Spring is in the air so get down to Columbia Road flower market, a Sunday market overflowing with heavenly blooms, herbs and shrubs crammed into a bustling Victorian terraced street. Situated on the edge of the city, close to Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Spitalfields, part of Columbia Road’s uniqueness lies in its independent shops, small art galleries and delis.
Spilling over with scented blooms, plants and shrubs, the Sunday market is packed with atmosphere and filled with the sounds of the Cockney tones of the stallholders’ patter. Several of the stallholders have been coming here for over 30 years, selling everything from sweet-smelling speciality herbs to towering banana plants.
The market started out as a route for sheep on their way to the slaughterhouses at Smithfield. Trading since around 1869, the market initially traded on Saturdays but evolved into a Sunday market due to the East End’s growing Jewish population. As the Saturday market lapsed, the general trading market changed into a Flower market, with plants brought from nearby market gardens in Hackney and Islington. A slight dip in the 1970’s saw the market at risk of demolition but local pressure paid off and the market today is one of London’s most popular.
If flowers aren’t your thing, there are also galleries, cafés and independent shops selling vintage china, bric à brac and second-hand books along the street. Browse through fabrics, vinyl records and handcrafted jewellery then head for Café Columbia for a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel or one of the other delis for coffee and a cinnamon bun.
Get there early-ish (by 9am) if you want to beat the worst of the crowds, then wander along to nearby Spitalfields for more market stalls and all the big names in fashion.
Visiting: Old Street Station (Northern Line). Walk north east along Hackney Road until you see Columbia Road on your left. The market is open from 8am until around 3pm.