Markets and Street Life, London
The East Street Market is VT-member Benazer´s local market as it is close to his home. Az showed me around this market on several occasions and I have visited it on many occasions since as I stock up on seaweed in the Chinese store there. It is cheaper than buying it in Soho and a whole lot cheaper than buying it in Iceland.
East Street Market is one of the oldest markets in London, dating back to the 16th century, and it is still going strong. Farmers used to rest their livestock here before taking their goods into the city. The market then opened officially in 1880.
It has always been crowded here when I have visited. This area, so close to Elephant & Castle, and off the busy Walworth road with its multitude of shops, is a very lively, multicultural area of London. I love visiting this area of London and I have always wanted to live in such a lively area. And here one can even run into a VT-member :)
Charlie Chaplin was born in Walworth and was a regular visitor at this market in his youth. There is a blue plaque with his name on the building by the entrance to the market.
One can find both a fruit market here, a wide variety of nuts, meat and fish, clothes and jewellery and a lot of other stuff, like bags and toys etc. And alongside the market area there are stores on each side. One of them being my favourite Chinese food store.
Opening hours: Monday: closed, Tuesday-Friday from 08:00-17:00, Saturdays from 08:00-18:30 and on Sundays from 08:00-14:00. The main market is on Sundays with ca 250 stalls.
Portobello market its one of the most famous markets in London and attracts a lot of tourists as it has got several markets all blend into one.
You have the antiques and bric- a-brac, fruit and vegetables, fashion, second hand and the new item section.
The first time I have visited Portobello Road I couldn’t believe it how long it was and how it was changing along the route from fruit and vegetables stalls to the fashion stalls.
From the market you can buy all sorts of items from household cleaning items, fruit or even the latest fashion item at a reduced price.
It's always buzzing and it has a great atmosphere.
The antiques and bric- a-brac its only on Saturdays and it might start trading a bit earlier
Monday to Wednesday 9.00am to 18.00pm
Thursday 9.00am to 13.00pm
Friday and Saturday 9.00am to 19.00pm
Nearest station:Noting Hill underground
Holland Park or Ladbroke Park.
When I visited Portobello market I'm was surprised to see so many artist performing on the street corners of these famous market.
They definitely bringing an excellent vibe into the market life and the shoppers and tourist alike they seem to enjoy them.
You will find them on other street corner and they are performing from jazz, pop or folk.
Alfies Antique Market is London´s largest arcade antique market. I am a huge fan of antique, so I had a blast in there. Here are also vintage clothes and jewellery for sale and furniture from the 20th century.
If I lived in London this would be where I would go shop for furniture, I could hardly tear myself away from some of the beautiful furniture at Alfies Antique Market.
There are around 100 small antique shops at Alfies Antique Market. And there are several floors - so I got lost in there a couple of times ;) I arrived at the time they were opening and was alone in the market the whole time, i.e. there were no other customers. There is a lovely café on the top floor, with a Roof top kitchen.
Alfies Antique Market was opened in 1976 by Bennie Gray and the market is named after his father, Alfie.
Opening hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 - 18:00.
Smithfield Meat Market.
Smithfield, London's largest meat market covers an area of over 10 acres. Smithfield or 'Smoothfield', as it was known in the Middle Ages, was a 'plain, grassy space just outside the City walls, famous for its horse market. In 1173 William FitzStephen, clerk to Thomas Becket, described the area as 'a smoth field where every Friday there is a celebrated rendezvous of fine horses to be sold.' Sheep, pigs and cattle were also traded here. In 1305 the going rate for oxen was 5s 6p each. The City of London was granted the tolls from the market by charter in 1400 and Bartholomew Fair was held here from 1123 until its suppression for rowdiness and debauchery in 1855.
Smithfield was also used for tournaments, jousting and sporting events, and in 1357 a royal tournament was held here and attended by the Kings of England and France. In 1384 another royal tournament was held in honour of Edward III's mistress Dame Alice Perrers and lasted seven days. Wat Tyler came here with his rebels in 1381 to meet Richard II. He was stabbed by Lord Mayor Walworth and executed in front of St Bartholomew's Hospital.
