If you were to name London’s most famous squares or plazas, you’d probably list Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Covent Garden (which is really a square).
For a famous square/piazza, I’m always surprised at the amount of visitors who ask where it is and have actually missed it off their things to see. Now, this is probably a good thing, as the former 17th century vegetable market and surrounding square is actually a bit lacking in interesting places to eat, shop and explore. The main market building, set in a classical-style cobbled stone square, is well restored and kept, and there’s the Royal Opera House of course, but the numerous shops are a bit bland – you have your designer brands (Burberry, Ben Sherman, Chanel), chain restaurants (Patisserie Valerie, Jamie’s Union Jacks, Le Pain), the Apple Store and the quite frankly uninspired ‘street performers’ – does dressing up as a silver painted statue really require a million photos?
But to be fair, there are some hidden gems amid the dullness.
LADUREE – before it was made famous by Gossip Girl Laduree was something your great aunt would go to. But now it’s totally ok, so if you like delicious (but overpriced) macaroons this is definitely the place to get them.
KIMCHEE – just a two minute walk away from the main square hot, spicy kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage) based snacks and meals. Perfect for a budget lunch.
BENS COOKIES – soft cookies that actually melt in your mouth, just make sure you get a fresh batch. Go inside on your own risk.
STANFORDS – filled with maps, maps and euhm more maps … it’s definitely a must stop if you are into map. They are the UK’s specialist when it comes to maps, travel books and other travel accessories.
OFFICIAL TIN TIN STORE – if you can wander in here without purchasing a Snowy (or Bobbie as the Dutch call him, or Milou if you are French or Struppi for the Germans) related toy/item you’re of stronger stuff than me!
MEATMARKET – yes it’s hip, and crowded, and everyone’s probably dressed better than you, but the burgers more than make up for any pretentiousness. So better get in line.
BAGERIET – heaven for lovers of Swedish sweets: grab your almond biscuits, kanelbullar and perfect coffee to match, on a tiny side street just off the main square.
MOOMIN SHOP – At this shop you will find everything related to the little creatures. Whenever I’m in the area I have to stop by the for a bit of Moomin happiness.