The Treasures of London Markets

christmas lights at southbank market london

Coming from New Zealand, the term “market” (often preceded by the word “flea”) conjures up the image of cheap goods, second hand items, treasured books, and the neighbor’s cakes. If you’re lucky you might even get a really cheap bag of feijoas (not even in spell check and it’s a fruit to die for that most foreigners know about). However generally in London I’ve found that markets are more about the well-crafted, unique, or gourmet atmosphere that is rather trendy, and a blend of old and new.

I’m a sucker for markets, people close to me know this, and so exploring the many that London have to offer has been an easy first priority for me. The past weekend I’ve been accompanied by two very good friends I met in America (a Danish Viking and a Creepy German) and we hit four of the best. It ruled the weekend and was accompanied by plenty of selfies and a few typical tourist haunts.

Portobello Road:

The Internet tells me this is

The world’s largest antiques market with over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible.

 This doesn’t really surprise me as it’s actually several markets that have exploded and are now a super-market on steroids. I underestimated the amount of time it would take to even cross this market and was eventually defeated being too cold to actually finish. It spans across the districts of Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea and hosts designer fashions, antiques, gypsy goods (the NZ kind and not like the …flamboyant… Euro Gypsies from the TV shows) food and produce, and crafty goodness. The Antique Roadshow’s bargain hunt often ended up here in the series and Wikipedia even tells me that

 The B-side of British Singer-Songwriter Cat Stevens‘ 1966 single “I Love My Dog” is titled “Portobello Road” and discusses a walk through the famous street and market.

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Brixton Markets:

This is a community market run by local traders. It is open most days and is most famous for its African and Caribbean produce. Being in Brixton – which is arguably the most ethnic and diverse community in London, it is a noisy and divine sensory overload. You can spot big mammas in green tasseled Kermit the frog tights, crazy preachers screaming that you’re all sinners, Jamaicans riding around on bikes singing black gospel music, and Rasta’s standing in narrow shop doorways jamming out to their Reggae Riddims’! You’ll find your glittery fish, chickens still with heads, vegetables you’ve probably never even seen before, and all the bric-a-brac needed to set up your new home (yeah that’s what I did). It’s truly worth the visit, and the wider community is humming with activity also. Hands down the best food I’ve had in London to date has been in Brixton and I have no doubt the blogs to follow will be on the specialties of ‘Seven’, ‘Franco Manca’s’, and ‘The Agile Rabbit’.

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Southbank Christmas Markets: 

This touristy market is like a cute little village comprising of traditional (for Christmas – NOT London) German style huts with the fairy lights and wooden exteriors, Christmas carousels for the children, and plenty of mulled wine, bratwurst, and festive sweet treats. The smells that creep past your nostrils lure you to each stand hoping for tasters – but not actually buying because it’s way over-priced for the likes of most common Joes. It’s really does get you into the Christmas spirit though and I found myself humming Christmas tunes even though the atmosphere was filled with buskers and twinkly piano music. It’s crazy crowded with tourists but a stunning walk alongside the river Thames and the twinkly colored lights reflect on the water.

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Herne Hill Farmers Markets:

These markets are every Sunday 10-4. Going to a small market like this is like getting London naked and seeing what she’s really made of. It’s a no frills, no beating round the bush kind of market that displays honest hard work and local ingenuity. Locally produced food, arts and crafts all from within 100 miles, and what would be “hidden-gem” shops on the host street too. It’s nestled alongside the beautiful Brockwell park and this makes it a nice Sunday stroll too and from. Jamie and I got caught up here on the best Olive stand I’ve ever seen. 15-20 different types of olives arranged in different flavors and some were even accompanied by different cheeses. The owner/stand holder didn’t hold back on the testers and I see it works for him, as we walked away with a few mixed pots of deliciousness. I also was left drooling over beautifully handcrafted cushions and winter throws. May have to venture back with a deeper pocket.

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Others worthy of mention but I’m lacking the photos this time round:

Camden Markets: Also massive, and a definite hit-list for my Christmas shopping. It’s both above ground and underground as well as spanning the streets, and is especially unique for the punk, goth, and other alternative sub-group stores. It also hosts this crazy German (seeming) rave shop where the lights are dimmed and multicolored glow-stick donning ravers dance in booths in the roof, while giggling teens and middle age foreign couples browse a rather trendy sex shop in the basement.

Borough Markets: The oldest market in London and a gem for amazing food. It is know as the go-to place for both local and international gourmet goodies.

Other market posts:

Madrid – El Rastro  http://anoceanaway.net/2013/10/14/the-whirlwind-that-is-el-rastro/

Barcelona – http://anoceanaway.net/2013/02/07/mediterranean-passion/

Comments

  1. AG

    Awesome a few markets I didn’t know about! Thanks for the photos and the info. I’ve been to Camden Markets and the other one on Portobello Road as well. Do you have a fav?

    1. oceanbelcher

      I really do love Brixton, it’s growing close to my heart. There’s so much great food and the vibe is nothing but authentic. I also feel like purchasing goods in Brixton is doing greater things for the wider community than buying in the likes of Portobello for example. They’re all fabulous though, it just depends on what you’re after. 🙂

    1. oceanbelcher

      You would LOVE these Amy. So many crafty nic nacs and a mega-amount of pre-loved retro furniture. I actually thought of you when I saw this amazing children’s dresser. If only shipping were an affordable option. x

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