Seven Dials Review

Colourful buildings in Neal's Yard

What is the Seven Dials, I hear you ask? If you’re a Londoner you most likely already know the deal! BUT if you are from elsewhere in the country, the Seven Dials is an area located in Covent Garden. It has triangular streets full of quaint shops, tea rooms, and of course, the famous Seven Dials restaurants. Full of colour and life, it’s the perfect place to visit during a weekend trip or staycation in London.

And what’s more? I’m giving you a full set of top tips and sharing my experience visiting the Seven Dials & Covent Garden at Christmas time. This article is 100% honest with some opinions you may find useful such as queue times, best street food, the shops, places I wish I’d been and things I wish I’d done if I could go back – that you should definitely do!

Seven Dials At Christmas Sign in highstreet

What is the history behind the Seven Dials?

The Seven Dials is a unique quarter of London located in Covent Garden. It’s famously recognised as one of the great architectural landscapes in London with triangle streets. All the streets together form a star-like shape if you were to look at the area from a birds-eye view. At the centre of the star is a very tall and symbolic sundial.

The Dials are made up of Earlham Street, Monmouth Street, Mercer Street and Shorts Gardens. The area now known as Seven Dials also includes Neal Street and Neals Yard. Monmouth Street is the only street in Seven Dials to have an official number; the B404.

Thomas Neale designed the area this way to maximise the number of houses as rentals. His aim was to attract the most affluent of society but instead it became a slum with endless gin shops taking residence throughout the 1700’s.

In 1989 the area began a HUGE regeneration project which has recently celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019. The Seven Dials couldn’t be further from ‘the slums’ today with street performers, vibrant buildings, photo booths, and a thriving and diverse food scene from the world’s first conveyor belt cheese bar to theatre cafes.

Seven Dials sun dial at night time

My day out at the Seven Dials

Neal Street sign

Emerging from the cobbled streets and stone pillars of Covent Garden we held our phone maps high in the air passing through the West End. We didn’t realise how many amazing theatres were so close to both Covent Garden and the Seven Dials – being a non-londoner and all.

Apple Market at Christmas time in Covent Garden

Walking from Covent Garden...

The Seven Dials is roughly a five minute walk away from Covent Garden Square – which by the way is so magical this time of year! Every turquoise beam is dressed in fairy lights or tinsel. There are holly and mistletoe light fixtures weaving in and out of the traditional signage and a giant disco ball radiating flecks of light around Apple Market.

The atmosphere was alive with crowds of excited faces watching street performers and laughing. We walked past a punk-looking street performer with a sharp blue quiff who was working Covent Garden Square. He striped down to his union Jack pants and juggled knives while also walking over members of the audience at the same time. By the end of his thrilling escapades flurries of people were cheering and tipping him as he took a final bow.

Outside Apple Market were those still-human-figure performers dressed as dinosaurs and floating cartoon characters. People stood with their hands full of shopping bags watching puppet shows too. Families stood around the square with their children in front them so they could get the best view. Their faces beaming, and noses a little red from the cold air. Everyone was dressed in thick coats and woolly hats with the finest display of scarves I have ever seen…

We noticed every shop front had a festive display with giant red bows and fairy lights. Each restaurant had outdoor dining tables furnished with a thick blanket attached to each chair and a candle at the tables centre. You could experience fine dining or a quick drink. There was even a cafe dedicated to tea! To put it simply, the shops and restaurants were immaculate.

If you’re already thinking: where are my best photo opportunities in Covent Garden, then may I recommend in front of the 55ft high Christmas tree? And more specifically at night time when it’s lit up and at its most beautiful! One of my biggest regrets from that day is not taking a picture of it at night time. I recommend taking a selfie there – it’s extraordinary!

If you notice a heavenly hue travelling towards the corner of your retinas you may have found an unusual but seriously photogenic attraction… The diamond encrusted Dolce & Gabbana Christmas Market grotto is also located next to the Christmas Tree and Market. Its white light and gem-like spots of pink and gold light up the market as well as the Christmas Tree so make sure you take a picture of this at night time as well!

As we hustled and bustled through the busy setting we eventually found ourselves drifting through the high streets and then we were met with a floating sign ‘Seven Dials at Christmas’…

shops at the seven dials

Seven Dials shops

Before you gain entry to the food hall there is a fleet of elegant shops lining the cobbled streets. Each independent boutique offered a taste of London’s vibrant style varying from vintage shops (there’s lots of those) to more familiar high street shops like Vans, Doctor Martens, and UGG. It’s worth noting that especially at Christmas time if shops get busy they make you queue outside to get in. I found this most common with branded shops, especially UGG.
Seven Dials Food Court

Seven Dials Market

There are a few entrances to the market but our journey took us through Cucumber Alley first.

