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columbia road flower market after covid
Photograph: mikecphoto / Shutterstock

The best markets in London

From the famous Borough Market to antiques fest Portobello Road, here’s are the best stalls in town back open for business – where you can find food, flowers, fashion and more

By Nick Levine
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Markets are woven into the fabric of London life. Historically, they were a cornerstone of the city’s communities and the best place to go for the weekly shop. Of course, our habits have changed since then – but while the boom in supermarkets may have dented the market’s popularity, thanks to a diversified offering and a growing awareness of how important it is to support small producers (and, yes, the fact that they're extremely photogenic), both locals and tourists continue to flock to the capital’s best. Nowadays, there’s a huge range of markets across London, from farmers markets and fashion markets to street food, vintage and antique markets. But if you’re only in town for a quick visit, any one of these are worth making a beeline for.

Things will be a bit different trading hours, limited stalls, one-way systems and in some cases, the need to wear a face mask. But below you’ll find our pick of the very best markets in London that are back open for business, from Borough Market’s foodie stands to stalls filled with flowers on Columbia Road.

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12 incredible London markets

1. Columbia Road Flower Market

Shopping Markets and fairs Bethnal Green

Situated just off Shoreditch’s main drag, this weekly flower market – which reopened at the start of July – is an East End gem. Every Sunday from 8am-3pm (roughly), the picturesque cobbled street is packed with traders selling bulbs, herbs, shrubs, bedding plants and bucketfuls of cut flowers. Flanking the stands are around 60 interesting independent shops and cafés, many open only at weekends. Arrive super-early for the best selection of flowers, or as the market’s winding down to bag a bargain. It used to be heaving each and every weekend, but nowadays you’ll find more space made for browsing punters. Still, wearing a mask is advisable. 

2. Borough Market

Things to do Borough Market

Nestled next to London Bridge, this iconic food market has existed in some form since at least 1014 – and now it’s back open and trading again. Although it still operates as a wholesale market in the early hours, it’s now best known as a foodie’s paradise where discerning Londoners come to buy top-quality meats, fish, fruit and veg, fresh-baked bread, cakes and sweet treats, oils and vinegars, and pretty much anything else they desire. There’s also an amazing array of street food (don't miss new communal dining space The Borough Market Kitchen), and a dedicated covered area to chow down in – albeit with reduced communal seating post-crisis. Borough Market is open Monday to Saturday, but you’ll find a fuller selection of stalls from Thursday to Saturday. While it used to be known to get hella busy, staff are now limiting the numbers who enter. You’ll also be asked to wear a face mask within its enclosed spaces. Otherwise, it’s mostly business as usual. 

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3. Broadway Market

Shopping Markets and fairs Hackney

Since being relaunched in 2004, this Hackney street market has become a magnet for hipsters. And in the Before Times, it was packed every Saturday from 9am to 5pm with arty students and East End creative types filling their tote bags with organic groceries, vintage clothes, fresh flowers, coffee, books and unusual handmade gifts. It’s been one of the last to return after lockdown, but the market is back on Saturday August 8 with 50 of its traders. However, it’s requesting people come to shop rather than stopping, gathering and lingeringly enjoying the vibes at the popular stretch. 

4. Old Spitalfields Market

Things to do Markets and fairs Spitalfields

Following its noughties rejuvenation, this covered market opposite Liverpool Street station has blossomed into a major shopping (and eating) destination. Now open seven days a week, the central concourse is filled with stalls selling contemporary and vintage clothes, bespoke children’s toys, home items and artisan food products – as well as all the new-fangled floor markers and signage that come with social distancing. Inside, you’ll also find a selection of fantastic places to eat, including Dumpling Shack and Bleecker Burger. There’s extra buzz on Thursdays, when it welcomes Old Spitalfields Antiques Market, a bonus cluster of stalls offering collectables and objets d’art from 8am to 5pm. And if you’re still not shopped out, Brick Lane Market is a quick five-minute walk away.

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5. Greenwich Market

Shopping Markets and fairs Greenwich

Though it’s situated in historic Greenwich (in a World Heritage Site, no less), this eighteenth-century indoor market is no relic. It’s home to stalls selling jewellery, clothes, second-hand furniture, interesting gifts and general bric-a-brac – although the selection is more limited these days to allow for social distancing. Opening hours have also been adjusted, with traders up and running from just Thursday to Sunday, 10am-4.30pm. There are still plenty of delectable street food stalls to refuele at before you pay a visit to the nearby Cutty Sark or Royal Observatory – also both now open again. Or just hop on a Thames riverboat back to central London.

