The magic of London markets is that each offers something to suit every taste and interest – from a fascination with food to a love of fashion – and often with every budget in mind. Only some London markets operate beyond the weekends, so if you’re only planning a weekday visit, make sure to choose wisely. It is key to note that even if a market is opened on a weekday, while it is likely to be quieter and easier to navigate, less of the interesting and exciting merchandise may be on offer. The weekends are peak days when you will find the markets bustling with both visitors and locals, so a visit is as much a fascinating people-watching experience as a shopping adventure.
A visit to London wouldn’t be complete without a trip to explore one of its must-shop markets
Columbia Road Flower Market
Columbia Road Flower Market is the Sunday market to experience in London. Aside from the colourful stalls selling bountiful plants and beautiful flowers, you’ll find a string of the sweetest and most unique independent shops and galleries in the city. While not a long street in itself, you will need to give yourself ample time as you will want to walk the stretch three times – once up the middle, squeezed between fellow flower shoppers and vendors shouting out their offers in true old-world style, then once up each side of the street behind the stalls to experience the bricks and mortar shops. Look out for the surrounding roads like Ezra Street, where vintage knick-knacks can be found alongside contemporary furniture and concrete garden statues.
Old Spitalfields Market
Old Spitalfields Market is an historic destination with everything on offer from antiques and vintage homeware to specialty foods, records and art. A veritable mix of a little bit of everything on Saturday and Sundays, the market offers specific wares on weekdays, with Thursdays catering primarily to antiques and Fridays to independent and vintage fashions. The building that surrounds the open market is occupied with more current and contemporary chain stores and specialty shops and restaurants.
When it comes to food markets, London brings together a cultural culinary mix like no other city on earth. Borough Market is the destination for a bountiful hub of specialty food shops and stalls, fresh produce, quality butchers and fishmongers and some of the best coffee in London. Early in the week, the market caters to the breakfast and lunch crowd from the businesses around the London Bridge area, but from Wednesday to Saturday, the stalls are alive with every culinary delight imaginable. Plan to go hungry and try everything from specialty donuts, exotic cheeses and the best sausage sandwich known to man.
Portobello Road Market
Few London antique markets compare to Portobello Road. The west London streets of brightly painted buildings and lively locals that make up the market are home to one of the largest antiques trades in the world. While parts of the neighbourhood function as a market all week long, it’s the Saturday market that sees the most extensive range of antiques and collectables alongside retro and new fashions, furniture and food.
While still steeped in the roots of the local Afro-Caribbean culture of the Brixton neighbourhood of south London, Brixton Market has developed into a great cultural mixing pot where stalls that stock plantain, brightly patterned textiles or live snails sit next to trendy burger bars and gift boutiques that sell original art and jewellery. It is a lively destination that marries many worlds along its winding pathways and is a veritable microcosm of London itself.
Dover Street Market
If high-end clothing design is your aim, there is no better London fashion market to experience than Dover Street Market - the brainchild of Rei Kawakubo of Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons. This open-plan concept displays and sells micro-collections of some of the newest and most experimental names in high fashion, alongside industry megastars like Dior, Celine and, of course, Comme des Garçons.