London has some of the best markets of any city – artisan food producers, small-batch gin and one of a kind antiques. This is the ultimate guide to London markets.
What: Brick Lane
Why: Lined with curry houses all claiming to have won the ‘Best Curry in the Whole World 2014’ award, Brick Lane comes alive on a Sunday when the area buzzes with street vendors, food stalls and performers. Head into one of the halls lining the main road and get lost in a maze of vintage stalls selling everything from ball gowns to retro sportswear, antique lamps to Jackie-O sunglasses. Food sellers galore will leave you struggling to choose between an aromatic curry, some fresh sushi or an organic cake. With DJs pulling Sunday socialites into the local bars, you’ll certainly feel like you’re in the thick of it (or should we say in the brick of it…).
Where: Brick Lane, London E1 6QR
What: Brixton Market
Why: Once known for its Caribbean and African street food (think authentic jerk chicken and rice and peas), with enthusiastic sellers peddling anything from discount trainers to kitchen appliances, Brixton market has changed considerably over the past decade. Now much more focused around the fashionable restaurants and cafes of indoor Brixton Village, the increasing numbers of trendy food joints have caused mutterings of ‘gentrification’ but there’s no denying that this is a great place for a laidback lunch or dinner. Perfect date spot if you’re going for the I-haven’t-tried-too-hard-but-this-is-still-kinda-cool vibe.
Where: Electric Avenue, London SW9 8JX
What: Old Spitalfields Market
Why: Just down the road from Brick Lane, Old Spitalfields has been around since 1638 and the market remains within the restored Victorian building. Now one of the major markets in England, Spitalfields mainly sells clothes, jewellery and knick-knacks, making it the go to for present-buying. Open 7 days a week, it gets absolutely packed at the weekend but is fun nonetheless. And if it all gets a bit much there are plenty of good places to eat scattered around the edges of the market.
Where: 16 Horner Square, Spitalfields, London E1 6EW
What: Borough Market
Why: London’s most renowned food market and an excellent place to while away a Saturday. With the very best of British and international produce on offer, it’s lucky that many vendors let you try before you buy. Indeed, with sample plates aplenty offering up morsels of smoked cheese, dried meats and spiced olives you could probably fill your boots without spending a penny. The standard and selection of food is second to none, so don’t be surprised if you spot your favourite chef perusing the truffle stall next to you.
Where: 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL
What: Columbia Road Flower Market
Why: Arguably the prettiest market in London, Sunday sees Columbia Road overflow with flowers and foliage of every colour and variety. It’s worth a visit even if you’re not planning a floral-focused activity; get there early for the pick of the bunch or turn up when things are winding down to nab some great bargains. Flowers not your thing? There are plenty of independent fashion boutiques, vintage stores and independent cafes lining the street too.
Where: Columbia Road, London E2 7RG
What: Maltby Street Market: Ropewalk
Why: Perfect for those of you who pretend you still manage to visit the butcher, fishmonger and grocer separately for your weekly shop while living in Central London and working full-time. Psshh. And for those who just can’t face the supermarket at the weekend. Pop down to Maltby Street where they have a St. John bakery, O’Shea’s butcher and numerous delis to take care of your household needs, as well more frivolous options for consumption there and then, including waffle trucks, Champagne stands and gin bars.
Where: Ropewalk, London SE1 2HQ
What: Portobello Road Market
Why: All-time favourite Portobello Road Market spans the distance between Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove tube stations. Once famous for antiques, the market is now home to over 2,000 stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and veg to retro memorabilia and vintage clothing down under the Westway flyover (this is the place to find a fur coat). But don’t stop there, the real bargains lie beyond the flyover where the higgledy-piggledy selection of stalls are often neglected, making it the place you’re most likely to snap up a designer bargain.
Where: Portobello Road, London W11 2DY
What: Camden Market
Why: Not just for those adorned with facial piercings and tattoos, Camden market retains its punky vibe without being intimidating. Indeed, the Lock’s grungey charm has resulted in it becoming the 4th most popular visitor attraction in the whole of London, with approximately 100,000 people jostling amongst tattoo parlours and vinyl shops every weekend. Set on Regent’s Canal and including the neighbouring Stables Market, expect everything from vintage clothing to smoking paraphernalia, bric-a-brac and street food. Definitely the place to re-live your teenage rebellion.
Where: Camden High Street, London NW1 8NH
What: Real Food Market
Why: Head down to the Southbank for a weekend of absolute foodie indulgence. Row upon row of stalls sell what is possibly the most enticing street food in London, from brightly-coloured curries in wrought iron pots to sizzling BBQs, giant cream-filled crepes and crispy churros. Somehow even the sandwich stalls are imaginative. The focus here is on quality and provenance with the market designed to support small producers and independent traders, so you can tell yourself you’re doing A Good Deed as you stuff your face.
Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
What: Broadway Market
Why: The hipster hangout of East London, Broadway Market is a place to see and be seen, so be sure to don your sassiest garms. Once a fruit and veg market spanning the distance between London Fields and Regent’s Canal in Haggerston, it’s now a fully-fledged foodie fair with artisan and organic stalls in abundance. The market has breathed life into the area with lots of independent boutiques and restaurants perfect for people-watching popping up in the surrounding streets.
Where: Hackney, London E8 4PH
What: Alfies Antique Market
Why: For the more discerning Londoner, Alfie’s is the largest indoor market for antiques, vintage fashion and 20th century design and has really nice stuff. Whether you’re shopping for you or your house, this is the place to pick up a good quality vintage handbag, art deco sideboard or some funky lighting. Set over four floors with 75 traders, it’s more expensive than your average flea market but you’ll get good bang for your buck. Don’t miss the charming roof terrace café for lovely views of London.
Where: 13-25 Church Street, London NW8 8DT
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