You can’t beat the hustle and bustle of a traditional English market. Whether it’s a large covered market selling everything from carrots to kids’ toys, or a lively farmers’ market showcasing the very best local produce, these unique shopping experiences are at the heart of the local community. Here are 10 markets you need to add to your must-visit list.
Whatever you’re after, you’ll find it here in Europe’s biggest covered market. Described as the ‘heartbeat of the city’, Leicester Market has the usual top quality fruit and veg stalls, butchers and one of the finest fish markets in the country. It also has an unmistakable multicultural flavour, with traders offering a mind-boggling selection of exotic vegetables and heady spices.
Borough Market, London
Chances are you’ve already heard of London’s famous food market. With an unrivaled reputation for top-notch produce, Borough Market is a foodie’s paradise and the place to go to pick up all manner of gourmet goodness. Many of the stallholders are selling their own produce – bread they’ve baked, cheese they’ve made, meat from animals they’ve reared themselves. It’s this connection with the food on sale here that gives Borough Market its authentic vibe, something that’s hard to resist.
St Nicholas Market, Bristol
In the heart of Bristol’s old centre you’ll find St Nicholas Market, affectionately known as St Nicks. Housed in a beautiful Georgian arcade, the charming market offers a mix of independent stalls, cosy little shops and incredible food outlets (so good you’ll want to eat your way around the lot!) Every Wednesday, the main market is joined by a farmers’ market and on Fridays and Saturdays, the Nails market showcases local arts and crafts.
Portobello Road Market, London
This iconic street in London’s vibrant Notting Hill neighbourhood boasts the world’s largest (and arguably the most renowned) antiques market. With over 1,000 traders selling every kind of antique and collectible imaginable, you could easily spend a day taking in the sights and haggling for a bargain. Saturday is when the market is in full swing, with food stalls, fruit and veg stands and unique fashion joining in the mix.
Running for over 900 years, Norwich Market, the largest open air market in the country, is an important part of the city’s history and culture. The 200 stalls, with their distinctive brightly coloured stripy awnings, offer a fantastic choice of excellent local food including meat, fish, fresh bread, chutneys and cheese, as well as clothes, toys, jewellery and more. The market is full of charm and really celebrates the independent trader.
The Covered Market, Oxford
The Covered Market in the beautiful city of Oxford is a historic indoor bazaar packed with artisan food traders, boutique clothing shops and buzzing cafes where you can grab a coffee and a bite to eat. It’s a bit of a ‘one-stop-shop’ where you can pick up everything and anything you fancy from one of the many independent businesses, some of which go back generations.
Columbia Road Flower Market, London
Columbia Road Flower Market has to be up there as one of the most Instagrammed markets in England. Every Sunday, this East London street comes alive with independent traders selling a dazzling selection of plants and flowers. Buckets full of colourful hydrangeas, fluffy peonies and sunflowers among so many others line the road, as locals and tourists soak up the unique atmosphere.
Kirkgate Market, Leeds
This huge indoor market attracts over 10 million visitors a year, and it’s not hard to see why. The Edwardian market hall itself is architecturally stunning, with its grand stone archways and ornamental wrought iron castings, but it’s the 600 traders who really bring the place to life. The sights, sounds and smells of the market will hook you in as you explore the wonderfully varied choice of produce on offer, including everything from blow-your-head-off Scotch Bonnet chillies to fresh razor clams.
Birmingham’s Bullring Markets
Not to be confused with the city’s huge shopping centre called The Bullring, Birmingham’s Bullring Markets have been trading in the same place for almost 850 years and are bursting with character. There are three different markets here, which all reflect the city’s ethnic diversity; the Indoor Market, the Bullring Open Market and the world-famous Rag Market. The Rag Market has to be seen to be believed, with 350 stalls selling rich fabrics and textiles in a kaleidoscope of colours. It’s very popular with Asian brides from all over Europe, who head here to pick up materials for their wedding outfits.
Stroud Farmers’ Market
One of the biggest and best farmers’ markets in the country, this multi-award winning Gloucestershire gem has been a must-visit destination for food-lovers since it first started trading. Offering exceptional local produce including eggs, honey, fish, meat and locally brewed beer, it pays to get here early so you can make the most of the various free tasters on offer from the different stalls. Make sure you bring plenty of bags as you won’t be going home empty-handed.