Billingsgate & Smithfield Markets

April 7, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, UK, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Early one morning I tried to wake up early so I could see London’s Billingsgate Market in full swing but sadly the snooze button got the better of me and I only saw the tail end.

Billingsgate is London’s fresh fish market located near Canary Wharf. It’s still run by the City of London (and as a result when you approach you’ll walk past signage indicating the political change). The market is open from 5am to 8:30am Tuesday to Saturdays. It’s a commercial space but members of the public can visit (photography isn’t permitted).

Billingsgate Market Billingsgate Market (2)

I’d envisaged a huge trade floor filled with fish of all descriptions and as I walked towards the long building I continued to believe this. Predictably this didn’t turn out to be the case. The trading booths occupy perhaps a third of the space with the rest presumably given over to storage.

When I arrived at 7:20 many of the traders were washing out their equipment but there were enough still actively trading to get a sense of the environment. I imagine if I was a foodie or a fisherman then you could spend quite some time checking out the varieties.

After Billingsgate I made my way to one of London’s other big commercial produce markets – Smithfields. I’d often walked past this literal meat market (near Farringdon) but never been able to go in due to its opening times. Luckily unemployment has a few benefits. It’s open 4:00am to 12:00 Monday to Friday. Once again this is a commercial building accessible to the public but not a tourist attraction per se.

Smithfields Market (2) Smithfields Market

The central hall runs the length of the building with traders on either side. I arrived about 9 and I assume I was already too late (despite the midday closing time) as most of the booths were deserted. Well that or they just hadn’t been set up yet – unlikely. What I did saw was a lot of red meat and I tried to imagine it multiplied by a hundred percent.

I have no idea when a good time to see the market is (possibly early?)and once again presumably only good for the foodies amongst you.

When you’re done at the market check out Smiths of Smithfield for a great breakfast!

Columbia Road, Brick Lane & Spitalfield Markets

March 19, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Columbia Road’s famous flower market was wonderful to walk through with the smells of hundreds of varieties and thousands of quantities. When I arrived early on Sunday morning things were buzzing and the street was bulging with vendors and customers. Along either side of the street and down some of the side streets are small shops also adding to the odour with their baked goods. The market doesn’t run the entire length of the road rather a reasonably small section at the end (between Ravenscroft and Shipton streets). It runs Sunday’s 8-2PM.

Columbia Road Market (3) Columbia Road Market (5)

Next this Sunday was Spitalfield’s Market it has plenty of stalls covering clothes and jewellery to oysters in the re-fitted Spitalfields development. While the market benefits from quantity it does lose something in the atmosphere – or lack thereof. The development feels sterile and lacks a sense history. Various opening days, check the website for details.

Spitalfields Markets (4) Spitalfields Markets (6)

Brick Lane was rather disappointing. There was a smattering of stalls along the side and a few people standing around with items on blankets but nothing particularly worthwhile.

Brick Lane Markets Brick Lane Markets (6)

Along Brick Lane I did come across a building with many more stalls in the process of being set up. This could warrant a second glance.

Brick Lane Markets (7) Brick Lane Markets (9)

Both Spitalfields and Brick Lane websites advised their opening times but upon arrival at these markets things were being set up. I would like to see an optimum visiting time range on these sites to avoid people coming too early.

Spitalfields had a reasonable selection, Columbia Road had a good sensory experience and Brick Lane market is skipable.

More photos at Flickr!

Borough Market

March 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, UK | 1 Comment
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Borough Market near London Bridge has a wide range of produce to peruse and drool over. Luckily free samples can help with the latter. Personally, I thought there would be more stalls but there are still a reasonable amount ranging fom breads to beers. Some of the fresh produce available includes fish and meats strung up and of course fruit and vegetables.

Borough Market (3) Borough Market

I bought an espresso beer and it was a little too harsh for my sweet tooth but there plenty of other options available at this specialty vendor. I also liked the look of the olive cart – plenty of options. Around the edge of the market you’ll also find a number of coffee shops to rest up after shopping and before further exploring the city.

Borough Market (4) Borough Market (5)

I’m not a big market person but it was still enjoyable to wander through and look at all of the goods on display.

Although it’s quite famous and perhaps I’m blind but I didn’t notice much signage at the station to point the way luckily Google Maps or a shockingly helpful person should assist you in getting there.

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