7 Things You Might Not Have Done In Covent Garden Market

Lise Smith
By Lise Smith Last edited 11 months ago
7 Things You Might Not Have Done In Covent Garden Market

We all know Covent Garden Market is a great place to stock up on scented candles and get your fill of street theatre. But have you done any/all of the things below?

Image: Alan Habbick

1. Count the pineapples

Look around the walls, doorways and lamp fittings of the Apple and Jubilee Markets and you'll notice a striking pineapple theme. Back in the 17th century — when Covent Garden became London's most important fruit and vegetable market — pineapples were a popular symbol of prosperity; to grow them in chilly Britain, you had to be wealthy enough to own a hothouse, and the fruits were often used as exotic table decorations. The pineapple was adopted as the symbol of the newly-upscale market when the piazza was rebuilt in the 19th century.

2. Survive a Shack Attack

Not the British purveyors of smooth 80s funk, but the cult US burger chain that landed its first UK outlet in the piazza three years ago. The queues at peak time are quite legendary, so our advice is to arrive for an early lunch (you can expect to be seated and served within minutes if you can stomach a double SmokeShack for elevenses). Don't forget to try a frozen custard "concrete" for dessert. It's just ice-cream with a funny name, but it's good.

3. See an ear-y sight

Similar to the nearby Seven Noses of Soho, Covent Garden boasts its own set of ears, created by artist Tim Fishlock; wander out of the market and down Floral Street to find them. There are two ears on the street, and you might need patience and a good eye to spot them both.

Image: Matt

For more guerrilla art in the area, go to Neal Street. Here are two of French street artist Invader's 8-bit-style mosaic graphics. We won't say any more — you can find them yourself!

4. Celebrate one of London's lowest rents

The Covent Garden Trust rents the lands on which the market and surrounding buildings are located for a 'peppercorn' rent of five red apples and five posies of flowers, reflecting its origins as a fruit and flower market.

Each June, the Chairman and Trustees of the CGT march around the piazza with the Town Crier of Westminster Alan Myatt, and a jazz band. The flowers and apples are presented by local children. This cheerful ceremony has been an annual fixture in the market since 1994, when the trust was a bit behind with the rent (naughty); a pageantry-loving solicitor at the Greater London Council thought the ceremony would put the fun back into paying the rent.

5. Wander onto a film set

You may well have wandered onto a filming location in Covent Garden market without realising it — and it's probably not the film you're thinking of. The 1964 musical film My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn — although partly set in Covent Garden flower market — was filmed in Burbank, California. Not to worry; film buffs can enjoy the fact that Alfred Hitchcock's 1972 thriller Frenzy, considered by many to be the director's last great film, was filmed on location in and around the market. Nominated for four Golden Globes, the film is well worth a watch for the pitch-perfect scenery alone.

6. Hang out with Inspector Morse

Or at least, taken the weight off your feet on the bench dedicated to Morse actor John Thaw in the garden at St Paul's (The Actor's Church) on Bedford Street. The plaque, dedicated in 2009, reads, "Seldom, surely, has the death of a great actor brought such deeply personal sadness to so many millions of admirers."

Image: Matt

7. Pick up an antique

The market is full of interesting things to buy seven days a week, but did you know that Monday is antiques day? Head into the Apple Market for vintage jewellery, retro homeware, antique uniforms, coins and collectibles. You may or may not find a bargain worth a fortune, but we can guarantee that if you're in the market for quirky furnishings and vintage clothing, you'll score them here.

Last Updated 30 October 2016