One of the things I love about London is the markets, both covered and open air. Streets like Petticoat Lane near Whitechapel become a market from Mondays to Fridays, where people can buy food, clothes, and shoes at low prices. Carnaby Street, near Piccadilly, is a pedestrian thoroughfare which became the mecca of fashion in the 1960s. There are many other street markets, like Maltby Street, Berwick Street, East Street, Church Street, Leather Lane, or Columbia Road Flower Market. Visitors can take advantage of the low prices and try ethnic dishes from around the world.
Of course, there are covered markets as well. Most of the buildings we see today are Victorian. Although they are recent –relatively speaking! – there has been commercial activity in those sites for many centuries.
The commercial activity is not confined to the covered market but has spilled out into the adjacent streets. One example is Camden Market, which started off as a small arts and crafts market in the 70s and it now occupies the whole neighborhood. Actually, there are five markets in total in Camden Borough.
Covent Garden is, in my opinion, the polar opposite of Camden. It’s elegant and refined, with lots of history and culture behind it. There are 13 theatres in the area including the Royal Opera House. You can read more about Covent Garden here.
Hands down, my favourite market is Borough Market in Southwark. The variety of foods to choose from seems endless. I love the iron and brick style of construction, it reminds me of a railway station – Victorian, of course. Besides, one my favorite restaurants in London is there too.
Smithfield Market, located in the Square Mile, is the UK’s biggest wholesale meat market. Smithfield has a long and interesting history. Tournaments and executions were held here, like that of Scottish hero William Wallace. Smithfield is a working market so if you want to see it in full swing, it’s best if you get there at 7 am. I’ve never been there that early! Even if the stalls close, you can still see the building inside. If you’re in the area, don’t miss St. Bartholomew’s church, a medieval gem tucked away behind an archway.
Leadenhall Market is a must-see in the City of London. You can read more about Leadenhall Market here.
Old Spitalfields Market has been a food market since 1638. Nowadays, you can buy arts and crafts from all over and sample all kinds of ethnic foods. It’s a good place to find bargains and one-of-a-kind presents seven days a week. We recently had lunch at Spitalfields. I liked the look of the outdoor food stalls, especially the Argentinean empanadas and steak sandwiches (yup, I‘m totally biased) but it was too cold and there was no seating. The indoor market it was. I had a superb panino from the Calabrese stand and Sean had a curried paneer and chicken wrap. While I was waiting for my panino, the lovely stallholder fed me samples of cheeses and Parma ham while the Turk next door handed out bits of decadent baklava. Bliss!
I do recommend visiting any or all of these markets for a truly fantastic food experience.