Smithfield was a place of execution for over 400 years, until the gallows were moved to Tyburn in the reign of Henry IV. Many witches and heretics were burned, boiled or roasted alive. In 1305 Sir William Wallace was put to death here and a memorial to him stands on the corner of Giltspur Street and Little Britain. In 1410 Henry, Prince of Wales (later Henry V) attended the execution of John Badly and tried in vain to make him recant; in 1538 John Forest, Prior of the Observant Convent at Greenwich, was put in a cage and roasted alive for refusing to recognise the King's supremacy. Between 1554 and 1558, during the reign of Mary Tudor, over 200 martyrs were burned , and as late as 1652 a woman was burned here for poisoning her husband. Excavations outside the church of St Bartholomew the Great in 1849 uncovered burnt stone and charred human bones - many of which were taken away as relics. Today, black cabs park where the stake once stood and lorries arrive offloading animal carcasses for the meat market. But those who work here say that sometimes, early on misty mornings, the smell of burning flesh drifts across the square and agonised screams rend the air.
By the early 17th century the area was notorious for duelling and fighting and was commonly known as 'Ruffian's Hall'. In 1615 the area was paved and provided with sewers and railings in an effort to bring order. The City of London Corporation formally established a cattle market on the site in 1638 under Royal Charter.
Over the next 100 years the City grew to surround the market and at the beginning of the 18th century complaints were made against unruly cattle and drunken herdsmen. Drovers used to amuse themselves by stampeding cattle on the way to market; the tormented beasts took refuge in shops and houses. (This is thought to be the origin of the phrase 'a bull in a china shop'). The Lord Mayor of the time issued a proclamation against these 'loose idle and disorderly person's' in 1789, but the situation had not improved by the middle of the 19th century. Cattle were still being driven through Sunday congregations and slaughtered in the market. Facilities were lacking, blood flowed through the streets and entrails were being dumped in the drainage channels. Charles Dickens gives an accurate description in 'Oliver Twist':
'The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle...the unwashed, unshaven, squalid and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng, rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses'.
Despite it being inadequate, the market was not moved until 1855 when the sale of livestock and horses was transferred to the Metropolitan Cattle Market in Islington. Between 1851and 1866 Horace Jones built a new market which had an underground railway linking Smithfield with the main railway stations. It was called the London Central Meat Market and was opened in 1868 with further additions being made in 1875 and 1899. The poultry section of the market was burned out in 1958 and a new market hall was erected in 1963 at a cost of £2,000,000.
Today the market employs around 1,500 people and sells over 150,000 tons of meat every year. It has its own police force and some of the areas pubs are licensed from 6.30 am.
London as a city probably has more landmarks and features instantly recognisable world wide than any other city in the world. While some of these are major buildings and monuments some are items of a rather more mundane nature. Everyone knows about London’s red buses, its black taxis and the Tube.
Anyone who has visited London, or the UK generally, will also be familiar with the countries famous red telephone boxes and letter boxes. Indeed both items have been exported worldwide and can still be seen in active service in most of the few remaining outposts of Empire. I must say my recent sighting of the red letter letter box at Georgetown’s Post Office on Ascension Island rekindled nostalgic memories as I journeyed towards the UK.
I digress, not unusual for me.
Here I want to tell you a little about the British telephone box or more specifically about the red ones commissioned by the General Post Office (GPO) which managed telecommunications prior to its split into British Telecom and the Post Office in 1981 and the privatisation of British Telecom in 1984.
The first thing to note is that while they all look the same they are not.
In 1921 Britain's first standard kiosk (phone box), the imaginatively named Kiosk No 1 (abbreviated to K1) was designed by the GPO itself. While there were over time a few K1 models it was not especially well liked and a competition was held to find a replacement.
A number of designs were received and the then recently established Royal Fine Art Commission was summoned into action. The Commission was formed in May 1924 by an Act of Parliament with the purpose of examining questions of "public amenity or artistic importance referred to it by government departments and other...bodies".
A design by Giles Gilbert Scott was selected by the Commission and K2 came into being. Over 10,000 K2’s were installed mainly in London and of these just over 200 remain today. The remaining K2’s are Grade 2 heritage listed structures. My main photograph is of a K2. K2s were costly to produce and not rolled out beyond London. The prototype K2 box can be found in the entrance arch of the Royal Academy at Piccadilly. It is made of wood. Is it real? I don’t know.
Various other largely unsuccessful models ( again imaginatively named - K3, K4 and K5) followed the K2.
In 1935 King George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee and to commemorate this the GPO commissioned the now Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to design a new kiosk - K6 eventuated. Approximately 60,000 of these were installed across the UK and around 10,000 exist and it is this K6 which has come to represent the famous red telephone box. Picture 2 attached shows two K6s outside the British Museum. Just over 2,000 K6s are heritage listed, of which more than 90%, are actually K6 variants.
