Why London Markets are the Best!
London markets are some of my favourite markets !!!
I recently (well, last year!) had three weeks in London ... all by myself ... and what did I do?
I explored London's markets!
Why do I love London markets so much? Probably because I have such fond memories of exploring them many years ago when I lived in London. As an Aussie backpacker, I lived in Kensington and the Portobello Road Market was my "local" market. Most weekends involved time spent wandering at least one London market.
So, which markets did I visit while in London last year?
Portobello Road Market
Famous for many reasons, but well-known for being the market that Hugh Grant walks through in the movie "Notting Hill". The Portobello Road Market was my first market port-of-call and I have to admit to being in market heaven as I wandered through a treasure trove of antiques and collectables, fashion, arts & crafts and fresh food.
Although this market operates during the week, for me, Saturday's famous antique market was the day to visit, and although the weather was not entirely kind, the drizzle did not seem to keep anyone away. The market crowd was eclectic with both locals and tourists jostling for a bargain and their fresh fruit and vegetables!
Another of my old haunts, the Camden Markets are a series of markets that are open during the week but the real hustle and bustle of the markets are evident on the weekend. The market lays on the Regent's Canal and is a collection of creative stalls, street food traders and independent shops. The market seemed to appeal to younger market-goers with lots of fashion, retro, music, footwear and jewellery shops. We took a long time to walk from the Camden Town Tube Station to the market as we couldn't help but stop to be entertained by all the buskers. I think my favourite of all the buskers I found in London was the Mad Hatter that we found on the Camden High Road.
At the end of the day we caught a canal boat from the market to Little Venice where we had the most delicious dinner in a restaurant built over the canal!
Columbia Road Flower Market
Flowers, flowers and more flowers! Hydrangeas, roses, daisies, orchards, herbs, succulents, potted plants .... London's very own flower market was relatively small but very popular and so so beautiful. As we jostled through the crowd the aromas from the flowers wafted along with us and invited us to buy armloads of blooms to take home.
This was my first visit to the Columbia Road Flower Market and I was reminded how much I just adore the old-fashioned hydrangeas!
London's oldest food market, the Borough Market, in central London, is made up of stalls run by small producers who grow, cook or directly source the food that they sell. The market has been around for over a thousand years and was an unexpected market-highlight on my market tour! It's also the market near Bridget Jones' flat in the Bridget Jones' movies.
The food at this market was spectacular! Can I call food 'spectacular'? I discovered fruit and vegetables that I didn't know existed! And the market shops were so inviting and the food so beautifully displayed! And I won't even mention the cheese and breads ..... oh, and the pastries ....
Picadilly Market at St James's Church
Behind beautiful wrought iron gates, the Picadilly Market is a small market in the grounds of St James's Church just off Picadilly Circus in central London. Amongst all the chaos of central London, the market, in the courtyard of the Church, was a little piece of quiet and tranquility.
The market (and Church) is close to Fortnum & Mason, The Ritz (where we had THE MOST AMAZING High Tea!!) and Green Park, St James's Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are all close by. If you keep walking down Picadilly and into Knightsbridge you end up at Harrods and the lovely Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington. But I digress ...
The market was crowded with tourists and sold an interesting range of arts, crafts, antiques, collectables and food.
Covent Garden Markets
The Covent Garden Market is yet another London market that has been immortalised in film. Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady, was selling flowers in the Covent Garden flower market when Henry Higgins 'discovered' her!
Only a very small area of Covent Garden is now dedicated to market trading and my time in Covent Garden was mainly spent sitting on the pavement watching the buskers, usually nibbling on some sweet London delicacy!
I bought my treasured jack-in-a-box from a market shop in the Jubilee Hall many many years ago.
We explored the Greenwich Market on a rather cold and miserable London morning but Greenwich Village was a delight to visit.
We actually found three markets in Greenwich. The Greenwich Market is an indoor market with stalls selling a bit of everything including beautiful handmade products and a food court. The Vintage Market is a smaller market with an eclectic array of stalls selling bric-a-brac, clothing, antiques and collectables & furniture. Some shops were housed in what looked like lock up metal containers! The Clock Tower Market is an outdoor market and sold everything from antiques and collectables, clothing, books, jewellery, paintings and furniture.
Brick Lane Market
The Brick Lane Market is in East London and a short walk from the Columbia Road Flower Market. This market was like no other London market that I found on my travels! A disarray of stalls strewn along the sidewalk of interlocking streets; some stalls had tables and marquees while others sold bric-a-brac from blankets thrown on the ground. Buskers were on most corners, in fact I saw the same buskers that were at the Portobello Road Market the previous day, and the atmosphere was exciting, chaotic, eclectic and alternate.
The market seemed to meander for miles and melded into other markets, some I wasn't sure whether they were part of the Brick Lane Market or another separate market! Throughout the morning we visited not only the Brick Lane Market but the Sunday Up Market, the Tearooms Market, the Backyard Market, the London Artisan Market, Old Spitalfields Market and the Petticoat Lane Market. All within walking distance of each other - but with a trusty London A-Z Guide in our hands!
Southbank Food Market
Wandering along the Southbank one evening I came upon the Southbank Food Market. As I walked down the stairs into the Southbank Centre Square the aromas wafting up from the street food stalls drove me to an early dinner!
This market is tucked behind the main Southbank sidewalk and only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but well worth finding if looking for delicious street food.
Southbank Book Market
One my most unexpected market treats was the Southbank Book Market. Tucked under the Waterloo Bridge on Queen's Walk on Southbank, I can't imagine a better location for a book market! The Thames, the London skyline, amazing buskers and books .... what more could I possibly want?
West End Lunch Time Market
Filling in some time around the West End before attending a matinee show of Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre, I stumbled upon a lunch time food market in Rupert Street. Catering for what seemed like mainly office workers, the stalls offered a large selection of international street food. I bought a Thai meal, lucked upon a seat at a shared table, and found myself being entertained by a conversation between two co-workers about the dramas of promotion in their workplace!
Hatfield House Farmers' Market
My one and only 'country' market experience was at Hatfield House, a stately home in Hertfordshire, just outside London. Held on the third Sunday of the month, the beautiful pale blue and white striped marquees welcomed us into the Stable Yard and the market. Local produce including jams and chutneys, cupcakes, fudge, brownies, breads and pastries were all on sale.
Not only did we enjoy our tour of the House, lunch consisting of local food purchased from the market, was such a treat!
More London Markets?
There are so many more markets in London that I could have visited, but I ran out of time. I need to plan another trip to London to tour London markets again.
Who's coming with me?