In London, there’s a market for everything. Whatever your fancy, you’ll find someone selling it out of a hastily-built stall in a bustling market where various voices cajole you with good prices and cockney accents. You’ll find markets for fresh fish, fresh meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, vintage clothing, homemade jewellery, antiques, flowers, old cars, old art, old furniture, old books, old musical instruments, old sporting goods…the list is endless. With so many to choose from, check out our list below for some direction as to which market is for you.
The fresh produce markets
Right up until the 20th century, London’s principal fish, meat and vegetable markets were all in the very heart of the city. Covent Garden and Spitalfields hosted farmers coming in from the local counties to sell the very freshest of their stock, and at Billingsgate in the city fisherman would ply their wares from ungodly hours in the dim light of morning. Now, these massive commercial institutions have been modernised and moved out of the city to purpose-built premises. But they are still fascinating places to visit. If you can hack an early start, going to any of New Billingsgate, New Covent Garden or New Spitalfields markets will provide a unique insight into London’s gastronomical underworld and give you the opportunity to buy the best produce at the best prices.
New Billingsgate Market, Trafalgar Way, London E14 5ST. Open 4:30-11:00 Monday to Saturday.
New Covent Garden Market, Nine Elms Ln, London SW8 5BH. Open 4:00-10:00 Monday to Saturday.
New Spitalfields Market, 23 Sherrin Rd, London E10 5SQ. Open 00:00 - 11:00 Monday to Saturday.
Portobello Road market
Portobello Road is in a fascinating, diverse part of London. Windrush-generation immigrants from the Caribbean rub shoulders with many media-men and politicians living in the same area, attracted by the massive colourful mansions and open, tree-lined broadways. Portobello Road Market is a symbol of this variation. The UK’s biggest antiques market, if you visit on a Saturday then you’ll see everything from household bric-a-brac to Louis Quinze dining tables, with a healthy portion of afro-carribean food stalls lining the sides of the road. A great atmosphere always prevails, especially when the sun is shining. Not one to be missed.
Portobello Road Market, Portobello Road, London, W11. Open Saturdays from 9:00.
Good old Borough Market. Famously hard to pronounce for tourists, Borough used to be a slightly dingy add-on to the more famous London Bridge and Southwark areas. Not so anymore, however, with the massive Victorian wrought-iron structure originally built for farmers to sell their veg now playing host to London’s foremost food market. This is the place to go whether you want to try out delicacies from the furthest reaches of the globe or the famous neighbourhood speciality - a portion of locally-sourced fish and chips. Check out the old pubs surrounding the market for a pint of good English bitter after your meal.
Borough Market, 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL. Open Mon-Thurs 10:00-17:00, Fri 10:00-18:00, Sat 08:00-17:00. Closed Sundays.
Ah, Spitalfields. Where else in London can you be walking along between the heart of the financial district and find yourself perusing a collection of antique London telephone boxes for sale? Only to then be accosted by a gaggle of children from the local school engaged on a street art tour? Spitalfields, in the very heart of London’s Brick Lane and Shoreditch, is an ever-changing delight. No two days are the same in this strange market, surrounded by the highest concentration of vintage clothes shops in the whole city. The area has a dark past (as you’ll know if you’ve taken our East End Tour), originally hosting a filthy meat market and leather tannery - as well as the old haunts of notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper - but these days you’re more likely to find homemade jewellery and second-hand bikes than discarded organs and limbs.
Spitalfields Market, 16 Horner Square, London E1 6EW. Open Mon-Fri 10:00-20:00, Sat 10:00-18:00, Sun 10:00-17:00.
Camden’s reputation as a hard-boozing epicurean hive of rocknrollers and malcontents is perhaps a little hard to square with the gorgeous culinary markets at its heart, but when you see the punks and goths strutting their stuff, vegan delicacy in one hand and can of lager in the other, you’ll see that even the most committed of Robert Smith fans can’t keep themselves away from the range of street food on offer. Europe’s biggest covered market, Camden’s Lock markets (really it’s several markets jumbled together, creating a massive complex of shops and stalls) are for those who can’t decide whether they want to go clothes shopping, antique hunting, or simply people watching. Camden provides it all!
Camden Markets, Camden Lock Pl, Camden Town, London NW1 8AF. Open every day 10:00-18:00.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Stick with us on this one. Columbia Road is the solution to more of less all of life’s woes. From a skittish hangover to a recent divorce, no bad mood is severe enough not to be lifted by the wonderful and exotic atmosphere around this tightly-packed inner city flower market. Although the serious buyers arrive before even the sun has risen, you’ll find the area busy all morning and into the afternoon. Trundling through, getting whiffs of rare flowers from far-flung corners of the world and stopping for a coffee at any of the delightful cafes and cantinas lining the road, a trip to Columbia Road is surely one of the most charming ways to spend a London Sunday morning.
Columbia Road Flower Market, Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG. Open Sundays from 8:00.