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
If you can hack an early start, going to any of New Billingsgate markets will provide a unique insight into London’s gastronomical underworld.
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 (Canary Wharf), New Covent Garden (Nine Elms) or New Spitalfields (Leyton) 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.
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.
This is the place to go whether you want to try out delicacies from the furthest reaches of the globe or a portion of locally-sourced fish and chips
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.
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.
Europe’s biggest covered market, Camden provides it all!
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!
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.