Venue says Amazing arts, crafts & antiques at Greenwich Market Thurs - Sun 10am - 5.30pm. Independent shops around the market are open 7 days a week.

best flea markets london, Portobello Road Market
best flea markets london, Portobello Road Market
© Adam Hollier

6. Portobello Road Market

Shopping Vintage shops Portobello Road

The world’s largest antiques market occupies a prime stretch of Notting Hill, an area that manages to feel diverse and surprising despite heavy gentrification (how Hugh Grant in that movie could afford a one-person flatshare despite working in a bookshop is beyond us) in the ’90s. Portobello Road Market is really five markets in one, with different sections dedicated to second-hand goods; clothing and fashion; household essentials; fruit, veg and other food; and the main event: antiques. You’ll find the greatest range of antiques stalls on Saturdays. Portobello buzzes on Fridays too, but this fascinating street packed with characterful cafés, shops and drinking spots is worth a visit any time. In response to the current climate, the area is experimenting with road closures to encourage social distancing. 

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7. Brixton Village and Market Row

Shopping Markets and fairs Brixton

Brixton is one of the capital’s most vibrant and culturally diverse neighbourhoods, and these adjacent indoor markets reflect its unique and varied flavour. In recent years they’ve become a place of foodie pilgrimage where hungry Londoners can grab a table at places serving seafood, superior pizza, Portuguese cuisine, Mexican food, Jamaican/European fusion and all manner of Caribbean delicacies. But they contain plenty for shoppers, too. A leisurely amble through the arcades reveals a treasure trove of independent outlets selling clothing, jewellery, homeware, art, antiques and unusual gifts. Brixton Village and Market Row are open from 8am to 11.30pm every day, except for Monday, when they close early at 6pm.

8. Covent Garden Market

Shopping Lifestyle Covent Garden

This grand neoclassical building in the heart of Covent Garden is a London landmark. Since 1980, after traffic congestion forced the traditional fruit-and-veg market to relocate, Covent Garden Market has reinvented itself as a serious shopping destination. And now the whole area has been pedestrianised to encourage socially distanced punters to return for a browse in safety. On Mondays, it’s filled with stalls selling antiques and collectables; then from Tuesday to Sunday, it welcomes a broader range of traders offering everything from handmade jewellery to artisan soaps. There are plenty of permanent retail units, too, mainly housing fancy brands like Mulberry and Tom Ford. Once you’re done exploring, Jubilee Market across the piazza is great for gifts and trinkets. Check with individual retailers for revised opening hours this summer 2020.

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camden market
camden market
Camden Market

9. Camden Market

Shopping Street vendors Camden Market

Technically several adjoining markets, this sprawl of stalls stretching from Camden Town tube to the Regent’s Canal is London’s fourth most popular visitor attraction. Last year, every week around 250,000 people came here to shop, sample street food and soak up the distinctive, still-grungy atmosphere. Camden Lock Market is an arts-and-crafts haven while the Stables Market is a trendy spot for everything from quirky furniture to fetish clothing. Nearby Buck Street Market on Camden High Street (the one under a sign that reads ‘The Camden Market’) is best for T-shirts and touristy trinkets. The markets in Camden Town are open seven days a week and typically seem to be buzzing. In 2020, Camden’s was one of the first markets to return and its now entertaining visitors with socially distanced music performances, too.  

10. Brick Lane Market

Shopping Markets and fairs Brick Lane

On Sundays, the streets of East London’s bustling Brick Lane are lined with stalls selling anything and everything. You’re bound to find bargain fruit and veg, household items and electrical products, but this market’s USP is its sheer unpredictability: you could bag a second-hard bargain, or spend hours sifting through trinkety tat. Brick Lane’s recent ‘trendification’ is reflected in the various splinter markets that surround it. Visit Backyard Market for arts and crafts, Sunday Upmarket for street food and interesting gifts, The Tea Rooms for vintage bric-a-brac, and the Boiler House Food Hall for more snack and drink stalls. Brick Lane’s various Sunday markets surely have something for everyone. Check with each market individually for altered opening times this summer 2020.

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