If there’s any way to get to know London, get away from the sites and start exploring its side streets. The best side streets to start with are those that host markets.
My Top 4:
- Portobello Road Market
- Brick Lane Market
- Camden Market
- Borough Market
Many would agree Portobello is the mother of all markets, which caters to the young and old. The best day to go is on Saturday as even on Sunday less than half the street vendors set up shop. Go in the morning beginning at the Ladbroke Grove (tube stop) end and work your way south towards Notting Hill Gate (tube stop). Much of the road is filled with old flea market items and some antiques that could be your favorite London souvenir. This is also the best place to get fresh produce, fish, meat, pastries, goodies – and lunch. Several giant pans of paella, gourmet sandwiches, crepes, sausages, African foods, and French goodies is just some of the dishes you have to choose from. Crowds are massive but tourists and locals mingle alike, just be cautious of pickpocket. Have your camera ready to shoot as you never know who or what you will see. Check out the Banksy graffiti at the top, note the road gets more posh as you head south, and don’t forget to check out a flat where George Orwell once lived.
Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane in east London (Aldgate East tube stop) is home to many Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants and businesses. Go any time of the week for good curry, spicy samosas, and other sweets, but Sunday is the best day to visit Brick Lane as the street and side streets boast flea market goods, delicious unique food made right in front of you, and the best used and new fashions. While many of the vendors are Indian, there is a huge young British twenty-something hipster culture. You will find clubs and bars pumping danceable music even in the middle of the day. The street also has to remarkable graffiti art. At the southern end of the market is the Whitechapel Art gallery – small but worth a pop in.
If you are or you like punk-hippie-young-earthy cultures check out Camden market (Camden Town tube stop) on Saturday or Sunday. You can get a tattoo, piercing, eat delectable food for cheap, catch a show, buy some spiked leather, trendy clothing, or some of your favorite hits on vinyl. It’s definitely worth a visit, even the architecture is like nothing else in London. Definitely don’t go during the week as nothing is really happening.
Borough Market is the best place in London to grab a healthy, cheap, gourmet lunch, fine meat, wine, and produce on a Saturday afternoon. Nestled between brick buildings and archways on the south bank, this is definitely on hot spot for locals and tourists alike. Take the tube to St Paul’s cathedral, cross the millennium bridge, maybe pop in to the Tate Modern, make your way past the Globe, and dig in.