No matter where I travel, one integral part of sightseeing in a new city are markets. Be it a flea market, fish market or simply a fruit and vegetable market, I just love the atmosphere of a lively market, and seeing what is sold in markets in different countries. Last month, I hit up some of my favorite markets in Berlin, and I’ve written about markets in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires and told you about my favorite markets in South East Asia and New York City. But I’ve never shared my favorite markets in London, which is the place I lived in the longest – which means there isn’t a market I haven’t been to in London, and it became a ritual for me to head out on weekends to pick up vintage clothes, unique gifts for friends, fresh flowers or just fruits and vegetables for the week, or just to grab a snack.
Read on for the six best London markets I recommend you don’t miss on a visit to The Big Smoke – not a single one is like another and I love each one for a different reason – plus a few honorable mentions which, should you spend a longer period in the city, are worth a visit as well.
What started out as a local food & vegetable market right off London Bridge quickly turned into the city’s #1 gourmet food market, selling high quality fresh breads and pastries, cheeses, meats, fish and condiments like olives, nuts and other goodies. The market gained in popularity so quickly that it is basically impossible to make your way across the market without being pushed through the crowds, but if you visit Borough Market on a Friday or Thursday before lunch, you should be able to avoid the masses (do yourself a favor though and don’t go on a Saturday, unless you are willing to get up early!).
Make sure to come hungry, because not only will you want to try some of the specialty sandwiches (raclette!) or bratwurst, but the vendors also offer generous samples of Italian salami, French cheese, fresh muffins or homemade jam. If you are a foodie, you can’t leave London without visiting this market!
Where? Southwark Street (closest tube station: London Bridge)
When? There is a limited market operating Monday and Tuesday 10am to 5pm. The Full market is in operation Wednesday & Thursday: 10am to 5pm, Friday: 10am to 6pm, Saturdays: 8am to 5pm. It is closed on Sundays.
Columbia Road Market
Columbia Road Market is actually called Columbia Flower Market – and is easily the best smelling market in London. Every Sunday, flower vendors line up along Columbia Road and sell an array of flowers and plants that makes every person with a ‘green thumb’ or simply adores flowers, very happy indeed. Thousands of flowers make the quaint Columbia Road shine in a blaze of colors. I have traveled all over the world but I have rarely seen a market that compares.
Visiting the Columbia Road Market makes for a lovely Sunday morning stroll through East London, and can be combined with brunch in Shoreditch or a stroll through Brick Lane Market (see below). Make sure to also check out the galleries, vintage shops and boutiques on Columbia Road while you’re there.
Where? Columbia Road (closest public transport: Hoxton or Shoreditch High Street on the London Overground)
When? Sundays 8am – 3pm.
London’s best known market has been going strong for decades now, turning Portobello Road into London’s busiest street each and every Saturday, rain or shine. The market was originally founded as an antiques market but has since added clothing, souvenirs, art, vintage clothes and even household cleaners to the mix. Towards the end of the market (close to Ladbroke Grove), you’ll ﬁnd fruits, vegetables and other fresh produce and when I lived in Ladbroke Grove, I would visit the market every week to shop for inexpensive groceries. I was never able to resist the giant olives, cheese vendors and fresh French baguettes. If you’re in town on a sunny day, I’d recommend picking up some snack food and heading to Kensington Gardens afterwards for a picnic.
Where? Portobello Road (closest tube station: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove)
When? Every Saturday from 9am to 6pm
Brick Lane Market is my favorite place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon in London. This massive flea market in East London stretches all the way down Brick Lane and also includes Cheshire Street. As East London has become more and more trendy over the past decade or so, the market has also seen a huge growth in visitor numbers, so I recommend you go early. You can find all kinds of second-hand goods here, vintage clothes and antiques, but also toys, all sorts of knick knacks and even home decor.
There are tons of food vendors here, too, so you don’t have to go hungry. And let’s not forget about all of the amazing curry houses that made Brick Lane famous in the first place – you won’t regret stopping for lunch at any of them. During the warmer months, there are live bands and other entertainment along the street or in places like the Truman Brewery. Street art lovers take note: Brick Lane is also home to some of London’s finest street art.
Where? Brick Lane (closest tube station: Liverpool Street Station and Aldgate East)
When? Every Sunday from 10am to 5pm
Another amazing Sunday market (you could basically spend all Sunday exploring different markets!), Petticoat Lane Market specializes entirely in fashion. The market was established over 400 years ago by French Huguenots who were selling petticoats there. Even though the street name has long since changed, the market has kept its original name and is a paradise for fashionistas. There is no fashion article that you won’t find here – from belts, buttons, underwear, leather, jeans and work clothes, this market sells anything to do with clothing. Bring enough cash, because you’ll most likely buy much more than you plan on buying! The rock-bottom prices here never cease to amaze me.
Where? On Middlesex Street (closest tube station: Liverpool Street Station, Aldgate or Aldgate East)
When? Every Sunday from 9am to 2.30pm
Another one of London’s markets that has become way too commercialized over the years. When I visited Camden Market for the ﬁrst time a decade ago, the market still had an edgy, in parts almost grimy feel to it, but the more it has gained in popularity, the more it was cleaned up by the ofﬁcials. While it has become cleaner and more organized, it has also lost most of its edginess – that being said, Camden Market is still my absolute favorite market in the world. I have yet to ﬁnd another market that I love equally as much and that combines vintage, food (oh the glorious food! Do yourself a favor and come with an empty belly!), jewelry, art, music and amazing gifts. If you happen to be in London during the week, you’ll be able to shop in a much less crowded environment on a weekday morning. If you’re not a fan of crowds, I’d recommend staying away on the weekends or otherwise go to the market super early. But make sure that you do go: this is the one market that should absolutely not be missed on a visit to London.
Where? Camden High Street (closest tube station: Camden Town or Chalk Farm)
When? Every day from 10am to 6pm
These are only a few of the markets I love in London and ones that I frequented dozens of times. I could go on and on, also introducing you to Leadenhall Market, Brixton Village Market, Covent Garden Market, Greenwich Market, Spitalsﬁeld Market and Broadway Market… your options for markets to attend in London are nearly endless. A quick weekend trip to London is one of the easiest things to do these days with the large number of budget airlines and trains connecting London to mainland Europe.
If you are based in the UK, cheap coach operators offer tickets for as little as £1, but even from Germany or France there are always bargain train or ﬂight offers available. It has never been easier and cheaper to visit Britain’s capital for a quick shopping trip – and no shopping trip would be complete without a visit to the city’s awesome markets!
Have you been to London? What are your favorite markets? Share in the comments below!