The last K6s were installed in 1968. Prior to the breakup of the GPO in 1981 K7 came out (only a handful installed) as did the rather plain K8 (around 11,000). British Telecom produced a rather pedestrian offering in 1985 and installed around 100,000 up to 1996 by which stage the advent of mobile phones and increased vandalism had sounded the death knell for further public phones of the street variety, at least. What remains now seem to be more there for street decoration than making telephone calls.
It is possible that you will come across a black telephone box when you visit London (picture three). These are in fact painted K6s. In the 1980s British Telecom sold a number of kiosks to the private sector but retained its monopoly on the red colour and thus had them painted black.
Should this review have excited an interest in Britain’s red telephone boxes you should start your further research here - http://www.the-telephone-box.co.uk/. Additionally this site includes detailed pictures pointing out the distinguishing features of various boxes for any prospective phone box hunters among you.
Shepherd's Bush market is in an area in London called Shepherd's Bush. I stayed in a hotel close to this area for 2 weeks in May 2010 so I visited this market and area often. This is an ethnic market, with many Indian and Muslim shops and outside stalls. There are also African stalls there. I expected this market to be much bigger though. There are household goods, clothes, halal food and many jewellers there. Many of the shops had a strong mouldy smell, no offence.
The market is in between Uxbridge Road and Goldhawk Road, both roads are lined with shops, mostly Indian shops and Arabic shops and there are so many Indian fabric stores in Goldhawk Road that I have nowhere in London seen so many shops of this kind in one street. Uxbridge Road has got many Indian stores as well and very good Arabic food stores.
In 2012 I stayed for 1 month and 3 weeks in Colliers Wood in South-London, and the next stop to Colliers Wood is Tooting Broadway, I saw the same thing there, Indian stores all over. And then again in other areas, f.ex. Bethnal Green in East-London.
Shepherd's Bush is a very lively area and much cheaper than down-town London. But after they built Westfield shopping centre in this area in 2008 the prices are going up.
I stayed again in Hammersmith/Shepherds Bush in February and March 2013, love it here.
The market is open everyday (closed Sundays) from 9:30-17. Thursdays 9:30-13:30.
There is a market in Elephant & Castle by the shopping center, called "The Elephant & Castle market" - there are others in this area, but this is the market where I go often and have bought quite a few items. F.ex. 2 pullowers, the design of which I love. I had bought 2 exactly the same in Punky Fish in Notting Hill and thought the price was a bit steep, but bought them anyway. Only days after to find the same pullowers in Elephant & Castle market half the price - so I bought 2 more. That is why I own pullowers in 4 different colours ;)
The market is located in a "cavern" by the shopping mall, which incidentally is the oldest mall in London. The first photo I add is of the red elephant by one of the entrances of the shopping mall. There are so many ethnic stores in the mall, to me it looks like an indoor market. I remember visiting it 25 years ago and it looked different back then. And of course there are the usual stores here, Tesco Metro and Poundland etc.
The underground is by the Mall and behind it is the train-station, so this is quite a busy area.
Both the market and the mall make this area quite an interesting place to visit. If it weren´t for this roundabout from Hell with the tunnels that lead to everywhere and nowhere - but that is another tip for warning and dangers in London ;) Of course Londoners are used to it, but for us visitors, who don´t live here it can get quite confusing.
The market is open on Monday-Saturday from 10:00-18:00. Sunday: closed.
Broadway Market is the largest indoor market in South-London - way down in Tooting Broadway. Next to it is Tooting Market. These two indoor markets are ever so vibrant, I love going there. I spent 1 months and 3 weeks in Colliers Wood, the next stop to Tooting Broadway. Colliers Wood is not such a "happening" place, so I spent a lot of time in Tooting Broadway, where you get a feeling of being in the center of London, it is so busy and bustling and there are endless red double-deckers on the main streets - a pure London feeling - so far south in SW17.
The inhabitants in Tooting Broadway are mainly immigrants and here is the centre of the Muslim Indian community in South-London. It is said tha one can get the best curry in London here in Tooting Broadway, I didn´t try it though.
Broadway Market has been open since 1936 (Tooting Market since 1930) and there are ca 100 stalls here at Broadway Market, with myriad of food-stalls with multicultural cuisine, clothes stores, shoe-stores, jewellery shops, a stall with suitcases, hairdressers, barbers, fishmongers, butchers etc.
One can get palm-reading at Broadway Market - with the promise of casting away all deamons of all religions. The palm-readers are a bit aggessive in pulling passers by in, or maybe it is just a cultural thing, it must just be their way. I didn´t go for it, I don´t want to dabble in casting out deamons in an indoor market...
