The London market scene is enjoying a remarkable renaissance. Boasting life and vibrancy, far removed from the sterile atmosphere of supermarkets and shopping centres, markets have fast become must-visit destinations for Londoners at the weekend. From the established markets with strong links to the past (some going back a 1,000 years), to pop-up street food offering tasty treats; you can now buy local produce, artisan jewellery and quirky antiques without having to travel out of the capital. Here is a celebration of the best of London’s thriving urban market community.
View A map of London's best markets in a larger map
The passion for artisan food and locally-sourced produce has seen a boom in the last few years. What started as a bit of an "organic" fad has now been embraced by everyone keen to discover new and exciting flavours in food that hasn't spent months in cold storage. From startlingly good English "tapas": cheese, pork pies, Scotch Eggs and the like; to specialist burger festivals and pop-up Peruvians; street-food festivals and farmers markets have become like cat-nip to Londoners. Here are a host of fabulous places to visit and try before you buy (something you generally can't do in a supermarket!).
Opening times: Full market Wed to Sun, 10am-5.30pm, Open for lunch - Mon to Tues - 10am-5pm Getting there: 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL, Nearest tube: next to London Bridge station The oldest wholesale market in London, Borough Market is probably also the most famous. This is heaven for foodies, with cheese, cake, pie, and steak-shaped temptations on every corner. Head to Borough market 7 days a week to get your gourmet fix. Want to find out more? Click here to read our special feature on Borough Market.
Opening times: Sat 9am-2pm, Sun 11-4pm Getting there: Maltby Street, nearest tube, London Bridge, approx 10 minutes walk away This market is charmingly set underneath some railway arches in Bermondsey and what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in flavour. Think posh cheese, cured meats, the perfect pate and bespoke alcohol. Check out their Facebook page for more information.
Opening times: Saturday only 10-2pm Getting there: Lewisham College Car Park, Lewisham Way, London, SE4 1UT, 15 minutes from New Cross station & overland. Heading further south east, you can find Brockley Market. This is the place to while away the hours carefully selecting some choice cuts and quaffing exceptional coffee while avoiding the crowds of central London. Check out their video below to find out more.
Opening times: open seven days a week, early morning to evening with late nights (and live music) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Getting there: Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PS, nearest tube: Brixton, approx. 5 minutes walking. If you fancy making a night of it, then Brixton Village Market is the up-and-coming place to go. Housed in a 1930s market arcade, and revitalised in the last few years by bespoke pop-ups; this is now a firmly established foodie paradise with more than 20 eateries to enjoy.
Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 3am to 10am . We recommend getting to the market by 7am to ensure you have the widest possible choice and see the market in full swing. Getting there: Smithfield Market, EC1A 9PS. Nearest tube: Farringdon and Barbican, 5 mins walking. This is the largest wholesale meat market in the UK and is still located within three listed buildings, the main one is known for its vast and imposing structure made from ornamental cast iron, glass and stone. Still thriving today, the market has a whole host of white-coat clad traders dealing in every cut of meat you can dream of and some you have probably never even heard of. Although predominantly a wholesale market, visitors are welcome. The prices are not normally displayed but the traders are pretty friendly so it is always worth asking and then shopping around for the best deal!
DID YOU KNOW? Smithfield Market has a rather bloody and barbaric past! It was the scene of several famous and gruesome executions, including: William "Braveheart" Wallace in 1305 (who was hung, drawn and quartered.)
If you’re interested in finding out more about Smithfield Market’s grisly history, the City Guides offer a walking tour of Smithfield Market once a month, which begins at 7am and must be booked in advance.
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday 4.00am - 9.30am Getting there: Trafalgar Way, Poplar, London, E14 5ST Nearest tube Canary Wharf, approx. 10 mins walking Billingsgate is the UK's largest inland fish market and the place to go if you like your seafood shopping to come from the very first catch of the day. With fish coming in from nearly every port in Britain, you can get everything from local produce to lobsters from Canada and eels from New Zealand. You can buy fresh, cured, smoked and "prepared" products, like fish soup; just remember to get their early!
We spoke to the "Queen of Markets", Cheryl Cohen, board member of London Food and FARMA, and spokeswoman for the London Farmers' Markets, who look after 20 markets across the city, to find out more about why the capital is getting more involved with the countryside. Why do you think Farmer’s Markets are enjoying such a boom in popularity in London?
"Supermarkets will never be able to replicate the relationship between grower and buyer. That’s what Certified farmers markets are all about. Giving farmers a market to sell the fruit and vegetables they’ve grown, the meat they’ve raised, the fish they’ve caught and so on. No wholesalers, no buying in. People recognise that they can buy the freshest seasonal produce with the shortest most trustworthy supply chain, and they appreciate the relationships they build up at markets with their favourite farmers and growers."
Click on the arrow to read the rest of the interview! The markets you run almost have a pop-up quality – with some being in car parks and school playgrounds. How important is it for the community to have a place to buy locally-sourced produce?
