One of London’s most well-known and nicest-looking markets, Columbia Road overflows with bucketfuls of beautiful flowers every Sunday. From 8am-3pm, market traders line the narrow street selling flowers, houseplants, herbs, bulbs and shrubs.
It’s worth shopping around, don’t be afraid to barter and prepare for it to get very busy. The market is popular with locals and tourists and during the midday rush is rammed with people elbowing their way to that perfect pot plant. If you can’t bear crowds or just want to guarantee the pick of the crop, arrive when the market opens.
When you’ve bought your blooms, head behind the stalls and down side streets to find fantastic cafés, independent restaurants, delis, shops, antique dealers, vintage stalls and small galleries, many of which follow the market’s opening hours. Pop into Jones Dairy Cafe for organic and local produce, treat yourself to a no-frills British bake at Treacle or sink a locally brewed pint at the Nelson’s Head.
I've heard I need to queue now. Is that true?
Where as in ye olden days you'd just show up for Columbia Road Flower Market and cram yourself into a packed corridor of tourists and tiny dogs, trying to get the best deal on a bunch of peonies. Now things have changed. Post-Covid, you have to queue to enter the Flower Market. The entrance is at the Shoreditch end of the famous market street with the queue running through Ravenscroft Park. Wait times are signposted and while sometimes it can look like a very long line, don't expect to be waiting more than 30 minutes. Also it means the shopping experience is a bit more relaxed – which is actually a good thing.
Do I need cash?
No, you can now pay market traders on card or contactless but, from personal experience, they prefer a fiver over a phone tap.
Where should I eat and drink?
First and foremost, you should know that the Birdcage pub is now doing takeaway pints to Columbia Road Flower Market queuers so you can get suitably warmed up before doing your plant shopping. The pub also has a cute outdoor drinking terrace now, which is bookable, as is the foliage-filled garden at the Royal Oak further up the road. Tapas joint Laxeiro has tables spilling out on the street for lunch and Stringray Globe Pizzeria has a heated, covered terrace for dodgy days. If it's a hand snack you're after? The Pavilion bakery still does a mean cinnamon bun and Maks newsagent does legendary samosas. For coffee? Hermanos is your joint of choice.
How do I exit?
The way out is at the top of the road. You can either loop back around a signposted route, through pretty backstreets, to return to Shoreditch. (Make sure to check out the handful of vintage and plant shops behind the market street if you do.) Or head out on to Hackney Road and perhaps get a Dom's Sub or go for a stroll around Haggerston Park.
Any tips for a bargain?
Your best bet it to try and visit when the market is winding down (around 2-3pm), because that’s when the traders reduce their prices to shift the remaining stock.
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