The only thing that bothers me about the market is that it is rather smelly and cold. It is big and there are some heaters in it, but the smell is off-putting. There are fishmongers and butchers here, so I guess that is where the smell is coming from. By the pet-shop it just got overwhelming.
Apart from that it is fun visiting the market - and the surrounding streets with its myriad of shops.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday: 09:30-18:30 on Wednesdays from 09:30-17:30. Sunday: closed.
There are two indoor markets on Tooting High Street down in Tooting Broadway in South-London.
One of them is Tooting Market, which has been in operation for over 80 years, or since 1930. Here one can find all kinds of shops and restaurants. The inhabitants in Tooting Broadway are mainly immigrants and here is the centre of the Muslim Indian community in South-London.
Tooting Market is a bit smaller than Broadway Market, which is next door to it, but it has a good selection of restaurants and clothes stores. It is a bit on the steep side though, I have bought cheeper clothes in Notting Hill than I have in Tooting Market. When I first visited the market I thought it would be a bit cheeper than the markets in central London, seeing that it is a bit far away from the center of London - in SW17. I especially liked one store in here, but the clothes were just too expensive...
I talked to the owner of the store while I was trying on the clothes, and she told me that the owner of the market didn´t put enough heating in the market and that they were freezing. This was in December. She said that she had got pneumonia from standing there in this cold all day long - and had to spend some time in hospital. I felt so sorry for her, as it was really cold in there. In other parts of the markets I had seen some heaters, but they were only by the entrance.
There are Chinese, Thai, Portugues and international food stalls by both entrances. And a Caribbean food store.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday: 09:30-18:30, Wednesday: 09:30-17:30. Sunday: closed. These are the opening hours for the next door Broadway Market, but I think they are the same for Tooting Market as well.
Well worth a visit - Tooting Broadway is ever so vibrant. I went there every day for a month and three weeks while staying in Colliers Wood, which is next stop to Tooting Broadway.
Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill is by far the most popular market in London - if not in the world. There has been a market here since 1870. Back then it was only a Saturday market.
To get to the market I take the tube to Notting Hill Gate and from there are good directions to which exit to take to Portobello Road Market and where to find it. One has to walk for ca 5 minutes to get to the market.
Portobello Road Market is such a varied market, one can buy almost everything here, bric-a-brac, antique, vintage clothes, vintage fur-coats, fashion clothes, food etc., etc. There are some lovely Antique Arcades here. My sister loves antique and I know she would love visiting Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market. I hope we will be able to visit it together one day.
On Saturdays Portobello Road Market is almost painfully busy. You have to be there to understand how unbelievably busy it gets. I do visit it on Saturdays from time to time, but I am a fast walker and almost feel trapped in here. I prefer visiting it on a normal weekday, although the whole market isn´t open, then there are several stalls open and it is much less busy. All the stores are open on weekdays and food-stalls, restaurant and cafés, so it is also fun visiting it on a weekday and I have made some bargains there.
I add some photos from how busy it can get on Saturdays - compared to what it looks like on a weekday. It is the same street on both photos. One can see the numbers painted on the street where the stalls are located on Saturdays.
One part of the market is called Portobello Green Market and the organic international food-market opposite PGM is called Acklam Village Market (see my additional tips on Portobello Road Market).
There are stores on both sides of Portobello Road - after you cross Westbourne Grove. The only part of Portobello Road, which has almost no stores, is the part leading from Pembridge Road to Westbourne Grove. There are many cafés and restaurants on each side of Portobello Road, but the stalls almost hide them completely - especially when it gets so crowded. But if one wants to take a break one can go behind the stalls and try to find a seat in a café or a pub - or just browse in the stores behind the stalls.
The main Portobello Road Market is open on Saturdays from ca 07:00-17:00, although some of them are open a bit longer and very few people arrive so early in the morning. The official hours for the market are: Monday-Wednesday: 09:00-18:00. Thursday: 09:00-13:00. Friday-Saturday: 09:00-19:00. Closed on Sundays.
One of the markets at Portobello Market is Portobello Green Market. It is located at the northern end of Portobello Market - further away in Notting Hill. I always enter the market from Notting Hill Gate station and walk down to the Portobello Green Market - which takes one all the way through the main market area.
At Portobello Green Market one can find a great selection of vintage and new clothes. There is an excellent selection of vintage fur-coats here, with quite a few stalls specialising in vintage fur. There are more than 800 stalls here and it can get really crowded.
On different days of the week there are different stalls here. On Fridays mostly vintage, antigues, retro. On Saturdays designer clothes, accessories and fashion. On Sundays clothes, books and CD´s and records.
