London has had markets since at least the Middle Ages – and thankfully given the weather, some of them are covered. Of course, tastes have changed over the centuries, and the capital now has its fair share of farmers’ markets and fashion markets, as well as plenty dedicated to street food.
Here are 10 of London’s largest, oldest, and most famous markets.
Portobello Road Market
The world’s largest antiques market occupies a prime stretch of Notting Hill, an area that manages to feel diverse and surprising despite heavy gentrification in the 90s. Portobello Road Market is really five markets in one, with different sections dedicated to second-hand goods; clothing and fashion; household essentials; fruit, veg, and other food; and the main event: antiques. You’ll find the greatest range of antiques stalls on Saturdays, when the market gets so busy that it’s wise to arrive before 11am. Portobello buzzes on Fridays too, but this fascinating street packed with characterful cafés, shops and drinking spots is worth a visit any time.
Brixton Village and Market Row
Brixton is one of the capital’s most vibrant and culturally diverse neighborhoods, and these adjacent indoor markets reflect its unique and varied flavor. In recent years, they’ve become a gourmet destination where hungry Londoners can grab a table at places serving seafood, superior pizza, Portuguese cuisine, Mexican food, Jamaican/European fusion, and Caribbean delicacies. But they contain plenty for shoppers, too. A leisurely amble through the arcades reveals a treasure trove of independent outlets selling clothing, jewelry, housewares, art, antiques and unusual gifts. Push on through the initial market corridors as most of the new quality shops and eateries are the furthest from the tube station. Brixton Village and Market Row are open from 8am to late every day, except for Monday, when they close early at 6pm.
Covent Garden Market
This grand neoclassical building in the heart of Covent Garden is a London landmark. Since 1980, after traffic congestion forced the traditional fruit and veg market to relocate, Covent Garden Market has reinvented itself as a serious shopping destination. On Mondays, it’s filled with stalls selling antiques and collectibles; then from Tuesday to Sunday, it welcomes a broader range of traders offering everything from handmade jewelry to artisan soaps. There are plenty of permanent retail units, too, mainly housing fancy brands like Mulberry and Tom Ford. Once you’re done exploring, which could take hours, Jubilee Market across the piazza is great for gifts and trinkets. Also, you could sit and watch one of the many talented entertainers and street performers filling every corner of the public spaces.
Technically several adjoining markets, this sprawl of stalls stretching from the Camden Town tube station to the Regent’s Canal is London’s fourth most popular visitor attraction. Every week, around 250,000 people (mainly the younger crowd) come here to shop, sample street food, and soak up the distinctive, still-grungy atmosphere. Camden Lock Market is an arts and crafts haven while the Stables Market is a trendy spot for everything from quirky furniture to fetish clothing. Nearby Buck Street Market on Camden High Street (the one under a sign that reads ‘The Camden Market’) is best for T-shirts and touristy trinkets. The markets in Camden Town are open seven days a week and always seem to be buzzing.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Situated just off Shoreditch’s main drag, this weekly flower market is an East End gem. Every Sunday from 8am-3pm, the picturesque cobbled street is packed with traders selling bulbs, herbs, shrubs, bedding plants, and bucketfuls of cut flowers. Flanking the stands are around 60 interesting independent shops and cafés, many open only at weekends. Arrive super early for the best selection of flowers, or as the market’s winding down to bag a bargain. In between, it gets very busy indeed.
Nestled next to London Bridge, this iconic food market has existed in some form since at least 1014. Though it still operates as a wholesale market in the early hours, it’s now best known as a foodie’s paradise where discerning Londoners come to buy top-quality meats, fish, fruit and veg, fresh-baked bread, cakes and sweet treats, oils and vinegars, and pretty much anything else they desire. There’s also an amazing array of street food, and a dedicated covered area to chow down in. Borough Market is open every day, but you’ll find the best selection of stalls on Fridays and Saturdays. It gets very busy, so arrive bright and early to enjoy a more peaceful peruse.
Old Spitalfields Market
Following its recent rejuvenation, this covered market opposite Liverpool Street station has blossomed into a major shopping destination. Now open seven days a week, the central concourse is filled with stalls selling contemporary and vintage clothes, bespoke children’s toys, home items, and artisan food products. Inside, you’ll also find a decent selection of permanent retail outlets and restaurants, including popular chains The Real Greek and Las Iguanas. There’s extra buzz on Thursdays, when it welcomes Old Spitalfields Antiques Market, a bonus cluster of stalls offering collectibles and objets d’art. And if you’re still not shopped out, Brick Lane Market is a quick five-minute walk away.
Since being relaunched in 2004, this Hackney street market has become a magnet for hipsters. Every Saturday from 9am to 5pm, it’s packed with arty students and East End creative types who come to fill their tote bags with organic groceries, vintage clothes, fresh flowers, coffee, books, and unusual handmade gifts. Broadway Market has so many street food options, it’s impossible to go hungry here, though not everyone will have the stomach for a Yorkshire Burrito. The only downside is how busy its gets, especially on sunny Saturdays, so arrive early to beat the hordes.
Brick Lane Market
On Sundays, the streets of East London’s bustling Brick Lane are lined with stalls selling anything and everything. You’re bound to find bargain fruit and veg, household items and electrical products, but this market’s trademark is its sheer unpredictability: you could bag a second-hard bargain, or spend hours sifting through trinkety tat. Brick Lane’s recent “trendification” is reflected in the various splinter markets that surround it. Visit Backyard Market for arts and crafts, Sunday Upmarket for street food and interesting gifts, The Tea Rooms for vintage bric-a-brac, and the Boiler House Food Hall for more snack and drink stalls. Brick Lane’s various Sunday markets surely have something for everyone.
Though it’s situated in historic Greenwich (in a World Heritage Site, no less), this eighteenth-century indoor market is no relic. Open seven days a week from 10am-5:30pm, it is home to around 120 stalls selling jewelry, clothes, second-hand furniture, interesting gifts, and general bric-a-brac. On Tuesday and Thursday you’ll find more antique stalls; other days have a greater arts and crafts presence. Once you’ve refueled at one of 40 food and drink stalls, you can pay a visit to the nearby Cutty Sark or Royal Observatory. Or just hop on a Thames riverboat back to central London.
Spend a week or two on a London Untour and take the time to discover these great markets!