A man bored of London is bored of Life

London Markets

London Markets

1. Brixton Market
Visiting Brixton’s thronging market is like being plunged into another country. Electric Avenue is packed with stalls piled high with exotic fruit and veg - yams, plantains, mangoes, papaya and more - as well as fresh tomatoes, courgettes, carrots and other staples. Opposite the stalls are stores crammed with halal meats and an incredible variety of fish. Around Atlantic Road it’s more clothes, towels and cheap wallets. ‘Brixton Village’ (previously Granville Arcade) houses African and Caribbean food stores, household goods, books, crafts and specialist hair and wig shops.

2. Brick Lane Market
This positively folkloric East End institution has stalls selling cheap soaps and razors, magazines, towels, bric-a-brac, second-hand clothes and old furniture, along with bagel shops, back-of-a-lorry hustlers and East End seafood stalls. The market spreads out along a number of narrow streets that are now lined with trendy clothes shops and expensive home accessories stores alongside Bangladeshi and Pakistani restaurants and sweetshops. The most browsable is Cheshire Street.

3. Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road is several markets rolled into one. Starting at the Notting Hill end are mainly antiques stalls selling toy soldiers, vases, bric-a-brac and general Victoriana. Further up you come to the food stalls, ranging from traditional fruit and veg to tasty cheeses, stuffed olives, organic biscuits and crackers, bratwurst and crÄ›pes. Next up come clothes and jewellery, ranging from cheap trendy club-and casualwear to delightful craft bracelets and earrings. The cafés under the Westway are a good place to rest before plunging into the next section - new designers’ clothes and vintage wear along the walkway to Ladbroke Grove, while on the right-hand side are random selections of bric-a-brac.

4. Greenwich Market
Greenwich has not one, but three markets. Heading into the town centre from the station you come first to the antiques market, a collection of bric-a-brac and junk that varies from tat to treasures. Next along is the Village Market, where a second-hand clothes flea market mingles with Chinese silk dresses, cheap trendy clothes, ethnic ornaments, CDs and more. Passing the food court - noodles, curries, Thai, etc - you come to the covered Crafts Market which is bristling with young designer-makers and ideal for gift-hunting. The central hub of stalls sells a delicious selection of olives, breads, jam doughnuts and chocolate brownies.

5. Spitalfields Market
Historic Spitalfields Market and its gorgeous vaulted roof have already been the victim of City expansion; protesters are trying to keep the remaining square untouched. Surrounded by cool shops selling movie posters, second-hand books and modish vintage furniture, the stalls offer everything from handmade cards, dyed sheepskin rugs and craft jewellery to aromatherapy products, CDs and quirky fashions. There are cake and bread stalls and a mini food court selling grub from all over the world at bargain prices. A visit to Spitalfields is easily combined with a quick poke around Brick Lane.

6. Columbia Road Flower Market
You know you are nearing this popular street market when you see masses of greenery bobbing down the surrounding streets, held aloft by happy gardeners. Alongside the masses of plant stalls selling a diverse range of plants, there are great cafés and an eclectic range of shops, selling everything from ceramics to hats. Only open on Sundays, the market is immensely popular so it’s worth making the effort to get there before 9am to avoid the crush or, alternatively, drop in just before closing time at 2pm for bargains sold off costermonger style.

7. Borough Market
Endorsed by many a celebrity chef, Borough Market offers an exciting mix of food from all over the world. Meat encompasses everything from chicken to venison - and on Saturday lunchtime lengthy queues wait patiently for a chorizo sandwich from the stall selling Spanish goods from Brindisa (which also has its own shop in Exmouth Market, EC1). Add to this fresh fruit and veg of all varieties, organic goods (cakes, breads), exotic teas, flowers, olive oils, dairy (cheeses, yoghurts), fish, beers and wines and you’ve got the makings of a feast. Quality is high and prices match that.

8. Berwick Street Market
A traditional fruit and veg market in the seedy heart of Soho, Berwick Street also has stalls selling flowers, nuts, CDs, electric toothbrushes, sweets, knickers and socks. The fresh produce is delicious, ranging from vine tomatoes, new potatoes and strawberries to mangoes, passion fruit, avocados and watermelons. South beyond the Raymond Revue Bar are a few stalls offering trendy jackets, combat gear and accessories. Don’t bother rising with the lark to catch the best Saturday bargains - like the rest of Soho, Berwick Street Market doesn’t get going until a bit later.

9. Camden Market
Camden Market
is one of London's top attractions. It's a young place, but somehow seems to bring out the youngster in everyone. Virtually everything is on sale here, clothing, music, antiques (though this sector is shrinking - not a patch on Paris' St Ouen Marche aux Puces) , collectibles, ethnic art, rugs and kelims, food and drink. It does tend to get a bit crowded on Sundays, and you could think yourself back in the swinging sixties. Very mixed quality of goods on offer but there are real bargains to be found. We recommend 'Art of Africa' for African art (prices one tenth that of the West End galleries they supply) and the rug and kelim shops are the cheapest we've seen out of the wilds of Arabia. Recently it's become a haven for emerging fashion designers - the 'latest' club wear (yawn) is to be found here. It has, however peaked, and is sliding towards consumerist tat, but slowly.

10. Covent Garden
Touristy place to hang out. You don't go for the market (overpriced tat) but for the atmosphere and the buskers. The old fruit 'n' veg market that appeared in old Hitchcock films has been converted to a piazza. If you're a Hitch fan you'll want to go and see his house/museum in Leytonstone, and the new murals at the tube station there - our favorite piece of public art (but ONLY if you're a fan) Don't eat or drink in Covent Garden, the quality is bad and the prices sky high (but if you do we recommend the 'All Bar One' chain or the Garden branch of Wagamama). Somerset House is nearby for a hit of culture. The London Transport Museum Shop in the corner of the Piazza is good for gifts. There is a nice cluster of shops around the market which makes it a major, if somewhat expensive, shopping area.

 

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© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.