There’s a reason we all love the weekend. It’s time for sleeping in, reading that book you bought ages ago, or (for the more lively, younger crowd) going out dancing. For many study abroad students (or “associate students” as they are known here), it’s even a time to travel outside of the country. As for me? The weekend means markets.
Perhaps I have an old soul or the energy level of a grandma, but for me the markets are the place to be on the weekend. There are so many sights, tastes, noises, and smells (pleasant ones I assure you) to experience when going to a market and you can go to a different one each weekend. I’ve gone to plenty of markets since being here, but there are still so many to explore. Here is the lowdown on the ones I’ve been to so far:
White Chapel Market
One of the closest markets near campus (I’d say a 25 minute walk) that has really cheap produce, blankets, clothes, and oddities. I can’t say I’m a fan. I passed through during my first week being in London and found it a bit chaotic. However, if you want something cheap, you’ll definitely find it here. The quality of clothes and shoes aren’t the best, hence the low prices. One of my flat mates buys veggies here and splits them with a friend (because vendors sell a lot of produce in bulk) to save money.
If you want spend hours at a market, Portobello is the place to go! It is a famous market (a big thanks to Notting Hill) so there are a lot of people. The street of stalls is so wonderfully long. The market is divided into sections: antiques, food, and clothes. I recommend first walking the entire length of the market to see what’s out there before making a purchase (so you get the best deal). Now, this market isn’t cheap but it’s reasonably priced and there are many things you can find here that you can’t find anywhere else (like awesome vintage cameras). Take your time to peruse. Also, the buildings nearby are colorful and quaint and there are also nice, permanent cafes and shops in the area.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Do you like flowers? ‘Cause I do! The Columbia Flower Market is a really small market for people who like plants. There are so many different kinds of flowers and it’s really fun hearing vendors shouting about discounts. The selection of flowers is probably better in the spring. This market opens and closes early (8 am – 3 pm) on Sundays, so you have to wake up early (or at least earlier than you would expect on a Sunday).
I have to admit, this is my favorite market so far. Why? Because of all the FOOD. Just across the street from Tower Bridge’s tube stop, this little gem is packed with yummy stalls. There are all types of different food you can sample (yay free stuff!) and buy. I went on a food crawl (in case you didn’t know, it’s basically eating and enjoying as much as you can in an area) with a friend and ended up having a beef empanada, sirloin steak sandwich, raclette, pear-apple-elderflower cider and goat’s milk rum raisin ice cream. I was satisfied to say the least (and I only spent about £15 which is a deal for all the food I ate). The prices are pretty decent. Depending on how popular a stall is (long queues) will most likely determine the price it charges. I plan to go back multiple times in the future.
Another close market to Mile End (in case you were worried that everything is located in central London)! This is a small market with lots of character. Sadly, I went near closing time (the market is only open on Saturdays from 9 am – 5 pm), but it seems promising and I plan to return. Also there are adorable cafes and bookshops nearby.
Brick Lane Market
Enclosed in a building, this is a fun market full of food and vintage clothes. Unlike Borough Market, Brick Lane has a lot more different ethnic foods. I had Ethiopian, Chinese, Thai and Mexican food during one visit. Brick Lane is also semi-close to campus (it’s about a 30 minute stroll, a bit past White Chapel Market). Although there are a lot of fun funky clothes here, it isn’t cheap.
Well, that’s enough of me for now. One last thing: if you’re going to any market, make sure to check when it is open. Some are only open or closed on specific days. For instance, Borough Market is closed on Sunday, but open the rest of the week. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about going somewhere to only find out that that place is not open (I know it all too well).