Growing up on suburban Long Island, I spent my weekends at our local “flea,” which was right in my town of Oceanside. My mom would drop me and a friend off for an afternoon and we’d navigate our way through stalls, which sold everything from hairbrushes and records to Bart Simpson tee-shirts and candy. I’d always come home with at least a bag of Swedish fish or chocolate-covered pretzels.
These days, I’m more into the stuffed chorizo sandwiches, beaded bracelets from Bali, Banksy prints, and Turkish tea sets. In my travels over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit some of the biggest bazaars in the world including the Sunday Market outside Bangkok (massive), the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (doubly massive), the Chichi market in Guatemala (amazingly cheap!), and, of course, the wee-ones taking over the artisanal-DIY-local movement back in NYC: the foodie favorite Smorgasburg, clothing for the downtown darlings at Hester Street and lots of vintage and modern collectables at the Brooklyn Flea.
To my delight, there are a myriad of markets here in London, too, and all operate year-round, come sleet, snow or snain. (That’d be snow + rain. Get it?) Since arriving, I’ve been to a handful of them. Today’s visit to the Columbia Flower Market, however, was my favorite. Maybe it was because the sun was shining. Maybe it was because I decided to leave the house in a pair of sequin leggings. Maybe it was because it wasn’t THAT big or overwhelming, and I was surrounded by flowers and a good friend who spontaneously met me for the stroll. (And then patiently waded through the crowds four times with me to find the perfectly priced bloomin’ bunch.) Plus, it was in Hoxton, which is in East London and therefore not a major trek for me. (Actually, that’s a fib. It was enough of a trek to NOT want to turn around and go back after realizing I left my ATM card at home. Womp, womp.)
Whatever it was, this market, which only operates on Sundays, sees East Londoners with cockney accents shilling every type of flower from daffodils and tulips to primroses and pussy willows. In the stores surrounding the actual market, there are stationary shops selling handmade cards you want, but don’t need (that’s for you, L!), pots for your plants and cool artwork for the home. There’s live music from local buskers and a dude shilling oysters for a quid.
Here are a few pics from today’s market, followed by some from each of the others I’ve been to so far. Enjoy!
This next batch is from Broadway Market in Hackney, which is also East London. I went my first weekend here, so it was FREEZING and there was snow on the ground. But that didn’t stop locals from coming out for a warm pie or some fish and chips from the food truck area, which I bet during summer is a total hotspot.
Then there’s Borough Market on the other side of the river. It’s way bigger, in that there are several mini markets within one big market, all of which mostly offer food — prepared and to DIY. There’s fresh-squeezed juice, vats of mulled wine, hunks of cheese and chunks of chocolate and more. It’s a diner’s delight.
You already know about the Grandma-chic vintage treasures I found at Notting Hill’s Portobello Road Market, so next up is Spitalfields where there’s printed pillowcases, witty tee-shirts, street-art prints and more, all surrounded by big stores like All Saints and Urban Outfitters.
Over in South London, there’s Brixton Market, which I went to for what some are calling the best pizza in London: Franco Manco. (It’s no Joe’s, but it did the trick.) During the earlier hours there’s a fish market and an area for fabrics and textiles, but in the evening it’s a pseudo-indoor (but really-outdoor) market where pretty-young-things huddle around heated lamps, eating delectable dishes and wild concoctions that are bound to become the Next Big Thing on London’s foodie forefront.
On my way home from Columbia Market today, I walked down Brick Lane, which on Sunday’s has an off-shoot market called the (Up)Market featuring more of the same cheap ‘n’ chic clothing, awesome accessories, vintage bits and bobs and the like. There’s also a really cool outdoor area with picnic tables and awesome street art that I can only imagine is a super happening afternoon scene during the summer.
And that, my friends, is all…for now.