To the east of Charing Cross Road lies Covent Garden, the famous marketplace turned shopping mall. Although boutiques and haute fashion shops line the surrounding streets, many Londoners come to Covent Garden for its two outposts of culture: the Royal Opera House and the Donmar Warehouse, one of London's best and most innovative theaters. The area becomes more sedate just to the north, at the end of Wellington Street, where semicircular Aldwych is lined with grand buildings, and from there the Strand leads to the huge, stately piazza of Somerset House, a vibrant center of contemporary arts and home to the many masterpieces on view at the Courtauld Gallery. You’ll get a sense of old-fashioned London just behind the Strand, where small lanes are little changed since the 18th century. On the way to the verdant Embankment Gardensbordering the Thames, you may pass the Adam Houses, the remnants of a grand 18th-century riverside housing development, and the Benjamin Franklin House,where the noted statesman lived in the years leading up to the American Revolution.
Covent Garden joins Soho as an arts-and-entertainment center in the city, popularly referred to as "the West End." The neighborhood centers on the Piazza, site of the original Covent Garden market. High Holborn to the north, Kingsway to the east, and the Strand to the south form its other boundaries.