I love visiting London, but by God, is it vast! With friends and family dotted across the city, I tend to visit two or three times a year, and each time I find myself exploring an entirely new part of the city.
One of my favourite things about the Big Smoke is its markets. The delicious foody smells, the bustle, the patter…this is where you see London at its absolute best. Its where locals and visitors alike can mingle of an afternoon, where talented artists and chefs can show off the tricks of their trade and where you can find those weird and wonderful trinkets you’d never stumble upon in your run-of-the-mill department store.
With markets popping up around just about every corner of the city, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here’s my top ten worth visiting:
Columbia Road Flower Market
Every Sunday, a cobbled Victorian street in London’s East End opens up to one of the city’s best and most fragrant markets. The Columbia Road Flower Market has been running since the 1860s, and is the place to go to get your foliage fix. Plants and flowers of just about every shape and variety can be found here, so whether you’re looking for something to spruce up the hanging basket or a statement venus fly trap, they’ve probably got you covered. If the perfumed air and patter from the barrow boys starts to wear thin then there’s also a decent range of delis and antique shops nearby.
Where? Columbia Rd, E2 7RG
When? Sundays, 8am – 3pm (ish)
Best for? Flowers & Garden Gadgetry
Also in London’s East End, on the site of the Old Truman Brewery, is the much-loved Brick Lane Market. With roots going back as far as the 17th Century, the part flea/part food market is known for its quirky clientele, and draws in a young (or at least, young-at-heart), alternative crowd. There are stalls selling everything from antiques and clothing to some of the finest international cuisine the city has to offer. The area itself is known for its Bangladeshi restaurants, so be sure to check out the curry stands or, if you’re around on a Sunday, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the famed Rib Man.
Where? Brick Lane, E1 6QR
When? Saturdays, 11am – 6pm. Sundays 10am – 5pm.
Best for? Vintage clothing, International Food
Alfie’s Antique Market
The largest indoor market of its kind, Alfie’s Antique Market is the place to go for vintage clothes and collectables. With over 70 dealers, it’s the kind of place where whole afternoons could easily melt away into the abyss as you ponder over rare antique finds and try not to enter into haggling wars with the vendors. There’s also a rooftop kitchen with cracking views out over the city, should you need somewhere to rest your feet.
Where? Church St, Marylebone, NW8 8DT
When? Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm
Best for? Antiques & Vintage Clothing
Nicely positioned by the Thames, Borough Market is one of London’s oldest and biggest food markets. It’s also incredibly popular, and can fairly draw in the crowds. It’s a gourmet food lover’s paradise, with over 100 stalls from around the country selling everything from seafood, meat and veg to cheeses, breads and patisseries. It’s an ideal place to visit if you’re looking for speciality ingredients and imported products, or if you just fancy picking up a food-themed gift for someone.
Where? Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
When? Monday – Thursday, 10am – 5pm. Fridays, 10am – 6pm. Saturdays, 8am – 5pm.
Best for? Gourmet Food Products
Broadway Market is the good food lovin’ heart of Hackney. It’s also a hipster haven, and draws in many a bearded sort of a sunny afternoon. The market itself boasts just about every type of food and drink stall under the sun, but it’s also presided over by an array of independent bars and restaurants, if you fancy escaping the scrum. If the sun’s out though, you’re going to want to pick up a pulled pork roll (and perhaps a slice of artisan cheesecake to follow) and head over to the nearby park for some good vibes, before finishing the day with a browse of the nearby Broadway Bookshop.
Where? Broadway Market, E8 4QJ
When? Saturdays, 9am – 5pm.
Best for? Contemporary Street Food, Good Vibes
A slightly more upmarket number now. Established in 1737, Greenwich Market is one of the city’s largest covered markets, and a great place to go if you’re looking for independent craft, art and jewellery stalls. The market is open seven days a week, but Thursdays and Fridays are perhaps the most popular, as it opens up its doors to antiques and collectibles dealers. It’s a great place to shop for gifts, and ideal for a rainy day.
Where? Greenwich Market, SE10 9HZ
When? Monday – Sunday, 10am – 5.30pm
Best for? Crafts, Antiques, Jewellery
Fancy having lunch beneath London’s iconic railways? Head along to Maltby Street Market in the South East of the city, where you can dine beneath the arches of the The Ropewalk. There’s a rotating cast of top-knotch street food sellers to choose from, including the popular Natoora and Little Bread Peddlar. Although weekends will always draw in the crowds, this is one of the city’s lesser known markets, so relatively speaking it’s still a bit of a hidden gem.
Where? Ropewalk, SE1 3PA
When? Saturdays, 9am – 4pm. Sundays, 11am – 4pm.
Best for? Street food, Smaller Crowds
Built in 1876, Old Spitalfields is one of the city’s best surviving Victorian market halls. Today, it’s known for its fashionable clothes stalls, but you’ll also find a nice selection of homeware, jewellery and crafts goods. There’s a distinctly boutique feel to the market, and although there’s a smattering of well-known chain restaurants around, it’s not lost its character over the years.
Where? Horner Square, E1 6EW
When? Mondays – Sundays, 10am – 5pm.
Best for? Fashion & One-off gifts
Bilingsgate Fish Market
Even if you’re not a massive fan of seafood, it’s well worth checking out Bilingsgate, the UK’s largest inland fish market. It’s said that a massive 25,000 tonnes of seafood are sold through the vendors every year, and the market itself covers a whopping 13 acres! There are around 100 stands selling all kinds of aquatic critters, but you’ll also find other meat products and veggies too. Hang around for some samples, marvel at the energy of the vendors as they work or pick yourself up some ingredients for a seafood feast. Either way, it’s well worth a visit!
Where? Poplar, E14 5ST
When? Wednesday – Saturday, 4 – 9.30 am.
Best for? Seafood lovers!
Street Feast London
For a late night food binge, head along to one of Street Feast’s events. Since 2012, the company have been bringing their night markets to various venue spaces across the city, from car parks and disused breweries to warehouses and old tube stations! There’s a fab selection of food stalls to choose from (expect to find some of the city’s finest), and a great ambience to be shared over the open fire pits.