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Neal's Yard

Neal's Yard (112)

If you had to give London a colour, what colour would that be? I can't guess what colour you're thinking of, but I'd bet my life you're not think of a bold, gaudy, strident colour... (My fingers are crossed!) The truth is that you don't have to leave London to bear witness to life in full bloom, as it were. Leaving behind the bustle of Covent Garden, you only have to take a couple of steps down a narrow street to enter a universe in which London suddenly becomes violet and orange...  And yellow, blue and green ... A true inner-city rainbow. Welcome to Neal’s Yard, an oasis of colour in the heart of London. 

Neal’s Yard is a small courtyard that, despite its proximity to Covent Garden, is unnoticed by many travellers and offers a charming nook in which to flee the crowds and bustle of the city. A haven of peace in winter and a relentless murmur in the summer, when the weather allows you to enjoy the terraces, Neal’s Yard is an explosion of colour that welcomes the passer-by with rainbow-coloured walls, original and painstakingly-decorated shop windows, cafes and a host of bars and restaurants. And all this crammed into just a few square metres. 

But Neal’s Yard was not always like this ... Or at least not until the writer Nicholas Saunders (author of the famous book Alternative London) came along and set up residence in this formerly grey, dilapidated and semi-abandoned courtyard (it used to be a stables) and began to impregnate it with life and colour. It all began in 1976 when Saunders acquired an old warehouse in this tiny courtyard next to Covent Garden and opened a small grocery store selling bulk and dairy products. The success was such that Saunders had to expand his business and the idea soon extended to other traders, who began to set up shop in the area.

Today, Neal’s Yard Dairy is one of the most famous cheese shops in London and has sparked a proliferation of shops in the same courtyard specializing in health foods and natural cosmetics and remedies as well as restaurants and cafes offering vegetarian fare. You are standing on the site of a prime example of urban transformation, where a former stables and dairy have been transformed into a charming nook with shops and cafe terraces. 

But the colourful side doesn't end here. Any idea who settled in one of the houses on this picturesque square? No less than the most famous comedians in the United Kingdom ... Monty Python! See if you can find a plaque attesting to the fact that the Monty Python gang worked here for years!

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