Columbia Flower Market
East London Markets: From Billingsgate to Broadway Market
Every day of the week an East London market will be in full swing with extraordinary finds, whether it's the extensive variety of fish and seafood at Billingsgate Market or the hotch-potch variety of items on sale at Brick Lane Market, a bargain is guaranteed.
'Flowers cheap enough to buy the mother-in-law you don't like' shouts a raucous trader at Columbia Flower Market, E2, causing passing customers, especially men, to smirk. Every Sunday between 8am and 2pm this usually quiet street is transformed into a bustling delight, with people experiencing the delights of a pint of prawns and a pint of lager, a bagel and a bunch of tulips, or a vast array of plants, pots and bits and pieces for the garden. The best floral bargains in town are on offer whether it's sunny faced sunflowers, 20 white roses for £5 or Old English Lavender for £3.50.
Just a short walk away from Columbia Road is Brick Lane Market, E1 - open 8am-2pm - a Sunday morning tradition for many EastEnders, with a mishmash of stalls selling second hand bikes, leather, hessian sacks, Asian food, clothing, second-hand furniture and bric-a-brac. It has an amazing hustle and bustle atmosphere with BYO cheap and cheerful Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants lining the market itself.
Further east on the Isle of Dogs is Billingsgate market, E14, - open Tuesday to Saturday 5am-8:30am - which boasts more than 65 merchants selling almost every type of fish and seafood you could imagine, from jellied eels and salted cod to salmon and lobsters.
Another early morning market is London's largest wholesale meat market, Smithfield's, EC1, which is open from 4am-10am weekdays. It’s a carnivore's paradise; with stalls selling every conceivable type of meat, game and offal (Simply Sausages has an extensive selection of over 40 types of specialist bangers). Local pubs and cafes offer a hearty breakfast with special licensing laws in the area mean beer and stout can be served from 6am.
Whitecross Street Market first started trading in the 17th century making it one of the oldest markets in London. Once known locally as Squalors' Market, it is now enjoying an upturn in fortunes, having benefited from a programme of investment and regeneration. It is once again a busy retail hub in the heart of EC1 with its daily general market running 10am-4pm and weekly specialist food market, every Thursday and Friday. One of the local characters runs Eat My Pies for her son, Andy Bates. When I visited she had her hair tied up in a Union Jack headscarf to support the Olympics. Smoked haddock, black pudding, chorizo and Thai red curry are some of the weird and wonderful varieties of handmade scotch egg on offer alongside pies, clangers, yorkshire pudding wraps, quiches, and tarts. Eat My Pies can be found on a Saturday at Broadway Market.
Barrow boys have been welcoming shoppers to Broadway Market, E8, in Hackney since the 1890s, selling everything from bacon to beans. Nowadays the market operates weekly on Saturdays from 10am-5pm. Cherry and walnut, chilli chocolate, strawberries and cream fudge, handmade from the sellers flat, are amongst the wide selection of food stalls. Chris Smith has been trading solely on Broadway Market for over 6 years, selling homemade chutneys and pickles such as Scotch Bonnet Pickle and Sweet Lime Chutney.
Finally, Ridley Road Market, E8, otherwise known as Dalston Market, is perfect for buying just about anything. It’s a great place to get African, Asian and Mediterranean ingredients and, with cows hoofs and lambs heads on sale, the market is not a place for the squeamish. (The market is open Mon-Wed 9am-3pm, Thurs 9am-12pm, Fri & Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-3pm.)
Join the debate. What makes you love London? Mark your tweets #lovinglondon