Three relatively disparate groups of people, but the all have one thing in common and while each group goes about their daily business, we’re sure that at one point or another, every one of them has visited one of London’s markets.
London’s markets are world-famous. Their origins are grounded in the Middle Ages where, under ancient charter, they were set up to serve the expanding numbers of people coming into the City of London. As the years passed, some grew into huge, wholesale markets catering for the new breed of retailer and some became street markets to meet the needs of the growing suburbs.
There are traditionally two types of markets here in London – wholesale and consumer – but there is a third type of market that has emerged over the last 5-10 years that Londoner’s have come to love – the Farmer’s Market.
We won’t focus too much on the wholesale markets but they are worth visiting simply because of their sheer scale and history.
New Covent Garden Market is the UK’s largest fruit, vegetable and flower market. It supplies 40% of the fruit and veg eaten outside of the home in London and 75% of London’s florists buy their flowers there each morning.
Billingsgate Fish Market is the UK’s largest inland fish market and they process 25,000 tonnes of fish and seafood every year.
Smithfield Meat Market is one of London’s oldest markets – meat has been traded here for over 800 years – and is open to the public.
The beauty of London’s consumer markets is in their eclectic nature. You can buy, within reason of course, almost anything, from high-end art and antiques to second-hand books to flowers, clothes, food from every corner of the globe, gifts, curios, handmade goods and jewellery.
Opening hours vary from market to market (some are permanent and some operate on certain days of the week only) so it’s worth checking before you go but one thing is for sure, there are great markets operating every day of the week and you will never be lost for a market in London to go to!
Borough Market – Fresh foods, fruits and vegetables as well as specialist ingredients. A gourmet’s paradise!
Greenwich Market – Jewellery, clothes, accessories, gifts and pictures. There’s also a food court and lots of local, independent shops.
Covent Garden Market – London’s most famous craft market. Look out for the street performers too, some of them will blow your mind!
Jubilee Market – Antiques on Monday, arts & crafts on the weekend and then a general market. It’s in the heart of Covent Garden and definitely worth a short detour!
Camden Lock Market – Clothes, art, workshops, accessories, gifts and punky counterculture stuff with a very cool vibe and lots of street food stalls.
Broadway Market – Artisan foods as well as clothes, gifts and furniture in Hackney, one of London’s coolest and vibrant areas.
Old Spitalfields Market – A covered market selling clothes, art, food and gifts and you can nip up the road to Shoreditch to hang with the cool crowd!
Portobello Market – Antiques, artisan foods, posters, vintage and designer clothes and artwork. It’s been here for almost 200 years and Saturdays is the best day to come.
Leadenhall Market – Designer clothes and shoes, fresh food, gifts and services. It dates back to the 14th century and is in the heart of the City.
Brick Lane Market – Bric-a-brac, leather clothes, saris, spices and other Eastern delights. A real hotbed of cultures, Sundays is the best day to come.
Farmer’s markets are a relatively new addition to the London market scene. Simply put, they are weekly markets set up by local and artisan food producers to sell the fruits of their labours. Where previously we have bought our French cheese, our Spanish ham and our Middle Eastern fruit from American supermarkets, now Londoners can buy direct from the source. Local, seasonal foods that haven’t been corrupted by ‘food miles’ and import duties made by local, artisan producers who care more about the quality of the produce they serve rather than their profit margin.
Every week around the country, farmer’s markets are popping up wherever there’s a suitable space – car parks, school playgrounds, fields, town squares and high streets and while there is an argument that you may end paying slightly more for your apples that you would at any high street supermarket, you know for sure they have been picked off a tree by the guy selling them to you within 10 miles of where you’re standing rather than having been mechanically harvested in China or Turkey.
To find your nearest farmer’s market, click here.