"Markets were the first pop ups, long before pop ups existed! For four hours once a week empty spaces become communities. Personally I think it’s very important to have a place to shop that’s like a village square, where village squares no longer exist, especially in urban communities. I’m always amazed when I walk into one of our markets at the vibrancy and atmosphere we’ve created. Actually, it’s the local community who create the atmosphere; we just provide the space, the market and the opportunity to make it theirs."
Do you think markets are a much more interactive experience than just popping into your local supermarket?
"It has become increasingly rare for people to make food shopping a community event, but that is exactly what happens at a farmers market. How often do you see people smiling at each other across the aisles in a supermarket? Or children running around tasting things and asking their parents if they can buy something themselves. Farmers markets are the pinnacle of interactive food shopping. We recently held a favourite stall competition at each market and the comments from customers about their favourites were amazing, so wonderful. Lots of people refer to their favourite stall holders by name; they love the banter, the relationship, the occasional freebies and bargains they get. It’s something to look forward to every week. Who could say the same about their supermarket shop?"
The markets have a very seasonal quality; do you think there is a trend for going back to basics and learning more about where our food comes from?
"Whether it’s a trend or not, lots of people do care about seasonality and freshness. They care about who’s growing the food they eat and how it’s grown. They want to be able to buy unpasteurised milk and they love the wait for the first asparagus or strawberries of the year. By their very nature, our markets are always going to be seasonal; strawberries and asparagus in May, cherries in July, sweetcorn in August, apples in September and so on."
Are there any really unusual produce sold at the markets that you really wouldn't expect to be grown around the London area?
"You’d be surprised at the variety of things you’d find from tomatillos to unusual Summer berries and stone fruits; Jostaberries, wineberries, red gooseberries, white currants, peaches, apricots, and nectarines. Our fishermen bring spider crabs, clams and the occasional crayfish. Vegetables come in all colours. Sweet purple carrots, a huge variety of winter squash, unusual Japanese vegetables. Wild game in season; in addition to venison, wild duck and pigeon, look out for squirrel and rook. At this time of the year we’re looking forward to the first bunches of wild garlic appearing at markets."
We are encouraging people to be more spontaneous and go and do things "on the hoof", pardon the pun, so we think popping into these markets and just picking up something you wouldn't normally buy has to be a good thing right?
"It’s great to be spontaneous at our markets and come to see what you can find for lunch or dinner; just remember we start early and end by 1pm or 2pm at weekends!"
To find out more visit London Farmers' Market or follow them on Twitter @londonfarmers. Each market has it's own Facebook page with regular updates and photos.
Whether you are looking for the perfect present or scouring the stalls for something to finish off a room in your house; arts and crafts markets are the best places to discover hidden treasures and bespoke items. Here are a few of our favourites.
Opening Times: Tuesday to Sunday: 10am to-5.30pm Getting there: Greenwich Market, London, SE10 9HZ. Nearest Tube: Cutty Sark (DLR) Established in the early 1800s, Greenwich Market is the perfect example of a covered Victorian market with its stunning wrought-iron roof. Now housing a host of craftspeople and designers creating unique pieces,and atmospherically nestled between Greenwich Observatory and the Royal Naval College, this is a must-visit destination for any visitor to London. Check out our special feature on Greenwich Market to find out more about this fabulous marketplace.
Opening Times: open seven days a week: 10am-6pm (some bars / restaurants open later). Getting there: Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8AF. Nearest Tube: Camden Town and Chalk Farm, 10 mins walk. Social: Check out Camden Lock Market on Twitter and Facebook to find out the latest news and for more in-depth features, visit their blog. For vibrancy and an eclectic mix of stalls, you can't beat Camden Lock Market. The Camden scene is still a rite of passage for many teenagers, with a host of different markets (Camden Lock being just one of five in the area), great clubs and pubs, you come here to be seen as well as shop. They have just launched a new deli with London Artisans’ Markets, which will have London's foodies flocking on a Wednesday. Lunches might never be the same again for those in North London with the market boasting artisan cheeses, home-made organic drinks, specialist breads and other delightful delicacies. Although their international street food offering has increased in recent years; the market remains a hub for arts and crafts. You can get bespoke jewellery made or maybe even create your dream soap combination. They even had some fabulous book and record shops, ideal for idling away the hours. [slideshow_deploy id='10063']
TOP TIP: Take the London Waterbus from the West Yard and head towards Little Venice via London Zoo and Regents Park for a view of London's leafy canals.
Opening Times: Saturday - 11am-6pm Getting there: 13-23 Westgate street, London Fields, E8 3RL. Nearest Tube: London Fields train station, 10 mins walkSocial: Catch up with the market's latest news on Twitter. [slideshow_deploy id='10062'] While some markets have a rich history, others like Netil Market, have sprung up from nowhere to create something special. Based at a former derelict community college, this quirky and funky market is home to scores of young creative businesses and stall-holders, offering everything from vintage clothing to jewellery; this is the not the type of stuff you will find on any normal high street. Also boasting enough food and drink to satisfy browsing gourmets; this is an excellent place to mooch about alongside some of the more established markets, such as Broadway Market.
