I am not a morning person, as most people in The Handbook office will attest. Pretty much without fail, I snooze my alarm three times in the morning and it’s an achievement if I manage to have a full conversation before 10am that is more than a grunt. However, I’ve always been fascinated with the high-achievers who not only survive but thrive on five hours sleep, and manage to get in a game of tennis well before the rest of us have even made our morning coffee (Anna Wintour being one of them).

So without further adieu, let’s take a look at what you can squeeze into your day before you head into the office buzzing with stories about how efficient you are. It may enrich your life, but don’t blame us if you have dark circles under your eyes for the rest of the year (maybe that’s why Anna wears sunglasses all the time).

1. New Covent Garden Flower Market and Fruit and Veg Market

What could be more life-enriching than a wander through stalls of fresh flora? In my head, I have visions of myself as a Disney princess, singing to whoever will listen, birds perching on my arm and flowers in abundance blooming before my very eyes. The reality, is probably somewhat different. Cold, tired and listening to the the gruff growls of flower merchants as they sell their wares is far more likely. However, the petals on display are seriously impressive.

Be sure to get the right address. Confusingly, the New Covent Garden Flower Market isn’t in Covent Garden at all. It used to be, but then, you know, London prices forced it out to Nine Elms near Vauxhall.

Barter your way through the stalls, which offer up everything from daffodils and chrysanthemums to carrots and broccoli. Fresh, delicious and supporting local business, it’s a great way to shop.

Need your morning hit of caffeine? There are three cafés (as well as a convenience store and post office) in the fruit and veg market and another café in the Flower Market.

Flower Market opening times: 4-10am Monday-Friday, 4-9am Saturday
Fruit & Veg Market opening times: 12-6am Monday-Saturday
Where: Nine Elms Lane, SW8 5NX
Website: www.newcoventgardenmarket.com

If you're looking to cook up a steamy pie or simply want a few fresh cockles to snack on, then this is the place to go.

2. Billingsgate Market

Let’s talk stats. Billingsgate Market covers 13 acres. There are 98 stands, 30 shops, two cafes, an 800 tonne freezer store, one ice-making plant, and an average of 25,000 tonnes of fish are sold each year. The annual turnover of the market is estimated to be in the region of £200m.

That’s a helluva lot of fish. So if you’re looking to cook up a steamy pie, impress some friends at your next dinner party, or simply want a few fresh cockles to snack on (sounds gross, but with a drizzle of white wine vinegar and a sprinkle of pepper, simply delicious, trust me), then this is the place to go.

No idea what you’re doing or looking for? Then you can do a tour with the Seafood School of Billingsgate for £30, which will shower you with facts, and give you an insight into the produce and the people that work there.

Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday, 4-8.30am
Where: Trafalgar Way, Poplar, E14 5ST

3. Eat in one of these restaurants

Been on a night out and fancy an early morning snack before you hit the hay? Then we’ve got you covered – from an early morning waffle topped with duck and maple syrup to piles of pancakes in the heart of Soho, read our list of the best early morning restos to visit. 

Alternatively, if it’s a more wholesome visit you are after and you’re looking to treat yourself before a long day in the office, opt for healthier dishes. Balans offers up granola topped with berries or a falafel and hummus wrap.


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4. Sunbury Antiques Market

On the second and last Tuesday of every month, set your alarm for 5am and get ready to leave the house. Over at Kempton Park Racecourse in Sunbury-On-Thames, Surrey, is the famous Sunbury Antiques Market. The doors open at 6.30am, but everyone arrives there earlier to get a good spot in the queue and be part of the mad rush.

From mid-century furniture to that spaghetti bowl you didn’t know you needed, there are all types of treasures to hunt out. Just be prepared to race to it.

If the early start has you quaking in your bed, then go for the later opening at 10.30am at their other venue in Sandown Park near Hampton Court. What’s more, now they’ve opened another branch in Sandown Park Racecourse, close to London Waterloo station.

Make sure to bring a car – you’ll need some way to bring back that antique chest of drawers and retro jukebox.

Opening times: 6.30am-2pm, Kempton; 10am-3pm, Sandown
Website: www.sunburyantiques.com

5. Smithfield Market

You better hurry up and visit Smithfield Market because it’s going to be relocated to Dagenham soon. Okay, so you don’t need to be that speedy – it’s not moving until 2027 – but it is moving (along with Billingsgate and New Spitalfields Market). A great sadness for the institution that’s been there since the 10th century, when it used to trade livestock, making it one of the oldest markets in London. However, the new site will be sure to rejuvenate its new home in Essex.

Smithfield Market (more formally known as London Central Markets) is the largest wholesale meat market in the UK. There are apprenticeship schemes, for those wanting to start their career in butchery, or tours with City Guides, for those just wanting to have a peek. Open from 2am, it’s a seriously early start, but most of the fun stuff to see goes on at 7am. For vegetarians, vegans and those of you who don’t want to see rows of dead cow carcasses hanging from metal hooks, maybe give this one a miss.

Opening times: 2am-8am, Monday to Friday 
Where: Grand Avenue, Farringdon, EC1A 9PS
Website: www.smithfieldmarket.com

For those of you who don't want to see rows of dead cow carcasses hanging from metal hooks, maybe give this one a miss.

6. Breakfast-time boozer

While most of us have after-work pints at 7pm, others are having theirs at 7am. Perched on the edge of Smithfield Market, The Fox & Anchor is an institution and has been serving up early morning pints since 1897. Few of these places exist anymore, largely because of licensing and also because nobody wants to be that person propping up the bar (although weirdly, it’s entirely acceptable if you’re in the airport). Neighbouring pub The Hope as well as The Market Porter near London Bridge were also well known for their early morning service, but alas, they start service at a civilised 11am and 12pm now. So run on down to The Fox & Anchor before it changes its mind too.

The Fox & Anchor opening times: 7am-11pm, Monday-Friday, 8.30am-11pm Saturday, 8am-10pm Sunday
Where: 115 Charterhouse Street, Barbican, EC1M 6AA
Website: www.foxandanchor.com

7. New Spitalfields Market

Another fruit, veg and flower scenario, be part of the hustle, bustle and shouting at the New Spitalfields Market. Set across 31 acres, the market hall houses 115 trading units for wholesalers dealing in fruit, vegetables and flowers. There are also cafes to keep you fed and watered. However, there aren’t any tours here and it’s pretty much just for traders, but you can wander through to soak up the atmosphere and buy a bunch of flowers to take home.

Opening times: 12am-9am Monday-Saturday
Where: 23 Sherrin Road, Leyton, E10 5SQ
Website: www.newspitalfieldsmarket.co.uk

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