Wander your way through London’s markets

London's Leadenhall Market | Photo by Felix Pergande
London's Leadenhall Market | Photo by Felix Pergande

Wander your way through London’s markets

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

It’s a bit of an understatement to say London is unique and eclectic. You can tour regal palaces, shop at luxury, high-end shops and finish the day with a spot of tea. However, one of my favorite pastimes is checking out the amazing markets which seemingly pop up along the streets and in narrow alleys throughout the city. Two of the more well-known, Camden and Borough, are world-renowned for their fantastic food stalls. While they’re definitely worth a visit, you may have to elbow your way through crowds to find your favorite. Skip over the crowds and discover a few of London’s other markets.

Columbia Road Flower Market
Every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. this rather non-descript street is transformed into a vibrant, floral wonderland. Buckets and pots with freshly cut flowers, plants and shrubberies cascade from one merchant to another. Although a bit off the beaten path in the East End, its popularity continues to grow. To get the freshest blooms and avoid crowds, plan to arrive when it opens. Be sure to duck through the shops and boutiques along the side streets for unique gifts, or a quick bite to eat.

Backyard Market
Not too far from Columbia Road, the Shoreditch area is a fantastic place to find almost any kind of market. Hidden off Brick Lane in an old brewhouse, Backyard Market is a treasure trove full of whimsical and statement art. Since it’s off the beaten path, it’s easy to maneuver through the interior shops. Food vendors line the walkway into the market, selling gourmet chocolate, savory sausages and spicy curries.

Brick Lane Vintage Market
Looking for the perfect outfit for a 1940s soiree? Maybe one of your kids has discovered a love of neon pink ‘80s fashion. You can find all of this and much more at the Brick Lane Vintage Market. Hidden below an international food bazaar, timeless clothes, vinyl records, puffy NFL jackets, old European football kits line the aisles of seemingly endless space. Once you’ve found that gold sequined jumpsuit you’ve pined for, head upstairs for tasty snacks. Fried gyoza, steamed dim sum dumplings, tantalizing arepas, and decadent mini-Dutch pancakes can help stave off shopping hunger pangs.

Old Spitalfields Market
Literally across the road on Brick Lane, Old Spitalfields is like stepping into a high-brow and upscale version of the aforementioned markets. The covered shopping area is lined with couture shops such as Chanel and Tag Heuer. Eateries are located on the sides, and not in with the arts and crafts vendors. There were quite a few more people milling around. If you keep walking past the main area, you’ll discover the smaller, more independent vendors just around the corner.

Leadenhall Market
Located in a busier financial district near London Bridge and the Tower of London, Leadenhall is worth a visit for the magnificent architecture alone. Dating back to the 15th century, this market is one of the oldest in the city. With grand columns, domed glass ceilings and ornate building facades, it’s been featured in several films – including “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Shoppers will want to visit Monday through Friday when most stores are open. However, for an Instagram-worthy picture, stop by during the weekend when crowds are non-existent.

Ropewalk (Maltby Street Market)
Tucked below train trestles near the Shard is a foodie’s paradise. The Ropewalk (or Maltby Street Market) is full of tantalizing smells and foods that will delight your palate and is a great alternative to the ridiculously crowded Borough Street Market. Traditional fare such as savory Scotch eggs, and fish and chips can be washed down with craft-brewed cask ales. Or try more exotic tastes such as Moroccan tangine, Spanish tapas and Brazilian steak wraps with a gin-infused cocktail. Be sure to arrive early, as the market does get more crowded as the day goes on.

While there are plenty of other markets (Shepherd’s Bush, Bermondsey Antique, Portobello Road, etc.), these are just a small sampling to get you started. Which one’s your favorite?

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