This is such a lively area of the market. Walking further north is the end of the market with vintage clothe´s stalls lining the street. Opposite Portobello Green Market is Acklam Village Market, with more vintage clothes and the restaurant stalls.
Walking down the path, with myriads of stalls, to leave the market, one can get stuck and has to follow the crowds. But one is stuck anyway and the long walk up to Notting Hill Gate station takes quite a while, so I sometimes leave Portobello Road Market here behind Portobello Green Market.
Opening hours: Friday-Sunday from 07:00-18:00.
I first visited Petticoat Lane Market in 2004 and since then it has been one of may favourite markets in London. We were buying wholesale back then and the prices at this market were very good. There are also good stores which sell watches wholesale here by the market, I have bought some beautiful watches here.
It is a very busy market - especially weekends, then it is almost impossible passing through here. On weekdays the market is pretty empty and one can see the numbers in the street, where the stalls are supposed to be. But if one walks further down into the market there are still some good stalls there weekdays, from Monday-Friday. Especially around Wenthworth street, stretching downward to Commercial Street. I have bought way too much in this market through the years ;)
On sale here are mostly women´s clothes and accessories, bags and jewellery, but also men´s and children´s clothes and music, shoes etc, etc. I love how lively and vibrant this market is. In one stall there is always blaring music, mostly Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and some old-timers.
The main market is open on Sundays from 09:00-15:00. There is a smaller market on weekdays from 10:00-14:30. This is quite a big market stretching into several streets and down into Commercial street and Aldgate East. In the section by Aldgate East leather goods are on sale.
Petticoat Lane literally means undergarment lane - Petticoat Lane doesn´t exist anymore - it was changed to Middlesex Lane in 1846 - referring to an undergarment market was not thought to be proper ;)
This is a typical London market, it is not at all upscale like the market at Notting Hill. Here mostly black women and men shop - and of course everybody else - I can be seen there quite often on my visits to London.
I remember a word of advice in one of Planxty´s tips - don´t eat here, there are several stalls which sell food here - Fergy advices against them as they might not be approved by the sanitary inspection. But one night Fergy took me through this area and told me that one of the stalls here were amongst the best ones in London. He was referring to Tubby Isaac´s seafood stall - which allegedly is amongst the best seafood stalls in London (see my second photo taken in the dark).
I went on a guided Jack-the-Ripper tour and the guide took us through Petticoat Lane Market in the dark as they were finishing off - and showed us a house which might have been the home of Jack-the-Ripper - in the middle of the market.
I found this market back in 2004 when I was on the bus trying to find my way to Finsbury park. This part of Kingsland High Street is so lively and crowded that I jumped off and headed into the market. I have made the trip up there every time I have visited London since then.
Kingsland High Street is a long street lined with shops and restaurants, very colourful, this being a part of London with ethnic groups from f.ex. Jamaica, Turkey, Bangladesh. It then turns into Stoke Newington Road.
The market stands by the Kingsland Shopping Centre - the Dalston Cross Shopping Centre, with the market being kind of integrated with the the Shopping Centre. And lined by the market, behind the stalls, are small, fun ethnic stores. It is like stepping into a different culture visiting the market - if it weren´t for the sales-people shouting in Cockney English.
It is open every day and it is always crowded, but at weekends it gets overly crowded, so that is when I stay away. I always find something to buy here. On sale are cosmetics, kithenware, clothes, suitcases and bags, music, shoes, vegetables and spices and fish.
There is a very good Turkish grocery store at the end of the market.
On Saturdays a part of Kingsland High Street turns into an outside market as well, called the Kingsland Waste Market. It is mainly all kinds "older" stuff. It is open from 07:30-18:00.
Every major city has its foremost shopping drag: from Miracle Mile in Chicago to Omote Sandou in Tokyo, it seems as though big box stores need to congregate in one major thoroughfare, lest they be left out of the commercialist frenzy. London’s answer to this is Oxford Street, a long, curling artery that joins Piccadilly Circus with Tottenham Court. Oxford Road is far from being the heart of London’s fashion district. Indeed, if it’s high fashion that you’re looking for, you are best placed in Saville Row, where traditional sartorial houses meet the likes of Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Meanwhile, the city’s edgier and more experimental trends are more likely to be found farther afield, in whatever district is the latest hotspot for the hip and trendy. Oxford Street, nevertheless, offers the stalwarts of modern commercial culture: Adidas, Levis, Zara and other such brands that cut into the pockets and the wardrobes of the largest section of the population. While it can be fun to spend some time ambling along the street during the day, evenings and weekends can become so busy as to make the wide thoroughfare claustrophobic.