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Apple Covent Garden — a welcoming store that’s bigger on the inside

Apple Covent Garden — huge yet so discreet, good luck spotting an Apple logo

Situated in the heart of London, Apple’s Covent Garden retail store manages to be enormous on the inside with a discreet, almost unobtrusive front. AppleInsider visits the store.

London’s Covent Garden area is to east of the city’s West End theater district, and is home to the Royal Opera House. Apple’s store is in a building that dates from 1876, and is in the center of what was historically a fruit and vegetable market.

No such market could afford to be there today, because the whole area is now an upmarket shopping district that is mostly devoted to the largest brands. There are still some lesser known stores that have been in Covent Garden for decades, but regardless of fame, shops here are small.

They tend to be what in the UK would be called boutique shops. It’s quaint, and these small stores perfectly fit the narrow streets, but they’re small because rent is so costly.

The streets around Covent Garden are narrow, and most stores are small boutique ones

The streets around Covent Garden are narrow, and most stores are small boutique ones

Apple Covent Garden looks at first to be just like that when you approach from the James Street entrance to Covent Garden square. It’s on the corner, and the Apple logo is small enough that it’s easy to miss.

When AppleInsider visited, the iPhone 15 range had been in stores for just a few days and there was a queue outside — but not for the Apple Store. Instead for some reason a long queue was waiting to get into a Swatch store further up James Street.

Turn onto King Street and you’re by No 1, The Piazza, Apple Covent Garden’s official address, and you immediately see that you were wrong. It’s not a little corner store, it stretches down a little row with a lot of windows and a couple of glass doors.

Looking out into Covent Garden from just inside the main entrance to the Apple Store

Looking out into Covent Garden from just inside the main entrance to the Apple Store

Inside the store

Head through one of those doors and it is again remarkably easy to misjudge the size of the store. For what’s in front of you, right inside the doors, is already one of the bigger Apple Stores — yet there is more to come.

Immediately in front of you is a typical Apple table with iPhones on. Then to the left there is a long corridor with more iPhones on more tables.

Looking down the circular glass staircase

Looking down the circular glass staircase

To the right there is a beautiful glass staircase. It’s too big and wide to be a traditional British spiral staircase, but it curves around as it takes people up to the next level.

But there’s more on this first floor. The whole structure is an L-shape, wrapped around an atrium. The atrium has a glass roof that lets you see at least three storeys up, and the space is dotted with a couple of trees and a lot of Apple’s box-like stools.

This atrium is also home to the gigantic display monitor used for Today at Apple.

At times during Today at Apple, that huge display showed what was on the presenter's iPhone as he demonstrated

At times during Today at Apple, that huge display showed what was on the presenter’s iPhone as he demonstrated

AppleInsider got caught up in a Today at Apple session about iPhone photography that was superb. One main presenter and two others handled an hour where the audience ranged up and down from four to around a dozen, and where people’s experience with iPhones varied enormously.

It was very impressive and in typical Apple fashion, the presenter was happy recommending third-party apps to people when they asked.

Today at Apple. During an hour session, the audience would range from three or four to more than a dozen

Today at Apple. During an hour session, the audience would range from three or four to more than a dozen

Going up

As well as the circular glass staircase in the corner, there is another series of glass steps toward the back of the L-shaped room. Along the walls of that L-shape there are Apple Music promotions and accessories on shelves, plus Genius Bar-style advice.

The non-circular glass stairs are manage to be stylish and clearly hard-wearing. They lead up to an area that’s smaller the store’s first floor, but still has room for many tables.

These ones are devoted to the iPad, while along one wall there are sections for Apple Arcade and Apple Fitness+. There is chiefly just the one main wall because where another would be there is instead a series of archways.

Apple doesn't make as much of a centerpiece with these stairs compared to the main circular glass staircase, but they are gorgeously well made

Apple doesn’t make as much of a centerpiece with these stairs compared to the main circular glass staircase, but they are gorgeously well made

The archways are original, dating back to the 1870s. Apple has restored the whole building’s brickwork. While the site was last occupied by a nightclub, when it was first built, it housed three separate businesses, including a hotel called Bedford Chambers.

According to an architectural British History site, a report in an 1876 edition of “The Builder” magazine praised the construction. “[The building] will be likely to endure a hundred years after the lease has run out,” it said.

Today, nearly 150 years later, exposed brickwork makes up the arches and in the gap there is glass up to a rail at about half way.

Through the glass and the gap above it, you can look down onto the atrium.

Still more

This second floor has one quite small section to do with AirTags and general Apple accessories. They’re in a familiar-looking Apple Store-style display, but that displays stands in the middle of a large brick wall and it’s important that it stands there.

These shelves are not fixed into the wall, they are not damaging the brickwork. It’s as if they stand there to highlight the space around them.

There are four large and very widely spaced Apple tables here, and no products on them. There is, though, a small TV monitor on a moveable stand and Apple Covent Garden runs more hands-on Today at Apple sessions in this space.

The second floor would make a reasonable-sized Apple Store by itself, but there is another one.

A final floor is also devoted to training and to Apple support.

Not a great deal seemed to be going on in these higher floors, though, and that circular glass staircase was calling.

Going back down it, you get a panoramic view of the atrium and the main parts of the store.

It was a quiet morning when AppleInsider was there but it feels as if the Store is big enough to never feel crowded

It was a quiet morning when AppleInsider was there but it feels as if the Store is big enough to never feel crowded

Even then, though, the shape of Apple Covent Garden makes it hard to estimate how many people are there.

Britain has an architecture tradition that’s described as buildings having nooks and crannies, little unexpected corners and extra sections. It’s always used to describe rather small buildings, yet Apple Covent Garden is a huge one that seems to have the same feeling of nooks and crannies in it.

Apple tends to either build brand-new and architecturally quite startling stores — such as Marina Bay Sands in Singapore — or to make extraordinary effort to blend in to existing ones. Apple Covent Garden is like the UK’s Apple Birmingham, a 144-year-old building converted to a store, but its keeping to its original frontage makes it seem deceptively small from the outside.

Apple Covent Garden is a welcoming space, too. Even if no one knew why people were queuing up at Swatch.

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