The insider’s guide to East London markets

East London has a lot to offer, but one of its best known offerings is its proper traditional East End markets. From steaming food and fresh fish to bargain clothes and watch repairs, markets are a hub of social and retail activity, and East London has a good number of them: Tower Hamlets in particular is the London borough with the most street markets.

We pick the most essential East End markets, so whether you’re a local looking to home-decorate, or a visitor seeking a true East London experience, we’ve got you covered.

Roman Road Market, Bow

Clothing rails in Roman Road Market in East London.

Roman Road Market is our local tradition East End market; people have been ‘going down the Roman’ for over 150 years and it’s still a favourite spot among locals. The market is home to a number of stalls and familiar faces, including Saint Sugar of London, Paola Polenta, the Gozlem women, Steve’s Pets at Roam, a long tradition of French Connection outlet suppliers, and racks upon racks of bargain clothing.

With so good food options on the Roman as well as places to get your shopping done, it’s no wonder the market has been a local hang-out spot and Roman Road tourist destination for decades. From back when Gina from Gina’s Closet used to buy her Saturday night glam-wear with her friends, to visitors picking up a few bhajis from Indian Snack Shack for while they browse, the Roman is the spot to be.

Our top tip? Grab a donut from Andy while you’re there, because the delicious filled churros are only £1.50, compared to £3 when he heads to Brick Lane on Sundays.

Opening hours: Tuesday, Thursday 10am-3:30pm, Saturday 9am-4pm
Nearest underground stations:  Mile End, Bow Road DLR

Globe Town Market Square, E2

Marc Herbert joking with customers at his Globe Town Market Square stall

A little bit further down Roman Road takes you to a different kind of market in Globe Town Square. This large, open square doesn’t have the crowded feeling of its sibling Roman Road Market, but its stalls attract a throng of loyal locals. Thanks to its central and open location, the market square is inviting to people passing by, and the queues outside its stalls are often enough to draw more in.

Among its small but mighty selection of stalls is Herbert’s fruits and salads, a family business which has been selling produce on the square since 1974. Next to it is Downey’s fishmonger, the Roman Road’s connection to the sea in a business that has also been passed down through the generations. The most recent newcomer to the square is Martin Fuller’s plant stall pouring out of a blue van. Make sure you arrive before 2pm; the stalls pack up before mobs come pouring out of local schools.

Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-2pm
Nearest underground stations:  Bethnal Green, Stepney Green, Mile End

Victoria Park Market, Victoria Park

Victoria Park Market in East London on a cloudy day

In the north-west corner of Victoria Park, this verdant market stretches neatly down in a straight line and hosts a number of colourful tents with hot food, ingredients and produce. Don’t be fooled by their largely uniform appearance; each stall offers an astounding amount of individuality and creativity.

With a more upmarket feel than surrounding East End markets, this might not be the place where most locals do their weekly shop. But with a civilised, convivial atmosphere and assortment of speciality products like organic garlic, homemade tiramisu and hand-crafted ravioli, this market attracts visitors near and far on Sundays. This market is the place to kick back in the park, grab a beef bourginion burger (!) and a glass of natural wine and relax. But don’t forget your debit card – the market is totally cashless.

Opening hours: Sunday 10am-4pm
Nearest underground stations: Cambridge Heath, Bethnal Green, London Fields, Stepney Green

Bethnal Green Market, Bethnal Green

A flower and clothes stall at Bethnal Green Road Market, East London

Along Bethnal Green Road is a small but consistent group of stalls held by a selection of traditional market traders, many of whom have been setting up shop there for decades or more. Without having to dip off the high street you can pick up a range of fabrics, jewellery and flowers, as well as cheap toiletries and kids’ toys.

As well as being the pathway to Shoreditch and central London, Bethnal Green Road itself is home to a number of shops, pubs, and cafes, so traders get the benefit of general footfall on this busy street.

Listen close enough to the transactions and you’ll find customers and stall keepers on first name basis exchanging banter. Once you’ve bartered a bargain for some earrings, show them off at local favourite pubs The Star of Bethnal Green and The Old George. If you stick around long enough, both put on fantastic club nights.

Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-6pm
Nearest underground stations:  Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Whitechapel

Watney Market, Commercial Road

A central view of Watney Market, East London

Watney Market fills a pedestrianised shopping street off the side of Commercial Road, and has a loyal following of local regulars frequenting its 50 odd stalls. It feels a world away from the city yet is only a short walk from Aldgate.

Like Whitechapel market, Watney Market caters largely to the Bengali community and has a great selection of Asian clothes, textiles, jewellery and fruit and veg (you won’t be able to miss the sight of the more tropical kinds, like head-sized durians).

It’s also a great spot for electronics. Plus, you can even get your keys cut and watch repaired at lightning speed by institutional market stall Mr Sadak. Another big draw is one of London’s few remaining Wimpy’s offering a nostalgic bite to eat.

Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8:30am-6pm
Nearest underground stations:  Shadwell, Shadwell DLR, Whitechapel

Chrisp Street Market, Poplar

Visitors at a homeware stall at Chrisp Street Market, East London

Chrisp Street Market has been the heart of Poplar since 1951, but under the almost futuristic canopy it seems to be very current. The wide square hosts a splatter of stalls selling homeware, clothes, toys, fresh produce and jewellery, and with its bright, right-angled cover and location among shops, pocket parks and Idea Store, it’s a destination in itself.

On top of the variety of stalls and friendly bartering, Chrisp Street Market is home of one of the only places left in the UK to find proper traditional pease pudding. Come for a range of clothes and ingredients, stay for a saveloy at Ivy’s or a pie and mash at Maureen’s.

Our top tip? While you’re here, take in the iconic Festival of Britain clock tower, and the giant Chihuahua mural on the side of a housing block.

Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-6pm
Nearest underground stations:  All Saints DLR, Langdon Park DLR

Whitechapel Market, Whitechapel

A produce stall at Whitechapel Market, East London

Whitechapel Market has to be seen to be believed. Stretching for almost a kilometre down Whitechapel Road, this bustling market both has anything you could want to find at a market and is an immersive experience. Just minutes down the road from Aldgate and the City of London, the primary language heard is Bengali and the smells and sounds could all have been dropped in from a far-away country.

Among the locals who visit the market to do their everyday shopping, you can choose from a number of stalls selling fruit and veg, meat, clothes, electronics, and fish so fresh that some of it is still swimming around in a crate.

Look out for the shops facing their stalls; many of them pop open their windows and sell ackras and curries straight onto the street. At the end of the day, watch the heavily graffiti-ed white vans pack up their stalls and disperse across East London.

Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-6pm
Nearest underground stations:  Whitechapel, Aldgate East

Petticoat Lane Market, Spitalfields

Petticoat Lane Market in East London with City of London skyscrapers behind

Petticoat Lane Market is made up of two adjacent streets; Wentworth Street Market is open Monday to Saturday, and Middlesex Street hosts the booming Sunday market.

People have been selling fabrics and bric-a-brac on this spot since the 1600s, and fleeing Huguenots made it their own in the late 17th century. Now, since skyscrapers and white collar workers of London have percolated outwards, the weekday market is a popular spot for lunch breaks from the neighbouring office blocks.

A healthy selection of food vans sell a changing variety of cuisines serve city workers, and the vans that don’t have a long queue of people in suits stick out toothpicks with samples at passersby.

Pouring out in front of the fabric shops of the road, you can find bargain clothing from dozens of sellers, rain or shine. If the office blocks and financial types get too much for you, head down the road to Whitechapel Market to get a different shopping vibe.

Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am-2:30pm, Sunday 9am-2pm
Nearest underground stations: (Weekday) Aldgate East, Shoreditch, Liverpool Street (Sunday) Aldgate East, Aldgate, Liverpool Street

Broadway Market, Hackney

A fresh food stall at Broadway Market, East London.

Broadway Market is a long stretch of stalls serving an astoundingly wide variety of goods on the more artisan side. Whether you’re looking for clothes, art, backpacks, organic dog treats or vintage photo prints, or fancy some oysters, produce, banh mi, Kara-age chicken or rainbow-dyed bagels, this market will sort you out.

If you like the bustling vibe and smiling tourists, pull up a chair at one of the surrounding pubs and cafes, or in front of the busking indie darlings to fully enjoy a day out.

It’s fun to see the sights of Broadway Market, but some say it has become a victim of its success and becoming quite a tourist destination. Avoid the crowds by heading to Netil Market, off the beaten track but only a stone’s throw away. It’s open every day from 11am-6pm and hosts a load of local designers as well as some great street food. There’s also the School Yard Market by London Fields Primary School, featuring a lively selection of fashion and food, plus crafty art and wacky inventions.

Opening hours: Saturday 9am-5pm
Nearest underground stations: London Fields, Cambridge Heath

Colombia Road Flower Market, Bethnal Green

A vendor at Colombia Road Flower Market in front of a pub, East London

The only market on this list that only sells one thing, Colombia Road Flower Market still packs a huge punch in East London. Its iconic Victorian street is so packed on Sundays that flower-buying locals or sightseeing tourists are packed into a slow train of movement through the plant stalls.

Almost any kind of plant or flower you’d hope to buy in a busy street, this market will have it. Just get there early to avoid the crowds and nab the best leaves.

If you arrive later and find yourself squeezed into a sandwich of people and their dogs, dip off around a corner and you’ll find charming cafes, arts and craft stores, and a busker with a huge cello who comes along and plays for visitors most weeks. Grab a bowl of homemade chilli and stick it out till the end – traders sell unsold cut flowers for around half price.

For a hipster fix, Hackney Road is a hop and a skip away, and bordering the market there are dozens of quirky home-furnishing shops selling sieves for entertainingly high prices. Get back to reality at The Royal Oak nearby, a lovely old pub which used to be famous for its lock-ins that ran till the first hours of the market.

Opening hours: Sunday 8am-2pm
Nearest underground stations:  Aldgate East, Bethnal Green, Liverpool Street

Brick Lane Market, Bethnal Green

Brick Lane Market's Backyard Market on a Sunday

Brick Lane Market is one of the most popular tourist destinations in London, and attracts people for its food, clothing, bric-a-brac, crafts, and more.

It opens at its fullest on Sundays and has grown to inhabit a couple of sub-markets: Backyard Market, a covered space in the Old Truman Brewery full of bespoke arts and crafts, and Sunday Upmarket, a food hall hosting a hodge podge of street dishes and delicacies.

If you missed Broadway Market or Roman Road Market on Saturday, you might find your favourite food truck – like Saint Sugar of London – on Brick Lane on Sunday. There is also the obligatory beigel to be enjoyed at Beigel Bake open 24 hours a day.

If the busy main street gets too much for you, dip off to Hanbury Street and Cheshire Street for a quieter Brick Lane experience. If you’re eating at a local curry house, choose wisely: they’ll all tell you they’re the best on the road.

Opening hours: Sunday 10am-5pm
Nearest underground stations: Shoreditch, Aldgate East, Liverpool Street

If you liked this, you might also like our guide to pubs around Roman Road.

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Anna Lezard

Anna Lezard is a recent graduate from the University of Amsterdam with an MA in New Media and Digital Culture. You might see her cycling around East London on a rattly pale blue bike or enjoying a nice pub.

Anna Lezard has 15 posts and counting. See all posts by Anna Lezard

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