If you want to know London, get to know the people. A trip to one of the Capital's busy street markets will give you an insight into the rich diversity of London life. My favourite? Without a doubt, Brick Lane. Have a look at this handy Street Sensation! map of London street markets. There are also plenty of interesting shops – I still love Hamley's toy shop and, if you like comics and sci-fi, take a look at Forbidden Planet.
Historically a fruit and veg market, but with the areas rise in popularity and wealth recently it has diversified. You'll now find more fine and exotic foods in among the more standard fayre on over 70 stalls. There are lots of cafés and you'll also find both the Young and Old Vic theatres, the Globe, Tate Modern and the Southbank nearby.
Open: Fri 12-6pm, Sat 9-4pm
Tube: London Bridge (zone 1)
Address: 8 Southwark St, London, SE1 1TL
Brick Lane Market
This sprawling market off the Bethnal Green Road is an East End institution. In medieval times bricks and tiles were manufactured here and, in the 18th century, farmers sold livestock and produce. In today's Brick Lane you'll find leather jackets, jewellery, bric-a-brac, furniture, tools, clothes, fruit & veg and bikes.
Cheshire Street has indoor warehouses full of second hand and household goods, collectables, books and music. In Sclater Street there's a predominance of pet food, provisions, electrical goods and tools. Cygnet Street has bicycles, meat, fruit, vegetables and frozen food. Tie your visit in with a trip to Petticoat Lane and Club Row. Also, Columbia Road flower market is nearby.
I visited recently and thought the place still has a real vibe of what London is about - a big mix of different people that make the place really special. The market in the Old Trueman Brewery has a wonderfuly diverse range of food from around the world at reasonable prices. If you want to keep it simple go for a bagel at the Bagel Bake near the end of Brick Lane, toward Columbia Road.
Open: Sun 8am-2pm
Tube: Aldgate East, Shoreditch (zone 1)
Address: Brick Lane Market, Bacon St, London E2 6DY
Phone: (020) 7377 8963
Columbia Road flower market (Sun 8am-2pm, website: www.eastlondonmarkets.com) is also within a short walk of Brick Lane and check out Old Spitalfields Market if walking from Liverpool Street Station.
Camden Lock Market
Camden Lock Market, Camden Stables Market, Buck Street Market and Inverness Street Market are all open, at least in parts, every day, but it is at the weekend that the market scene jumps fully into life. The indoor fashion market at the Electric Ballroom opens on Sunday only. Multitudes of shops and restaurants spill out on to the busy main streets. Always a hit with a cooler indie crowd and now packed with tourists.
Open: Daily 10am-6pm
Tube: Camden Town, Chalk Farm BR: Camden Town, Kentish Town (zone 2)
Address: Camden Lock Place, Chalk Farm Rd, London, NW1 8AF
Phone: (020) 7284 2084
Nearby Attractions: London Zoo, Regents Canal, London Canal Museum
Columbia Road Flower Market
Columbia Road comes alive on a Sunday, between 8am and 3pm every week. Packed full of flowers, both home grown and imported, You’ll find everything from bedding plants to exotic banana plants. There are also around sixty independent shops – small art galleries sit next to cup cake shops, vintage clothes stores, English and Italian delis, garden and antique shops. You’ll also find a wealth of great pubs, cafes and restaurants. Located in the East, Columbia Road sits on the edge of the city with Shoreditch to the west and Brick Lane and Spitalfields nearby. Combine with a trip to Brick Lane.
Address: Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG
BR: Hoxton, Shoreditch High Street Tube: Old Street or Liverpool Street
Covent Garden Market
Famous for its street entertainers and lively atmosphere, Covent Garden is an essential place to go for anyone visiting London. It is packed with interesting shops - see the traditional toys at Benjamin Pollocks famous toy museum or venture toward Neal'sYard and the London Graphic Centre (16-18 Shelton Street, WC2H 9JL, (Phone: 020 7759 4500). Plenty of places to eat around here too.
A new addition to Covent Garden is London’s answer to Hollywood’s walk of fame with plaques on the avenue of 100 stars (The Beatles amongst others) on the pavement outside St Paul’s church in Covent Garden’s piazza!Nearby Attractions: West-End shows.
Tube: Covent Garden (zone 1)
Address: The Market, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RF
Phone: (020) 7836 9136
This covered market in Greenwich is one of London's best source for hand crafted items, different art work, unique gifts, crafting trends, fashion designs, and rare collectables and antiques. Be inspired and buy British and international arts & crafts or collectables & antiques from a wide range of items on over 120 stalls. In the heart of Maritime Greenwich, it is surrounded by world famous sights and tourist attractions.
Open: Thursday 7:30am - 5:00pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays 9:30am - 5:00pm
BR: Greenwich Station DLR:Cutty Sark or Greenwich Station Bus:177, 180, 188, 286, 386
Address: Greenwich Market, London, SE10 9HZ
Old Spitalfields Market
This grade II listed building in East London, on the edge of the City and on the site of the old Fruit & Veg market, now houses a vibrant eclectic mix of fashionable clothing, furnishings and food. There are also a number of themed days, check website.
