Flesh, fowl and roots.
That’s all you could get your hands on at Old Spitalfields Market back in 1638, when King Charles I gave the area its first official trading license. Back then, it was an empty patch of land that was used for shooting practice (hence nearby Artillery Lane and Gun Street) – and now, it’s one of London’s most unusual, thriving marketplaces. Under the vast, station-like cover of the steel and glass Victorian roof, dozens of stalls, permanent boutiques, restaurants, pop ups and street food vans tout their wares, seven days a week. Here’s what you’ll find there:
Encircled by permanent shops and independent boutiques, you’ll be able to start any visit to Spitalfields Market with a mooch around the permanent bricks-and-mortar spots like Cheaney, selling handcrafted English shoes; Collectif, a boutique selling new clothes made in vintage cuts; and Mercantile, a curated line-up of accessories, gifts and trinkets.
But you’ll also find dozens of pop-up stalls selling clothing, bric-a-brac, arts and crafts, homeware and jewellery – like Malby Maps, specialists in antique cartography, and Last Stop For The Curious – a typically eccentric stall hawking steampunk-style vintage hats.
On Thursdays, those stalls take a particularly sepia tone for the antiques market, when a curated line-up from Sherman & Waterman take over the hall to sell vintage clothing, kitschenalia, militaria, posters, furniture, and pretty much everything else you can think of – except, you know, older. And on the first and third Fridays of every month, the Vinyl Market swings by with racks upon racks of collectable, rare, and newly released records.
Spitalfields Market has come a long way from just being a market, though. Throughout the warmer months particularly, you’ll also find live music stages, al fresco film screenings and pop up theatres inside double decker buses. And right now, there’s three different outdoor dance classes every week – old school swing and ballroom dancing on Wednesday afternoons (with a live band), free salsa lessons, and free tango lessons before a traditional milonga (social tango dancing) beneath the stars. Find out what’s coming up HERE.
Tucked in the North-Eastern corner of Spitalfields Market are the kitchens; a rotating line-up of 10 street food vendors set around heated communal tables, allowing you to mix and match dishes from steamed buns to nose-to-tail comfort food. The two not to miss, however, are the Reuben sandwiches from Monty’s Deli – purveyors of the best salt beef in London – or the Burmese dishes from hugely successful Shoreditch eatery, Lahpet.
But if you’re after a little more sustenance, you can also pop into restaurants like Blixen (a huge, two-floored brasserie in a former bank and its vault), Galvin HOP (from the brothers behind two Michelin-star restaurants in London) and Wright Brothers (a convivial seafood spot with superb cocktails).
Trust us. They’re worth shelling out for.
NOTE: Old Spitalfields Market runs weekdays 10am-8pm (7am-6pm), and weekends 10am-6pm (5pm Sundays) – you can find out more on their website HERE.
Old Spitalfields Market | 16 Horner Square, Spitalfields, E1 6EW
Last Updated: 5th March 2019
Like street food? Check out our guide to the best street food markets in London