Neal’s Yard is one of those gorgeous hidden gems in London that you need to see. Walk through the narrow entrance to emerge into a world of colourful buildings, indie eateries and alternative remedies…
Neal’s Yard is tucked away in a corner of Covent Garden – a not so secret gem full of brightly-coloured buildings and alternative shops that stands in stark contrast to its surrounds.
I love London – I grew up here and have spent many of my adult years living here, but sometimes the centre can feel a bit, well, generic. The same shops, big brands, grey buildings… but nothing could be less true in Neal’s Yard.
Even on a dull grey day (and let’s face it, London has many of those) you can’t help but be cheered by the sight of Neal’s Yard’s neon green, yellow, orange and blue-daubed buildings – there are even a few murals thrown in for good measure.
Walking through one of the two narrow passageways by which you access the yard for the first time, you’re not entirely sure what to expect. Is it really as cool as they say? Surely the colours have been doctored for the ‘Gram (when did we become so cynical)?
Nope. This is the real deal – as you will see for yourself once you emerge from the passage.
Built in the 17th century, it was originally called King’s Head Court. But then renamed in the 70s named after the original developer – one Thomas Neale. The name change came hand in hand with the bright colours, murals and alternative businesses – and Neal’s Yard was an area transformed.
Visit today and you find vegan cafes instead of chic coffee shops, handmade trinkets instead of designer furniture and, of course, the famous Neal’s Yard Remedies.
All the businesses here emphasise the importance of environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices – which explains why it’s not the normal jumble of familiar branded shops.
Yet in the not too distant past, Neals Yard was just another run down courtyard of buildings on the road to demolition.
It was saved by the founder of Neal’s Yard, Nicholas Saunders – a figurehead of London’s alternative scene who championed a different kind of London.
As an activist, Saunders wrote books teaching people how to enjoy London without lots of money – advocating for living in communities and emphasising spirituality. In other words, he sounds like a complete dude.
He bought premises in the yard for a whole food store first – it proved so successful that he expanded it to the chain of eco-friendly businesses trading under the Neal’s Yard name that we see today.
And voila – Neal’s Yard was reborn. Not too bad an achievement for a man who rejected rampant capitalism in favour of a different way of life.
Must-Visit Spots in Neal’s Yard London
Neal’s Yard Remedies
This is Neal’s Yard’s most famous name – an ethical beauty and skincare brand that first opened its doors here more than 30 years ago and has remained ever since.
You can choose one of their own products – easily identified by its blue glassware – or stock up on dried herbs to bring home.
Want to go one step further? Book yourself in for wellbeing treatment at the therapy centre next door. It might not be the most luxurious spa in Covent Garden, but it is a nice escape from the crowds and the bustle.
Jacob the Angel
Jacob the Angel serves up some of the best breakfasts in Covent Garden (and pretty tasty coffee too) – so I’d absolutely recommend popping in for a bite to eat before you start the day.
Their lunchtime sandwiches are pretty delicious too. Forget the bog standard egg mayo – they serve up much more tempting options like mushroom, satay and kimchi or labneh and cucumber.
Wild Food Cafe
Wild Food Cafe has been championing vegetarian and organic food way before it became fashionable. It’s one of Covent Garden’s best vegetarian restaurants – thanks to an ever-changing menu that takes its inspiration from all around the world.
Nab a table upstairs for gorgeous views of the yard.
26 Grains is another brilliant spot for breakfast in Neal’s Yard. You think you know porridge – until you go and try a few of 26 Grains’ creations – is it too much to describe them as mind-blowing? Okay – stomach satisfying then.
St John’s Bakery
The original St John’s in Farringdon is one of my favourite restaurants (if you haven’t come across Fergus Henderson’s imaginative dishes, get yourself there pronto) – but their bakery in Neal’s Yard is a totally different affair.
First up, the doughnuts are one of those must-try London dishes that you simply have to get your hands on. Once you’ve finished with those, try a few other treats in-store and pick up a fresh loaf to bring home.
Homeslice serves up some of the best pizza in London. Perhaps that’s why it’s popping up in so many locations across the city as, let’s face it, Londoners bloody love a good pizza.
The menu is simple – pizza, wine and beer (with some frizzante on tap if you’re feeling fancy). Chow down on a slice of their wood-fired bits of heaven or club together and get one of the impressive 20” whole pizzas.
Tips for Visiting Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden
- Neal’s Yard is nicest in the mornings as it does tend to get busy later in the day. There are some lovely breakfast spots in the yard, so I’d suggest popping in early, having a wander and than having breakfast in one of them before the wannabe Instagram models descend.
- The entrances to the yard are a little tucked away – but Google Maps is totally your friend here.
Where is Neal’s Yard? Map
Neal’s Yard is tucked between Shorts Gardens and Monmouth Street in Covent Garden.
Looking for more of London’s hidden gems? Check these out…
- London Off the Beaten Path – How Well do you Really Know the Capital?
- Free Things to do in London that Aren’t a Total Snooze
- The Petrie Museum – Discover a Piece of Ancient Egypt in London
- Postman’s Park – Visit the London Park Dedicated to Heroic Self Sacrifice
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