Maybe it’s because I’m not from these parts. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen two unlikely childhood heroes of mine (The Artful Dodger and Peggy Mitchell) at their happiest in amongst the bustle. Or maybe it’s just because I like a bargain. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure – I like to have a look, sorry, a “butchers” around a good London market.
It turns out I’m not the only one. London now boasts over 30 markets on a weekend: From farmers to vintage, from flowers to antiques – there’s something for everyone.
The beauty of a market is that the experience is never, ever the same. The JD Sports in Westfield will still be the JD Sports in Westfield in a few moths. Markets morph into entirely different beasts week by week, day by day, hour by hour: Stalls move and seasons change, along with produce.
Also, that antique shoe-horn you’ve got your eye – it won’t be there in 10 minutes, let alone 10 days.
For Tastes: Maltby Street Market
Tucked inside the railway arches just off Tower Bridge, Maltby Street Market is only a 10-minute walk from the daddy of all food markets, Borough.
I only ended up at Maltby Street after a Sunday morning trip to Borough had ended in disaster. It was closed. It always is on a Sunday apparently.
But now I’ve been to Maltby, I make a disparaging “that is so last year” noise whenever Borough is mentioned. But success has not only negated Borough’s “hidden gem” coolness, it’s affected the prices too. They’ve gone up.
Maltby, on the other hand, seems to be thriving in its famous cousin’s shadow.
It still has that exciting element of the unknown, the food is top-notch and if not cheap, affordable. And, it’s open on a Sunday too.
The salt beef sandwiches at Monty’s Deli are the stuff of legend. They melt it and everything. I’m currently salivating.
A substandard food stall wouldn’t last two minutes here, there are too many excellent alternatives. From trendy favourites like scotch eggs with runny yolks and fried hollumi, to decadent delights like oysters and champagne – you won’t go hungry.
For Sites: Columbia Road
On a crisp Sunday morning (we do get a few), I challenge anyone to find an area of England’s fair capital as visually mesmerizing and satisfying on the nose as Columbia Road Flower Market.
You don’t need to be a floriculturist, a botanists, or even a horticulturist to enjoy a flower market.
And as the thesaurus is out of alternatives… you don’t need to be a flower enthusiast either!
This is just a great place to go and hang out. Of course, there are plants, shrubs, bulbs and flowers, but the market also has stalls selling breads, cheeses, antiques, garden accessories, unusual international edibles, soaps, candlesticks and artifacts of all descriptions.
And not a mobile phone cover or set of Beats headphones in site.
If you do want flowers, either get there early (8am) for the top of the crops, or late (2pm) for a bargain.
For Bargains: Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane Market typifies all that is great about The Big Smoke. A cultural melting pot with sights, sounds and smells from all corners of the earth.
As well as the trademark Asian cuisine that put Brick Lane on the map, there are fantastic Jewish bagel shops, Turkish food vendors, African silk scarves and pretty much anything else you could possibly think of.
The joy of this market/Aladdin’s Cave is that you never know what you’ll stumble upon next. Anything from leather jackets and old magazines to Art Deco furniture.
This is the definitive East London market experience. And if you don’t haggle on price, you ain’t done it properly.
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