Lining the corridors were tinsel covered beams, photobooths, yellow & pink fairy lights trailing the ceiling and indoor street food shacks everywhere. We passed an Ice Cream counter, Ong Ong Buns, a soft service counter (soft drinks), and other cool street food eateries which featured food I had never seen before …

As we carried on walking we finally got to the centre of the Seven Dials Market! You really don’t know where to look – or smell – first.

Whether you’re a foodie or a fussy eater (like myself) there are sooooooooo many food options to try out. Authentic vegan burgers? Yep. Bao Buns and seaweed fries? Yep. 22 inch pizza slices from New York? Yep. Those are the dishes me and my family tried and let me tell you, I was a happy human after that meal.

To put everything into context, everyone in my family likes to eat completely opposite things to one another which makes meal times kind of stressful. The beauty of being at the centre of a food market is once you’ve grabbed your table (be quick doing this, seats go fast!) You can take turns exploring each shack and pick what you like. You really get to taste flavors and dishes from all over the world with Mexican, French, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi, American, Jamaican and more. There are also bars everywhere too so what’s to stop from a cheeky cocktail or a lager shandy? I stuck to a classic can of Coke which I paired with my Bao Buns.

Chicken Yum Bun

Eating at Yum Buns

I ordered x2 Bao Buns from Yum Buns for £9.50. The first one was Japanese-style fried chicken with pickles, and mayo. My second bun was slowly roasted pork belly served with cucumber, spring onion, and hoisin sauce. DISCLAIMER: I had never had Bao Buns before nor had I ever eaten pork belly.

I clearly picked a popular eatery as the queue took about 15 minutes until I got to the front. I didn’t mind this as I was in a rush but it’s good to bear in mind that the food court is a very busy place so if you are visiting it could get a little overwhelming. With this being said, there were lots of families and kids everywhere. The food court seemed to be a magnet for everyone of all ages.

I ordered and was given a beeper that would go off when my food was ready. I think this is a good system especially if you want to get an alcoholic drink from elsewhere. My food was ready after 5 minutes of waiting around so all in all it took 20 minutes. The staff were friendly and working hard behind the scenes.

When I got my metal tray of food I took it upstairs to where we were sitting. There are big tables everywhere which everyone shares in a proper food court style. My bao buns were light and fluffy and packed full of delicious flavours. The pork belly was extremely tender. I’m very much a carnivore kind of girl but certain textures of meat make me feel a little off. The flavour of the pork belly was amazing but it was just a little too tender for me. Meat eaters will definitely love this dish, I think I was surprised at how soft the meat was as it was my first time trying it. The buns were a lot smaller than I was expecting but as I’m a small eater they were enough for me. I’d definitely recommend adding the seaweed fries to your meal to bulk it up. That’s something I wish I did looking back as they looked so tasty!

Yum Buns also do a crispy aromatic tofu bun with black bean mayonnaise, garlic choy sum, and chilli pickles as well as a portobello mushrooms bun served with toasted walnuts, cucumber, spring onions, and a miso glaze for you veggies!

I was basic with my drink choice but they also sold fresh passion fruit iced jasmine tea and ginger kombucha. Maybe next time I’ll branch out more!

Colourful buildings in Neal's Yard

Neal's Yard

Okay, ladies and gentleman, may I introduce to you… Neal’s Yard! When you leave the Seven Dials food market you’ll find a tunnel of fairy lights leading through what feels like a secret passageway to the back streets of the Seven Dials.

Blues, greens, pinks, oranges, and yellows will burst into view with every building and quaint restaurant licked in a different shade of the rainbow. Lights stretch from building to building on threads of wire, flags blow in the breeze and bay-plants cascade from every window. People sit outside shop fronts chatting away while others walk in and out of colourful buildings. You’ll see tiny old side windows filled with shop items like colourful vases and crystals. If you’re a person who loves all things arty like me, you’ll feel as if you’ve just landed in Brighton. The historic streets are laced with character and unique goods that you can’t find anywhere else in London.

The whole of London is incredibly busy with an ever flowing river of people walking fast in different directions but if you find yourself trickling into the backstreets of Neal’s Yard you’ll feel as if you’ve entered a safe haven. And now you’ve escaped the busy streets, all that’s left to do is shop and sit outside the Casanova & Daughters Winery and Sicilian Deli. Did you know that the man that opened this shop was in the circus? This is just one of many weirdly wonderful stories that add to the character of Neal’s Yard.

