London is known for a great many things – but its markets are truly world-famous. No matter what you’re looking for, you can find it at one of London’s markets.
Markets have been recorded in London since the time of the Romans, with the earliest known market where Leadenhall stands today. Most markets have origins in the middle ages, selling food and essentials to the local population, but evolved into more specialised events as travel across London became easier, and railways brought opportunities for goods to arrive from further afield.
Below, we’ve picked out 10 of the best markets we think you should visit next time you’re getting the train to London.
Southbank Centre Food Market
Hidden behind the Royal Festival Hall is a real gem – the Southbank Centre Food Market. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and a stone’s throw from Waterloo station, it’s well-attended by local workers and tourists alike. From Shrimpy’s simple – but delicious – seafood, to Korrito’s incredible Korean-Mexican fusion, there’s a wide selection of treats and food to meet all tastes.
Borough Market has been on the record the thirteenth century – albeit known as “Cheapside” for much of that time. Now, of course, it’s a renowned hub for foodies of all flavours, with some of the best food and produce to be found in the UK. Through its iconic iron gateway, you’ll enter a foodie heaven; here you’ll find the fabulous Bread Ahead, delicious charcuterie from Cannon & Cannon, and some of the best gelato from 3Bis.
Much of what’s sold here is grown by the stallholders, and whilst you won’t find much to beat supermarket prices, the quality more than makes up for it – and that’s without adding in the charm of an old-fashioned market wander. Arrive into London Bridge or Southwark underground station for a short walk to the market.
Portobello Road Market
The market on Portobello Road stretches back 150 years, mostly for the food and essentials that most London markets sold. The 1940s saw this all change, as rag-and-bone men and antique dealers started to sell their wares. As gentrification took hold in the 1980s new life was breathed into the market – and it became the bustling hub we know today.
The market itself is really more like half-a-dozen in one. Amble in unprepared and you’re likely to find yourself emerging on the other side with more than you can carry and quite unsure of where you got it! Here you’ll find antiques, bric-a-brac, food, drink, new fashion, vintage fashion, furniture, collectables and more – all within a couple of streets.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Columbia Road is one of the world’s best-known flower markets as well as the best flower market in London – but it almost didn’t exist. The original Columbia Market was a typical London market until the 1870s when it began to struggle. Despite an effort to relaunch it as a fish market, even a new building couldn’t save it and the market closed in 1885.
Following WWII, the market opened back on the street again. The Jewish population in the area meant that unlike many markets, Columbia Road opened on a Sunday (it’s still a Sunday market today). New regulations in the 1960s saw the market transform fully into the spectacularly colourful affair you see today, with flowers as far as the eye can see, and the air heavy with the scent of blooms. Everything you need can be found here – whether you’re just after bedding plants or a 10-foot banana tree!
Old Spitalfields Market
One of London’s oldest market sites, there’s been a market at Spitalfields since the thirteenth century. Considered the “original” East London marketplace, it’s come a long way from humble beginnings selling fruit and veg. Now the Old Spitalfields Market is an all-weathers indoor hub for independent traders, artisans, artists and chefs – from Turkish linens to vintage eyewear and hats. You’ll find exceptional food and drink too – with ten street kitchens at the heart of the market, there’s sure to be to something to tempt you.
Petticoat Lane Market
Petticoat Lane may no longer exist (for which we can thank the sensibilities of Victorians, who found the idea of a road named after underwear rather too racy), but the market remains in name and in spirit. Selling fashion, textiles and leather goods – brought over originally by Huguenots fleeing persecution in France – you’ll find goods from all over the world here. This is another market that opens on Sunday.
Nearby in Wentworth Street from Monday to Friday you’ll find the street food market – with healthy options (and sweet treats) galore to choose from.
One of the world’s most famous markets, Camden hosts more than 1,000 places to shop, eat, drink, and even dance. Starting with just 16 stalls in the back of the legendary Dingwalls, Camden Market’s association with punk rock and fashion has stuck with it – and even today you’ll find up-and-coming designers selling everything from mod-inspired threads to bohemian styles, as well as tea merchants, art galleries, and Cuban cigars.
Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane has come a long way from the area most well-known for the Jack the Ripper murders. Now home to London’s edgy artistic crowd as well as the vibrant Bangladeshi community, you’ll find authentic curry houses nestling amongst the warehouse art galleries.
The heart of it all is the Old Truman Brewery at 91 Brick Lane – a vibrant marketplace for up-and-coming London designers selling clothes, handbags and jewellery that you won’t find anywhere else.
But that’s not to forget the incredible food around the area. We recommend a visit to Beigel Bake – the 24/7 bagel bakery, and an institution in its own right.
Duck Pond Market Richmond
Every Saturday and Sunday sees the centre of Richmond come alive with the Duck Pond Market. Heron Square is the hub of the market, attracting artisans and foodies from around Surrey.
But the real pleasure of visiting a Duck Pond Market is saving the environment while you do it. Duckies, as stallholders are affectionately known, are held to a high standard: locally made products, with no transport costs other than getting the goods to market – and of course no single-use plastics.
Hackney Flea Market
Hackney Flea Market in Abney Hall is a knick-knack hunter’s paradise. Here you’ll find tables and rails brimming with vintage dresses, jewellery, antique suitcases and furniture. You’ll also find local creatives here too – with brand-new wares to buy. And as an added-bonus – the market is proudly dog-friendly too.
Book your ticket to London today – arrive at any of our SWR stations and connect onto the London Underground