On market days, Ridley Road is the beating heart of Dalston, bursting with shoppers, trader banter, reggae rhythms and the smells of wafting incense and butchers’ shops. It’s been a market street since the late 1880s, and was once the centre of Hackney’s thriving Jewish community, but these days Turkish, African, Jamaican, Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern traders set up side by side.
Unlike lots of bits of Hackney, Ridley Road has so far managed to fend off regeneration. It’s a strong community and a hub for locals to do their weekly shop and catch up on the neighbourhood gossip. Forget halloumi fries: the only street food you’ll find here is gözleme, patties and jerk chicken. And despite being just off the Kingsland Road ‘strip’, there’s only one bar: the wonderfully unpretentious Ridley Road Market Bar, which hosts some of the best nights out in east London.
The road comes to life each September for Hackney One Carnival, with a joyful mix of families, art-school kids and old locals dancing to competing soundsystems and drinking home-made rum punch. It’s the kind of scene that captures everything brilliant about London – even when it’s raining.
A fresh spinach-and-feta-filled flatbread from the gözleme stall.
A ‘Wannabe’ pizza from the Slice Girls residency outside Market Bar.
A bag of samosas, bhajis and other fried treats at Kashmir Kebabish.
Jerk chicken with rice and peas at Jerkmaican café and stall.
A fresh, hot cheese roll from local hole-in-the-wall naan bread specialists Ararat Bread.
Cheap and very cheerful tropical cocktails at Ridley Road Market Bar, to help you bust your best moves on the sticky dancefloor.
Healing turmeric, ginger and lemon shots, juices and winter warmers at Honey Angel Juices stall.
Catch an exhibition by a hot new photographer at the tucked-away and very cool Doomed Gallery.
Get your bike pimped at About the Bike, just opposite the Dalston Lane end of Ridley Road.
Learn the sweet tricks of the trade at Wilton Method School for Cake Decorating, and pick up all you need to become a Star Baker.
Your whole weekly food shop at Turkish Food Centre (TFC) supermarket, where you’ll find delicious olives, bread and baklava, fresh fruit and veg and much more.
Fancy dress, decorations, balloons, pineapple bunting and trimmings for your shindig from Party Party.
Silk, denim, cotton, wool, sequins, lace and everything you need for a mega-creative sewing sesh at Dalston Mill Fabrics.
Wigs, weaves and hair accessories, plus lotions and potions for body and hair at Pak Cosmetics.
Reams of colourful African prints and tie-dye fabric at Glory Unique Fashions.
And if you only do one thing…
Stroll down Ridley Road Market on a Saturday to pick up almost anything: from avocados, salt fish and duck eggs, to African snails, natural sea sponges or a leopard-print duvet cover.
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