Camden, in the former stables
I like markets, the bigger and more varied the better. I’ve made appoint of seeking out farmers markets and wet markets wherever I travel. So, with that in mind, I headed out to visit some of the markets in London. Borough Market
Everyone I asked about things to do in London told me I should go to Borough market, so I did. Borough Market is on the south bank of the River Thames near London Bridge. There has been a market on this site for at least 1,000 years. The great Norwegian chronicler Snorri Sturluson mentions the market in his account of Olaf’s battle against King Canute in 1014. Of course the market today is much different - butchers no longer bring live cattle into their stalls.
The traders here have some of the most beautifully laid out stalls I’ve ever seen. There are mounds of golden crusted bread, jewel-like fruits and vegetables, beautiful cheeses. I wandered around, succumbing to the call of baklava, and being very mindful of the cobblestones that can trip you up or twist your ankle.
This stuff is beautiful, and no doubt of high quality, but you are
not going to find many bargains here, though if you are buying wholesale it’s probably a different story. You can also get a meal here, and one of the exceptions to the high prices is Roast to Go, where you can get a sandwich – to go, of course – for under US$10. The regular Roast restaurant is roughly three times as expensive.
I had a bacon butty, and being an American, had to double check on the definition of a butty.(It’s a sandwich, and the word comes from the butter usually spread on pieces of bread that make up a sandwich.) It was lovely, piled high with tasty smoked bacon. Covent Garden Market
I had read that Covent Garden Market has been around for almost 400 years, a mere youngster compared to Borough market. This is not strictly a farmers’ market. There are boutiques and vendors selling household goods along with food.
I had heard that on Saturdays that the market hosted a craft fair, so I headed there early before the crowds got too bad. Sadly, one craft fair is like another, full of tat I don’t need nor particularly
want. There were some street performers of various levels of talent, and quaint, but more ankle-twisting cobblestones. Camden Market
This is the newest of these markets, just starting in 1971 when the unused warehouses along the river were leased and turned into craft workshops with a weekend market soon to follow. Camden also became the London home of MTV, along with other media companies. It soon became a trendy, hip area, and the market expanded to seven days a week.
I hadn’t really planned to come here, but, what the heck, it was only a sort subway ride away.
I saw the sign for Camden Market as soon as I came out of the subway. Pretty much every stall was a repeat of the one next to it, with lots of cheesy T-shirts made in Bangladesh.
But then I saw the sign for Camden Lock, and that was far more interesting. There is still a working lock at Camden, though it is now used mainly for pleasure boats rather than working barges. The stables that catered to the horses that pulled the barges along the canal have been turned into studios
Bread and sandwiches
and shops, and it is I here you can find antiques and art that isn’t of the mass-produced variety. Southbank Book Market
I read about this market in an online post about things to do that were not on the typical tourist route. Mention books and I’m there. Tell me the books are marked down to bargain prices and I’ll race you there. So when I spent all damn day going in the wrong direction, getting off at the wrong tube stop, and walking in the wrong direction, and found this market to consist of a few eight foot tables with some used books, well, all I could do was laugh. At least the walk along the Thames was pleasant. Possibly useful information:
- All of these markets are within a short walk of an Underground station.
- Camden Town Underground station is exit only on Sundays. You can arrive there but when you leave Camden you will need to walk to another near-by station.
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