Open: Mon- Fri 10am-4pm, Sun 9am-5pm
Tube/BR: Liverpool Street; Bus 8, 242,149 and 67 (zone 1)
Address: The Horner Building, 105a Commercial St, London, E1 6BG
Petticoat Lane Market
Probably the oldest and most famous street markets in London, it’s bigger on Sundays as it flows over into Middlesex St. You can find bargains of all kind, from new clothes of well-known chain stores to leather goods, watches and toys!
Open: Mon-Fri & Sun 9am-2pm
Tube: Liverpool St, Aldgate East (zone 1)
Address: Wentworth St, London, E1 7TB
Portobello Road Market
During the week the market is used mainly by the local community and has a mix of fruit and vegetable produce, new goods and hot food stalls. On Friday the second hand market is open and on Saturday the famous antiques market is held.
In addition to the antique stalls there are a whole host of arcades, galleries, shops and cafes open to cater for tourists and visitors. A recent addition to the Saturday market is the Arts & Crafts section, located just off Portobello Road on the Tavistock Piazza.
There are lots of great little shops, cafes and places to pick up a quick bite to eat. These range from Cockney's Pie & Mash at the Ladbrook Grove end to others that caught my eye like the Falafel King, the S&M Cafe (that's sausage and mash btw) and Banger Bros.
Open: Daily 8am–6.30pm, Thur half day, Sun closed
Tube: Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill Gate (zone 1&2)
Address: Portobello London, W11 1AN
Phone: (020) 7727 7684
At around one kilometre long (not quite the mile, as some suggest) this is Europe's longest daily street market, with over 450 stalls and three hundred shops. It stretches from Hoe Street to St James's Street and is only 30 minutes away from central London. Saturday is the busiest day.
Open: Mon - Fri: 9am - 4pm, Saturday: 9am - 5pm
Tube: Walthamstow Central (zone 3) BR St. James's Street
Address: High Street, Walthamstow E17 7DB
Kensington High Street
Home to lots of popular fashion and accessory stores, High Street Kensigton is used equally by local well-to-do people and tourists. Along the length you'll find all the usuall high street chains, as well as some lovely little boutique shops. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes too. Try Kensington Church Street for a few hidden gems.
Address: High Street Kensington, London W8 5SA
Tube: High Street Kensington (zone 1)
This is London's most famous (and busiest) high street. Running from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, you'll find big department stores such as Debenhams, House of Fraser, Selfridges, John Lewis, BHS and Marks & Spencer. You'll also find the Disney Store, HMV, Niketown and more. Boots have a number of stores along its length, ideal for when you run out of face wipes. Venture down a side street to find somewhere a bit quieter and, often, more interesting. Try the tiny opening to St. Christopher's place and find an area with lots of restaurants and coffee shops (Near Bond Street tube and Debenhams).
Address: Oxford Street, London W1C 1DX
Tube: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Rd, Bond St, Marble Arch (zone 1)
Running from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus this elegant street has heeps of pavement space and famous shops. Designed in 1825 in honour of the Prince Regent, it is now home to many high street stores and international designers. Great for families it features Hamleys and Liberty’s. At Picadilly Circus end you can find Lillywhites sporting goods store.
Address: Regent Street, London W1B 2EL
Tube: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Rd, Bond St, Marble Arch (zone 1)
The guitar shops of Denmark Street
Probably my favourite place to go. Just off Charing Cross Road you'll find Denmark Street and Tin Pan Alley. Once home to recording studios used by the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and the Sex Pistols. It is now home to a plethora of Guitar and music shops. If you wanted to find a quiet place for a picnic, there is a little green oasis called the Pheonix Gardens hidden away on a backstreet nearby (nip through the alley next to the churchyard).
Address: Denmark Street, London WC2H 8NL
This is the UK's largest and best-known science fiction, fantasy and cult entertainment shop. It is the best place to buy merchandise from favourites such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Star Trek. Discover the role-playing section, which has guidebooks on the worlds of White Wolf and Dungeons and Dragons and be amazed by the huge range of science fiction books and comics.
Open: Daily 10am-7pm, Thur 10am-8pm, Sun 12pm-6pm
Tube: Shaftsbury Avenue, Oxford Street (zone 1)
Address: 179 Shaftesbury Av, London, WC2H 8JR
Phone: (020) 7420 3666
Trading since 1760, Hamleys is a huge and world famous toy store in the West End. There is a café and events and promotions run throughout the year. You can also book birthday parties. A fatastically magical shop for children, with the most enthusiastic staff.
Open: Mon-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 9.30am-8pm, Sun 12pm-6pm
Tube: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus (zone 1)
Address: 188 - 196 Regent Street, London, W1B 5BT
Phone: 0870 333 2455
This must be one of the most famous stores in the world. It employees 6,000 staff and it’s one of the top ten London visitor’s attractions. On the 4th floor you’ll find everything for children, from designer clothes and shoes to toys, bears, dolls and baby accessories. There is also a children's hair salon.
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-7pm
Tube: Knightsbridge (zone 1)
Address: 87-135 Brompton Rd, London, SW1X 7XL
Phone: (020) 7730 1234