Covent Garden: Theatre Land, Brothels, Bad Behaviour, Birth of Bohemia, Plus Britain's First Police Force

Duration: 1h and 45min
Languages: English
Guru: Justin
Quality Verified Registered on March 08, 2023

Want something a little deeper than the London popular culture tours? I'm a former teacher, economist, analyst and a lover of history, books and ideas. If you just want to take photos to put on social media and don’t really like walking, then PLEASE BOOK A DIFFERENT TOUR!!! If you are intellectually curious and like to think, then let me take you through the streets of London, from the City (the old Roman town of Londinium), to Southwark on the south bank of the River Thames and then to Covent Garden, Soho, Mayfair & St James’s (5 different walks in total). I'll explain how London came from being a European backwater in the 1500s to the largest city in the world in the 1800s. Today, London surpasses New York in diversity and has become a playground for the rich. From clean money to dirty money, I'll tell you the back story behind London's rise, not just the official version! The good, the bad and the ugly: you'll hear about it all.

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  • Free booking and cancellation
    Free payment tour, no set price, booking and cancellation are free
  • Accepts electronic payment
    This tour allows payment by electronic means or credit card

Tour description

Covent Garden: Theatre Land, Brothels, Bad Behaviour, the Birth of Bohemia, Plus Britain's First Police Force

Welcome, I'm Justin.

From the late 1600s, Covent Garden become the centre of bohemian London. A field of dreams for both the upper and lower classes. A place where social barriers fell away and artists and intellectuals mixed and played.

Shakespeare famously said that

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts."

And Covent Garden was the stage that many a man and woman played upon, whether formally in the theatre, in artists' studios or informally on the street.

Let me lead you through the streets of Covent Garden, and in so doing bring the past to life.

Over the centuries, the area has had its ups and downs. originally being the home of the super-rich, who wanted to escape from the crowded and disease-ridden old town (which we call “the City of London” between the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral). 
But with the arrival of an outdoor market and then a succession of theatres, Covent Garden morphed into a bohemian playground full of pubs and prostitutes, and the rich fled further west. 

Today, the area has gone upmarket again, with a thriving bar and restaurant scene and hundreds of shops. Critically, the theatres are still here, with a total of 13, offering everything from rock and film musicals to opera and ballet. 

As we walk around the area, I’ll lead you down secret passages few Londoners know and tell you the stories each building has to tell. 


Highlights of the tour include: 

  • Benjamin Franklin’s House:  One of the birthplaces of the United States of America 
  • The Nell Gwynne: An ancient pub that celebrates King Charles II’s favourite actress and mistress Nell Gwynne.
  • The People's Piazza: The central Covent Garden market. Formally a giant fruit, vegetable and flower market and now a warren of small boutiques and restaurants. 
  • The Lamb and Flag: Covent Garden's oldest pub, famous for boxing matches that led to it being called "the bucket of blood". 
  • St Paul's Church: the magnificent actors’ church of St Paul’s, with its hidden garden and plaques commemorating past stars of screen and stage. 
  • Goodwin Court (aka Knockturn Alley): A piece of 17th century London now immortalised as the model for a Harry Potter film set.  
  • The Theatre Royal Dury Lane: The original theatre opened 350 years ago and has been centre of scandal ever since. 
  • Bow Street Police Station & Magistrates Court: Home to London's first police force. 
  • The Royal Opera House: Providing panoramic views of Covent Garden piazza from the top floor.  

The tour will end a short walk from Covent Garden underground station on the Piccadilly Line. 

The Covent Garden walking tour is one of the 5 walking tours I do around London for GuruWalk: 1) The City of London), 2) Soho,  3) Covent Garden, 4) the South Bank, and 5) Mayfair & St James's (which together have a total of around 700 reviews averaging 5 stars (the highest on GuruWalk). Hope to see you soon! 

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What will we visit on this tour?

  • Meeting point:
    Embankment, London WC2N 6NS, UK
    Embankment, London WC2N 6NS, UK
    View on map

    I will be outside of the flower stall on the Villiers Street exit of Embankment Underground Station (the exit opposite to the river) and will be carrying a yellow umbrella and wearing a hat.

  • 1
    Outside visit
    Benjamin Franklin House
  • 2
    Outside visit
    The Nell Gwynne Tavern
  • 3
    Outside visit
    St Paul’s Church Covent Garden
  • 4
    Outside visit
    The Lamb & Flag
  • 5
    Outside visit
    Theatre Royal Drury Lane
  • 6
    Outside visit
    Royal Opera House

How much does this tour cost?

Free tours do not have a set price, instead, each person gives the guru at the end of the tour the amount that he or she considers appropriate (these usually range from €10 to $50 depending on satisfaction with the tour).

Tour opinions

32 ratings
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Amanda 16 Feb 2024

Verified booking
Travelled alone - Feb 2024
Justin in a wealth of knowledge and humor! I took his "Covent Garden: Theatre Land, the Birth of Bohemia and Britain's First Police" tour and it was nonstop interesting facts and wonderful recommendations. I hope to join another tour of his while I'm visiting!
Natalie 16 Feb 2024

Verified booking
Travelled alone - Feb 2024
Justin’s a true guru of Covent Garden. A charming and well planned tour, sprinkled with lots of knowledge and good humor.
Katharina 03 Feb 2024

Verified booking
Travelled in couple - Feb 2024
Very interesting tour with lots of historical information and insights. We would definitely recommend this tour!
Annmarie 02 Feb 2024

Verified booking
Travelled in couple - Feb 2024
We signed up for this tour last minute. Definitely exceeded expectations. In the walk, Justin took us through a pub, 2 churches and to a lovely observation point on the top of the Opera house. The time passed quickly and we learned alot
Mrs Paula 26 Jan 2024

Verified booking
Travelled in couple - Jan 2024
Fantastic walking tour, visited places we'd never seen before. Definitely reccomend.
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Who is this tour for?

Non suitable for people with reduced mobility.
Does not accept large group reservations.
Not suitable for pets.

What should you know?

Minimum of attendees
A minimum of 4 people is required for the tour.
Additional costs:
The tour does not require the payment of entrance fees or additional expenses.
Free cancellation
If you will not be able to attend the tour, please cancel your booking, otherwise the guide will be waiting for you.
Payment methods
Electronic or credit card payment is accepted.
When do you want to go?
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