Covent Garden is a cultural center for London, bringing in both tourists and locals for all kinds of events. The area was once a famous marketplace that was turned into a shopping mall which houses everything from high end haute fashion to up-and-coming designers. The parts of Covent Garden around this mall, coupled with its theater district, are the heart of this neigborhood. The vibe here is very lively and it's a tourist hot spot, so the area can become saturated with people.
The Royal Opera House and Donmar Warehouse bring in big budget shows and famous actors. Many people know this area as the "West End,” and it's similar to New York's Broadway. Somerset House is a contemporary art space that brings in some of the influential modern artists. The Strand, which is the main thoroughfare that cuts through the neighborhood, is lined with retail shops and businesses.
Outside of this core, however, Covent Garden is mostly quiet and sedated so it's actually a livable area despite the buzz. There is definitely a feel of old-fashioned London behind the Strand, with smaller streets and large homes. Many of those homes belong to families, but there are some that have been broken up into apartments. There is new development here as well, and young professionals are quicly moving in to more contemporary living spaces and lofts.
The City: 1.9 miles / 10-20 minutes by car / 15-20 minutes by transit / 15 minutes by bike
Canary Wharf: 5.1 miles / 20-55 minutes by car / 30 minutes by transit
Southwark: 3.2 miles / 20-45 minutes by car / 20-25 minutes by transit / 15 minutes by bike
Westminster: 2.4 miles / 15-25 minutes by car / 15-20 minutes by transit / 30 minutes by foot / 10 minutes by bike
Shoreditch: 2.9 miles / 15-30 minutes by car / 25-35 minutes by transit / 20 minutes by bike