Seven Dials Restaurants you should definitely try…

There are A LOT of fantastic dining options at the Seven Dials from vegan Mexican cuisine to the Caribbean, Italian coffee shops, and Punjab – the oldest North Indian restaurant in the UK! There are 41 different restaurants and eateries in total – so take it from me and go wild exploring them!

The Seven Dials Food Market I mentioned earlier is the beating heart of the Seven Dials and is a major hotspot to visit. Wander under Cucumber Alley and grab some ice cream or grab a cocktail from Bar Nana in the Banana Warehouse. Make sure you take a picture on the banana itself – it’s the ultimate Instagram opportunity!

I’m here to give you some suggestions of places you should check out…

Someone picking an ice cream at the ice cream counter

Anita Gelato

Why have normal ice cream when you have world famous boutique ice cream? Each heavenly scoop of ice cream is 100% hand-made alongside other frozen treats, like frozen yogurt, sorbets, and organic sugar-free, fat-free, soy-based, and real cream-based ice creams. Whatever your dietary requirements, there is something for everyone.
Shape Location Get directions

Anita London, 4 Upper St Martin's Ln, London WC2H 9NY

Opening Times

Monday 8:00 am - 12:00 am

Tuesday 8:00 am - 12:00 am

Wednesday 8:00 am - 12:00 am

Thursday 8:00 am - 12:00 am

Friday 8:00 am - 12:00 am

Saturday 8:00 am - 12:00 am

Sunday 8:00 am - 12:00 am

Find out more
Shrek themed diner at the theatre cafe London

The Theatre Cafe Diner

Whether you’re a thespian or not, dining out in the glitz and glamour The Theatre Cafe Diner is a must, when visiting London. Enjoy classic diner food with a dramatic twist… Watch mini theatrical performances and live music while you eat! Located near the West End Theatre, it’s the perfect place to stop by after or before watching your favourite show. The diner has themed zones based on Cats, Kinky Boots, Frozen The Musical and many more!
Shape Location Get directions

154 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8HL

Opening Times

Monday 3:30 pm - 11:30 pm

Tuesday 3:30 pm - 11:30 pm

Wednesday 12:00 pm - 11:30 pm

Thursday 12:00 pm - 11:30 pm

Friday 12:00 pm - 11:30 pm

Saturday 12:00 pm - 11:30 pm

Sunday 12:00 pm - 10:30 pm

Find out more
Yum bun stall front in the seven dials market

Yum Bun

Ever tried Japanese food before? Pig out on handmade, soft-steamed bao buns filled with vibrant vegetables, fried chicken or slow roasted pork belly, drizzled with chili oil.
Shape Location Get directions

Unit 3, The Kitchens, Spitalfields Market, 16 Horner Square, London E1 6EW

Opening Times

Open everyday from 12pm - 10pm

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Le Beaujolais shop front in the evening

Le Beaujolais

Experience authentic French traditions in the oldest French restaurant & wine bar in London! Relish every mouthful of rustic French food such as Boeuf Bourguignon and Assiette de Charcuterie alongside an extensive wine list that encompasses the French spirit, all served in an intimate, lively setting.
Shape Location Get directions

25 Litchfield St, London WC2H 9NJ

Opening Times

Sunday - Friday 12:00 pm - 11:00 pm

Saturday 5:00 pm - 12:00 pm

Find out more
A table of food at Bal Bali restaurant

Bali Bali

Are your tummies screaming out for a delicious fusion of flavours? Bali Bali serves Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai cuisine. What’s great about this restaurant is it caters for an array of preferences and dietary requirements! From the fiery hot to cold and mild, vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores can all unite for bite of Bali Bali’s finest dishes! With quick-fire set menus running throughout the day, they can stop for a quick meal and continue your day of exploration.
Shape Location Get directions

150 Shaftesbury Ave, Seven Dials, London WC2H 8HL

Opening Times

Monday - Thursday 12pm - 10pm

Friday 12pm - 10:45pm

Saturday 12pm - 11pm

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Punjab

Filled with eclectic paintings, silk walls and friendly faces, the Punjab is a fourth generation run family business that first opened in 1947! The lively and informal environment has gained their Punjabi cuisine worldwide acclaim. This award-winning menu combines traditional tandoori dishes with their Punjabi specialities, to suit all tastes.

Start off with some Paneer Pakoras or a lamb shami kebab. Pick from a lengthy list of marvellous mains. Will it be chicken curry, fish curry, or vegetable curry today? Keep it classic with a chicken karahi or go hotter with a Chicken Madras. Savour the fruits of the sea in the benaam macchi tarkari or the prawn bhuna. Veggies will love lip-smacking dishes like saag aloo, village tarka daal and the smokey aubergine flavours of the legendary baigan ka bharta.

