After one month living in London, I’ve discovered that the many street markets add to the city’s multiculturalism.
From clothing markets, to antique markets, to food markets, there is no shortage of places to browse enticing goods and absorb culture in the streets of London.
The nature of markets themselves symbolize intercultural exchange and the formation of community. People from different backgrounds come together to share common interests with each other, and then display those interests to the masses.
A food market represents a place where individual farmers, local companies, international food businesses, and different restaurants from around the world can share their edible masterpieces with others. From homemade baked goods, to locally grown produce, to stands selling hot, ready to eat meals, food markets create an atmosphere of delicious diversity and togetherness.
Markets can also promote the sharing of other goods such as clothing, antiques, books, and other commodities. Every stand at a market has a a story and a culture that they want others to experience. Through observing the physical objects on display, you can learn about the merchant selling those objects and observe what kind of life they live. While a market may appear to be a place for promoting consumerism and making profit, many markets include everyday locals who just want to promote their passions, their hobbies, and their talents to the world.
The markets in London are plentiful, and they sell a huge variety of different things that appeal to everyone. For all my fellow foodies out there, Borough Market is the place to be. The incredible vendors at this massive culinary extravaganza sell foods including fresh olive oils, fig jams, truffle spreads, cold pressed juices and smoothies, spicy salsas, homemade breads and granolas, flavorful honeys, decadent chocolates, herbs and spices, exotic teas, tangy mustards and sauces, and the list goes on and on.
Borough Market is also a great place to buy fresh produce. Most farmers markets usually sell locally grown fruits and vegetables for reasonable prices, so markets are essential for college students like myself with limited funds and a preference for healthy, natural foods. They also sell decorative plants, so that’s cool. (Proof of plant-selling shown in the header image for this blog post)
The Ropewalk Street Market, on Maltby Street, also has low prices on produce (and their peanut butter was SUPER cheap which is a plus) but is more geared towards street food that’s ready to eat. They serve gourmet sandwiches and colorful Indian curries, and the freshly made waffle topped with figs, berries, and goat cheese that my friend ordered looked absolutely heavenly. The Ropewalk gave me my first scotch egg experience, except I ordered them vegetarian style so the eggs were wrapped in lentils and mushrooms rather than the traditional English sausage. Nonetheless, they were amazing.
One of London’s most famous open-air street markets is Camden Town Market. This endless maze of streets contains countless restaurants, shops, and pubs, and eventually opens up into a larger space lined with curtains and curtains of clothes.
Camden Market contains much more than just shopping, however. People in costumes, street artists, live music, and elaborate window displays add a sense of artistic chaos to the area. Every corner of the extensive market explodes with different outbursts of style. You can find everything from haunting gothic punk shops to mesmerizing Turkish lantern shops.
Another gem is the Southbank Book Market, located under Waterloo Bridge. This small area consists of a few tables lined with books of every possible genre, including novels, poetry, plays, children’s stories, comics, magazines, and old newspaper articles. There’s something artistic about the simplicity of the market, where the rows of stacked books create a mosaic of different prints, colors, and styles. I know browsing through books doesn’t appeal to everyone, but personally I love selecting any random piece from the array of literature and seeing what unique story lies in my hands.
In addition to written works, I also found a few crates full of maps from all over the world. If there’s anything that fascinates me more than books, its maps. All of the maps were wrapped in a clear casing to preserve their condition because some of them dated as far back as the 17th century. Some illustrated large scale realities, like the wind patterns of the entire globe, while others depicted specific locations, like a detailed map of an area in London.
Markets can often cause one to feel overwhelmed, due to the huge variety of goods packed into relatively compact areas. But if you fight the temptation to just skim over the masses, and actually engage with the commodities in front of you, you can always learn something new. Obviously, London contains tons of other street markets that I have yet to explore, but it’s comforting that I’ll never run out of options if I ever want to go roam through an amazing display of fashion, food, or culture.