A Tourist's Guide to the Best Markets in London
London is a city of markets - from food to fashion - and here's our guide for tourists so you can make the most of your stay
London’s markets are one of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. Containing everything from antiques to knicknacks, clothes to food, and everything in between, you’ll be sure to find something that catches your eye.
With so much to offer, it can be tough to decide where to go and why. But that’s why we’re here. Check out our list of can’t-miss markets on your first trip to London.
Here you’ll find a variety of shops and stalls selling items like street food, fresh produce, meats, sweets, and savoury treats. One thing you won’t see much of, though, is seating. After grabbing a bite to eat, wander around the rest of the market with your food in tow or head to one of the nearby seating areas around the Southwark Cathedral or along the Thames.
Borough Market is open year round. From Monday through Thursday it’s open from 10 am to 5 pm, Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm.
Notting Hill is famous for more than just its colorful houses. It’s home to the Portobello Road Market, one of the world’s most famous and Britain’s largest antique market. It began just as its contemporaries did - as a food market in the 1800s. As time went on, antiques and other goods were added to its stock and visitor interest began to center around the antiques.
Five sections make up the market: antiques, second-hand items, household items, fashion, and food. There are stalls selling secondhand goods, clothing, and food throughout the week from 9 am to around 6 pm but the day you’ll especially want to visit is Saturday, when the main antiques arcade is open along with the other four sections. Most vendors are open for business from 8:30 am to 7 pm but sometimes some are open even earlier. It attracts thousands of people each year so arrive early to avoid the crowds.
A bunch of smaller markets come together to form the big Camden Market, next to Regent’s Canal. It opened in 1974 with just 16 total stalls. Now, it has over 1,000. For all things retro and hipster-like, this is where you’ll want to go. It’s a paradise made up of vintage clothes, art, and quirky oddities.
Because the area it covers is so expansive, there are four different entrances: Camden Lock, Camden Lock Place, The Stables, and North Yard. The market is open every day of the week from 10 am to 7 pm but it’s at its busiest on weekends so visit on a weekday if you don’t want to be cramped.
COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET
If you find yourself in East London on a Sunday between 8 am and 3 pm, then you may want to stop by the Columbia Flower Road Market on the only day it’s open. Originally an area plagued by poverty and strife, philanthropist Angela Burdett-Cotts purchased the land and established the Columbia Market in the 1860s. At first it was a food market with hundreds of vendors but once the world wars began, it fell into decline. After the ending of World War II, the market was revitalized as an interest in gardening resurged.
Today, Columbia Road is decorated with a myriad of beautiful flowers, plants, and other gardening odds and ends for sale. Complementing the overflowing floriculture hub, behind the stalls, are independent stores and cafes.
If the flowers at Columbia Road weren’t enough, head on over to the nearby Brick Lane Market. It’s also only open on Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm so hitting both up to maximize your time is ideal.
A center for the artistic types, eclectic goods are all the rage here and you can browse through it all while street performers provide the entertainment. You’ll have to sort through piles and stacks of stuff, but you’ll be leaving this market with a smile on your face and a bargain bought.
There’s no shortage of things to look through at the Old Spitalfields Market, located in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets. A market has always occupied the location, going back over 300 years to 1638, when King Charles gave licenses to vendors to sell on-site. After years of rights issues, King Charles II refounded the market in 1682.
Rain or shine, this market is always open due to an overhead cover. The daily market, where you’ll find tons of things such as handmade items, records, and books, is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. The kitchens, home to the different dining options, are open Monday through Friday from 11 am to 8 pm, Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
They have different events going on every week, so be sure to check their website for more information.