There’s so much to sink your teeth into the world-famous Punjab.

Shape Location Get directions

80 Neal Street, London WC2H 9PA

Opening Times

Open everyday from 12pm - 10:30pm

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Bad boy pizza slices

Bad Boy Pizza Society

Located in the Banana Warehouse next to Yum Buns, the Bad Boy Pizza Society serves giant slices of pizza, 2 for £9. This New York style pizza is 22″ and possesses all the flair you’d expect to find in an authentic American slice. Did you know it’s been voted national pizza of the year? If you are looking for a restaurant where you’ll get your money’s worth in London, Bad Boy Pizza Society should be at the top of your list.
Shape Location Get directions

Seven Dials Market, 35 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LD

Opening Times

Sunday 12–8pm
Monday 12–10pm
Tuesday 12–10pm
Wednesday 12–10pm
Thursday 12–10pm
Friday 12–10pm
Saturday 12–10pm

Find out more
Pick and cheese Bar in the Seven Dials food market

Pick & Cheese Seven Dials

Now if you love cheese as much as Wallace and Gromit you’ll love the unusual cheese bar concept behind Pick & Cheese.

At first glance you’ll walk past and assume its a sushi bar with people sitting around a moving conveyor belt of small dishes but on closer inspection, you’ll see that it is in fact CHEESE! To put into context how unique this idea is, it’s the first cheese conveyor belt in the world!

Pair your cheese dish with an exceptional wine list and some extra nibbles and voila!

Shape Location Get directions

Seven Dials Market, Short's Gardens, London WC2H 9AT

Opening Times

Sunday 12–8pm
Monday 12–10pm
Tuesday 12–10pm
Wednesday 12–10pm
Thursday 12–10pm
Friday 12–10pm
Saturday 12–10pm

Find out more
A big platter of burgers, chicken, fried mushrooms, fries and mac & cheese from Truffle Burger

Truffle Burger

Vegans are you there?! This one’s for you… If you’re looking for an authentic and delicious meat substitute burger, boy oh boy! The Truffle Burger sells the best vegan burger made from lentils and black beans, stuffed with roasted nuts, Parmesan cheese, and hot chilli sauce.

You carni’s can also enjoy a wide range of meaty burgers like the famous Truffle Burger itself. It’s made from a beef and smoked bacon patty, raclette cheese, fig jam, crispy onion, and truffle mayonnaise.

Shape Location Get directions

35 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LD

Opening Times

Monday - Friday 12pm - 10pm
Saturday 11am - 10pm
Sunday 11am - 9pm

Find out more

Nearby Transport…

So we got off our train at Euston station and decided to walk for the exercise all the way to Covent Garden. This took us 25-30 minutes to get there. If you don’t want to walk that far then don’t worry there are lots of tube stations nearby and there are ubers literally everywhere! You can always keep it classic with a London black cab or a big red double decker bus.

Covetn Garden underground tube station sign

Travelling by tube...

Covent Garden is on the Piccadilly Line. Covent Garden’s tube station is a very short walk from the Market Building at the end of James Street.

Covent Garden underground station only has lifts up from the platforms so it can be slow-going at busy times. During peak times it’s suggested that you should get off at Leicester Square (Piccadilly and Northern Line), which is a short walk to Covent Garden.

Holborn (Central Line) is only a ten minute walk from Covent Garden. Here is the best walking route via Google Maps.

Embankment (Circle, District, Bakerloo and Northern Line) is a ten minute walk to Covent Garden. Here is the best walking route via Google Maps

Use TFL’s Journey Planner to help find your best journey

LOCAL TUBE STATIONS COVENT GARDEN

  • LEICESTER SQUARE – 5 minute walk
  • CHARING CROSS – 6 minute walk
  • HOLBORN – 10 minute walk
  • EMBANKMENT – 10 minute walk
  • TEMPLE – 11 minute walk
  • TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD – 12 minute walk

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and found it helpful for planning your next trip to Covent Garden in London. Whether you are sticking to central Covent Garden or you are keen to explore the atmospheric streets of Neal’s Yard there’s lots to explore at the Seven Dials. You MUST make sure you visit the Seven Dials food market that’s all I ask of you!

If you are looking for more things to do in London make sure to check our attraction page. Get the scoop on the latest attractions in some of our latest blogs. Check out Free Museums in London, Hop On and Off Tours London, and Kids Afternoon Tea London.

Get tickets to see some London Theatre shows or check out some of the tourist hotspots like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

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