A boom in retro bargain hunting has seen antiques markets' discover a brand new audience. Here are some fantastic places to pick up treasures from the past.
Opening times: Antiques can be bought 9am-5pm Friday and Saturday with the Antiques Arcade open on Saturday only. Getting there: Portobello Road, London, W10 5TA. Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate. At Portobello Road you’ll find the most famous and vibrant of London’s antiques markets. Hundreds of traders congregate here selling everything from silverware to fine art and ceramics to general collectables. It can take a while to wind your way through all the stalls, shops and the antique arcades, so go prepared with your best comfy shoes. Their website has a handy map to help you navigate your way round.
Opening Times: Tuesdays to Saturdays - 10am-6pm Getting there: 13-25 Church Street, Marylebone, London NW8 8DT. Nearest Tube: Either Marylebone, Paddington or Edgware Road (less than 10mins walk from each) Social: Contact the market on Twitter and check out their blog. [slideshow_deploy id='10059'] Spending an afternoon pottering about Alfies Antiques Market in Marylebone feels like combining a shopping experience with a trip to a chilled-out museum. Based in a former Edwardian department store, and with c75 dealers, this is four floors of vintage and collectable heaven. You can buy everything from furniture to vintage clothing and glass-ware to textiles.
TOP TIP: Visit the fabulous roof terrace cafe, boasting panoramic views over London’s rooftops, and serving up a selection of home-made cakes, scones and hot food. It even has a licence!
Click on the arrow to read out more about the sister market to Grays The knowledge and friendliness of the dealers is second-to-none and they are more than happy to talk you through items and point you in the right direction if you have a particular hankering for something. The likes of Kate Moss and Stella McCartney are valued customers. Members of Michael Jackson and Madonna's entourages have also shopped for quirky items. Interior designers visit daily to source treasures for photo shoots.
Opening hours: Mon to Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-5pm. Getting there: 58 Davies Street & 1-7 Davies Mews, Mayfair, London, W1K 5AB. Nearest Tube: Less than five mins walk from Bond Street.
DID YOU KNOW? Grays Antiques has a river running through it! The basement of the Mews was constantly under water, but under closer inspection it was found to be a lost tributary of the River Tyburn, which rises in Hampstead and flows through the basement towards the River Thames. The owner decided to celebrate the discovery by turning it into a unique water feature which can be seen from inside the market.
For when you want to shop for upmarket antiques, Grays Antiques off Bond Street offers diverse collections of fine antiques and collectables. The sister antiques emporium to Alfie's,this is a peaceful haven to spend time in away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.
Opening Times: Every Friday 6am-2pm. Getting there: Bermondsey Square, Tower Bridge Road, Southwark, SE1 3UN - Nearest Tube:: London Bridge Social: Visit their Facebook page to check out some of the glorious photographs of antiques on sale and to find out the latest news. At Bermondsey Square Antiques the old saying "it's the early bird that catches the worm" rings true, as the best time to head there to snaffle a treasure is between 5 and 6am. You can buy everything from furniture to books, to jewellery and China, from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. While serious dealers go here to wheel and deal, there is a warm welcome for the more amateur bargain hunter too. The same company runs antiques markets in Covent Garden and Old Spitalfields (see poster above for details)
From one of London's oldest surviving markets set up by 18th century immigrants to another that came alive when the Bangladeshi community made the area around Brick Lane their home from home; for vibrancy and colour you can't beat East London.
Opening times: Mon-Fri 8am-4pm (Goulston St, Toynbee St and Wentworth St only) and Sunday - whole market - 9am-2pm. Getting there: Middlesex St, London, E1 7JF; Nearest Tube: Liverpool St / Aldgate East - c10 mins walk. The Petticoat Lane area of London was once the historic hub of the textiles industry, founded by religious refugees from France, the Huguenots, in the 1750s. A market has been operating on the site ever since. The main market is on a Sunday, but the surrounding streets still have stalls selling house-hold goods and clothes during the week.
Opening times: Sundays 8am-3pm Getting there: Brick Lane, Nearest Tube: Aldgate East, Shoreditch. Brick Lane Market is not just confined to one street, but is the name for a hub of stalls, shops and tea rooms in the surrounding area. Selling everything from fashion to furniture and jewellery to jumble; it really is one of the most vibrant markets around.
Opening times: open Sundays 8am-2pm Getting there: Columbia Road,E2 7RG, Nearest Tube: Aldgate East, Bethnal Green. But when it comes to blooms, Columbia Road Flower Market is still the pick of the bunch. This market is a riot of colour and smells, making it a true sensory experience. You can buy most kinds of flora and fauna from not only the UK but from around the world. They also boast independent vintage and antique shops along with street food stalls and baked goods to make this a Sunday treat.
To read our special features on several of the best London markets - check out the links below.
Have we missed any favourite markets off? Let us know by leaving a comment below.