Covent Garden’s original purpose was as a convent garden, where Westminster Abbey monks would grow fruit and vegetables, some 500 years ago. In the 17th century, architect Inigo Jones built St. Paul’s Church (not to be confused with the cathedral) and the Covent Garden Piazza and the area started to take shape. In the streets around the market came theaters, coffee houses, and restaurants, turning the area into a nightlife hotspot.
The market arcades, built in the 1830s, were home to fruit, vegetable, and flower sellers. The original market was moved out of the city in the 1970s, and the arcades were redeveloped into stores and cafes. Nowadays, the piazza is famous for lively street performers, while the surrounding streets—Floral Street, Neal Street, Long Acre, and Mercer Street—offer some of the best shopping in London. Guided walking, bike, and taxi tours visit the area on a regular basis. It's also a stop on hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses.