Covent Garden and the West End are two of London’s most popular areas for Londoners and visitors alike. They’re both known for their rich history, world-class entertainment, and diverse shopping experiences. But what many people don’t realize is that they’re also great places for families to spend time together. From museums to street performers, shows to shops, here are some of the top family-friendly things to do in the area.
Covent Garden & West End Facts:
- Covent Garden was once a fruit and vegetable market from the 1600s until 1974.
- The name “Covent Garden” comes from the fact that the area was once a convent garden owned by Westminster Abbey.
- The Royal Opera House, located in Covent Garden, is home to two of the world’s leading opera and ballet companies, the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet.
- The West End is known as the entertainment district of London, with its numerous theatres, cinemas, and music venues.
- The Palace Theatre, located in the West End, is famous for hosting the first-ever performance of the musical “Les Misérables” in 1985.
- Leicester Square, located in the heart of the West End, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in London.
- The West End has a rich theatrical history, dating back to the 17th century when the first public theatres were built in the area.
- The Covent Garden Piazza, located in the heart of Covent Garden, is a popular spot for street performers and outdoor events.
- The West End is home to some of London’s most prestigious shopping streets, including Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Bond Street.
- Covent Garden is famous for its covered market, which features a wide range of shops, restaurants, and cafes.
- The London Transport Museum, located in Covent Garden, is dedicated to the history of London’s transport system.
Top activities in London’s West End and Covent Garden area with kids:
- Visit the London Transport Museum
- Check out the Covent Garden Street Performers
- Enjoy West End Shows: The Lion King, Matilda
- Kids shopping: The Moomin Shop, Tintin Shop, M&Ms Store, Lego Store
- Explore Covent Garden
- Splash in the Leicester Square Fountains
- Take the Movie Statues Trail
- Watch a film at the cinema
- Enjoy all the lovely decorations during Halloween, Easter and Christmas.
London Transport Museum
We’ve previously reviewed the London Transport Museum and concluded that it’s one of our top choices for families with young kids visiting London. This is a fantastic place for kids to learn about the history of transportation in the city. The museum is located at the heart of Covent Garden and has a wide range of exhibits, including vintage vehicles, interactive displays, and even a simulator ride. Kids can climb aboard buses, trams, and trains, and learn how public transport has evolved over the years. There are also plenty of hands-on activities and workshops to keep them engaged.
Covent Garden Street Performers
Covent Garden is known for its vibrant street performers, who put on shows throughout the day. From magicians to musicians, acrobats to clowns, there’s always something entertaining to see. Kids will love watching the performers do their tricks and interact with the audience. And the best part is, it’s all free! Just make sure to bring some change to toss into the performers’ hats.
West End Shows
The West End is home to some of the world’s most popular stage productions, including family favourites like The Lion King and Matilda. These shows offer a great opportunity to introduce kids to the magic of live theatre. The performances are top-notch, with talented actors, dazzling sets, and catchy music. And there’s something for everyone, whether your kids are into drama, comedy, or musicals. Be sure to book your tickets in advance, as the shows can sell out quickly.
The Lion King: The Lion King is a beloved musical based on the hit Disney movie of the same name. This show features incredible music, stunning costumes, and amazing puppets and sets, making for an immersive and unforgettable experience. The story follows the journey of Simba, a young lion who must learn to overcome his fears and take his place as king of the Pride Lands. The show is suitable for all ages and is sure to captivate audiences young and old.
Matilda: Matilda is a musical based on the classic children’s book by Roald Dahl. This show tells the story of Matilda, a young girl with a love of books and a special gift for telekinesis. Matilda must navigate the challenges of her home life and her strict school, but she ultimately discovers her inner strength and power. The show features catchy music, energetic dance numbers, and plenty of humor, making it a hit with kids and adults alike.
Shops for Kids
Covent Garden and the West End have plenty of shops that will appeal to kids of all ages. The Moomin Shop is a must-visit for fans of the beloved Finnish characters, with a wide range of toys, books, and merchandise available. The Tintin Shop is a treasure trove of comics, toys, and memorabilia, featuring the iconic Belgian reporter and his faithful dog Snowy.
The Lego Store: The Lego Store is a must-visit destination for kids (and adults) who love Lego. This store is home to a huge range of Lego sets and minifigures, and there are plenty of opportunities for kids to get hands-on with the toys. There’s even a giant Lego model of Big Ben outside the store, which is sure to delight visitors of all ages.
M&M World Store: The M&M World Store is another popular destination for families visiting Leicester Square. This four-story store is home to all things M&M, including a huge range of M&M merchandise, interactive displays, and even an M&M-themed London bus. There’s also a giant wall of M&Ms in every colour imaginable, which is sure to excite any sweet-toothed visitors.
Leicester Square Fountains
The Leicester Square Fountains are a popular attraction for kids and adults alike. Located in the heart of the square, these fountains shoot water high into the air in time with music, providing a fun and refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the city. The fountains are open year-round, and they’re a great spot to cool off on a hot summer day. Check out our extensive list of water play areas for little Londoners to cool down during summer.
Scenes in the Square Movie Statues Trail
If you’re a movie buff, the Scenes in the Square Movie Statues Trail is a must-visit attraction. This trail features bronze statues of some of the most iconic movie characters of all time, including Harry Potter on his broom, DC’s Super Heroes Batman and Wonder Woman. The statues are located throughout the square, and they make for great photo opportunities.
Watch a movie at the cinema
Leicester Square is home to some of the most iconic cinemas in London, including the Odeon Leicester Square and the Vue West End. If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening, why not catch a movie? There’s always a great selection of films on offer, and the cinemas themselves are historic and impressive buildings.
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Cool facts about the West End
If you love London, you probably love the West End too. It’s the heart of the city’s entertainment, culture and shopping scene. But how much do you really know about this vibrant area? Here are some cool and little-known facts about the West End that might surprise you.
- The West End is home to the world’s longest-running play and musical. The Mousetrap, a murder mystery by Agatha Christie, has been running continuously since 1952 at the St Martin’s Theatre. Les Misérables, a musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, has been running since 1985 at the Queen’s Theatre. Both shows have seen millions of visitors and countless cast changes over the years.
- It has a hidden river underneath it. The River Tyburn flows from Hampstead Heath to the Thames, passing under Marylebone Lane, Oxford Street and Green Park. The river was once a source of water for the city, but it was gradually covered up by development. You can still see traces of it in some places, such as the dip in Oxford Street near Bond Street station.
- The West End has a beer flood in its history. In 1814, a huge vat of beer at the Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road burst, causing a wave of 570 tonnes of beer to flood the streets. Eight people died in the disaster, either drowned by the beer or crushed by the crowd trying to drink it. The site of the brewery is now occupied by the Dominion Theatre.
- The area has some of the most haunted theatres in London. Many theatres claim to have ghostly residents, but none more so than the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The theatre is said to be haunted by several spirits, including a Man in Grey, who appears before successful shows, a clown named Joseph Grimaldi, who helps actors with their lines, and an actor named Charles Macklin, who killed a fellow performer in a fit of rage.
- It has some of the most expensive properties in London. Mayfair, an area in the West End near Hyde Park, is one of the most affluent and exclusive areas in the city. It has some of the highest rents and property prices in the world, as well as luxury hotels, restaurants and shops. Mayfair was named after a fair that was held there every May until 1764.