museum.
Its history can be traced back to the reign of King John where the monks of the Convent of St. Peter maintained 40 acres of land in the then Middlesex countryside, for their daily food supplies. It then became the primary source of food for London to be maintained over the next few centuries by a succession of leaseholders under contract to the Abbot of Westminster.
During the 17th century it was redeveloped by Italian architect, Inigo Jones, to which there is currently a restaurant which bears his name. After the Great Fire on London had destroyed other markets, its strategic importance increased and exotic crops from all over the world were brought up the Thames to be sold here. The main covered square then became known as the 'long acre', surrounded by architecture which could otherwise be found in Rome or Florence.
Samuel Pepys recorded one of the first Punch and Judy shows to be performed there in 1662.
Right up to the 1960s, Covent Garden was the main fruit and vegetable market for London where grocers and caterers arrived at the crack of dawn to purchase their daily stock. Unfortunately it became a victim to increasing traffic congestion and the market was forced to move to its current site in Nine Elms, Vauxhall.
After a public outcry at the future of the site, the Home Secretary stepped in to give the Italian piazza-style buildings a listed status to save them from demolition.