The station was planned by the Great Northern and Strand Railway (GN&SR), which had received parliamentary approval for a route from Wood Green station (now Alexandra Palace) to Strand in 1899. After the GN&SR was taken over by the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway (B&PCR) in September 1901, the two companies came under the control of Charles Yerkes' Metropolitan District Electric Traction Company before being transferred to his new holding company, the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL) in June 1902. To connect the two companies' planned routes, the UERL obtained permission for new tunnels between Piccadilly Circus and Holborn. The companies were formally merged as the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway following parliamentary approval in November 1902. The station was opened by the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway on 11 April 1907, four months after services on the rest of the line began operating on 15 December 1906. In 1929, Covent Garden was one of the stations suggested for closure in connection with the extension of the Piccadilly line: the elimination of less-busy stations in the central area would improve both reliability and journey times for long-distance commuters but this did not happen
The station is at the corner of Long Acre and James Street and is a Grade II listed building. The station building is a classic red 'Oxblood' building which has two elevations fronting onto the end of James Street and Long Acre. The platform wall was tiled with two shades of yellow and white tiling which formed geometric shapes along with three blank spaces to incorporate the station name. Covent Garden station is one of the few stations in Central London for which platform access is only by lift or stairs and often becomes congested because of the Covent Garden area's popularity with tourists. To control congestion on Saturday afternoons, when the surrounding shopping areas are at their busiest, the station was previously exit-only to avoid the risk of dangerous overcrowding of the platforms, but following replacement of the lifts, this restriction was lifted. There are four lifts that give access to street level, although a final flight of stairs from the lifts to the platforms means that the station is wheelchair-inaccessible. Alternatively, there is an emergency spiral staircase of 193 steps (the equivalent to a 15-storey building). It is said that the ghost of actor William Terriss haunts the station. The last reported sighting of William Terriss was in 1972, so he may have taken the tube elsewhere. NOTICE: This station is open for exit only. There is no entry from street level due to planned lift maintenance. Westbound trains at weekends are not serving the station.
The journey between Leicester Square station and Covent Garden takes only about 20 seconds, and measures only 260 metres (0.16 mi), the shortest distance between two adjacent stations on the Underground network. The stations are so close that a pedestrian standing halfway between them on Long Acre can see both tube stations by turning around 180°. The proximity means that London Underground's standard £4.80 single cash fare for the journey between these two stations equates to £29.81 a mile, making the fare for this particular journey more expensive per mile than the Venice Simplon Orient Express. Posters at the station give details of the alternative methods of getting to and from Covent Garden using surrounding stations.