Spend a Day in the Borough Market (a must-see historical place to eat, shop, and hang out in London)
Markets like those in Europe are not common in the States. But they are very common in London. When I first came to London, friends told me I had to go visit the markets, but they didn't provide a sufficient description except that "there are a bunch of shops inside". Not knowing what to expect or how to navigate, I wanted to give you a little taste and guidance to the Borough Market so you can maximize your trip here instead of feeling lost. It can be a bit overwhelming at first glance so, let me break it down for you.
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Why should you visit the Borough Market? If there are so many of these markets in London, why do you need to visit this specific one?
For one, this is one of the largest gatherings of independent small businesses in London. Also, each market is going to have different shops. The shops you have in the Borough Market are unique to the Borough Market. It's not like in the States where each town has the same chain in each strip mall you visit, like cookie-cutters
These small business stalls presented as carts, small kitchens, or single store fronts are what make each market unique and you become familiar with which brand you can trust.
For example, there are at least 3 oyster shops in the Borough Market. I mainly go to the same one because I enjoyed their service, the quality and type of oysters they're selling, and of course, the price. But I won't find the same oyster shop in say the Spitalfields Market, if you find any oysters at all.
Another reason to visit is that the Borough Market continues to support independent greengrocers, which is always good to do. I have to tell you, the greengrocers in London are top quality. It's basically organic produce from small farms everywhere you look.
How do you get to the Borough Market? It depends on where you're coming from. If you decide to take the tube, you want to take the Northern Line or the Jubilee Line and get off at the London Bridge station, which makes sense since the market is right by the bridge.
Depending on which bus you take, you want to get off on the London Bridge stop or the Borough High Street stop. Yes, as the name tells you, it's right by the London Bridge which makes it easier to remember.
If you're getting out of the London Bridge station, follow the signs that say "Borough High Street". You'll ride up the escalators. The exits then split off into east or west. You can take the east exit and when you get out of the station, you're facing the Borough Market's Green Market from across the street, which looks like the picture above with the clear glass wall.
You can take either exit, but I like to go this route because your first stop is a room full of small carts which include bakers, pie makers, chai teas, fudge, cheeses, and so forth. You can find the Borough Market Map color coded and easy to read on their site.
My first stop is the Green Market. I like to walk around with a chai tea, a piece of fudge, or ice cream in my hand as I take a stroll around. If you're the same as me, then you're going to want to stop here first for some sweets. There are also great bread shops, meat pie shops, coffee, juice, and cheese shops here if you're looking for appetisers for a dinner party or a mini meal to take home. I've bought the bread and the meat pies. I highly recommend you try them if you're grocery shopping.
The next stop will depend on your motives for coming to Borough Market. Are you here for a quick lunch during work hours or on a leisurely stroll? Or are you hear to grocery shop? If you're here for a quick and delicious bite, walk toward the Borough Market Kitchen. There are signs pointing to where to go.
If still unsure, follow where people are coming from munching on food in hand. If you want a proper sit-down restaurant, go towards the Retail & Restaurants section along the outskirts of the market.
The Borough Market Kitchen has such a wide variety of ethnic foods. You have jerk chicken, Thai street food, Japanese skewers, traditional Malaysian food, Singaporean food, Italian pasta, Scotch eggs, and I could go on and on.
It's ideal to go with a group of people, where each person buys one thing from each stall and then you can have a taste of each cuisine. I don't know of any place in the States that's like this. It truly is a unique experience.
If you don't find a place to eat on the stools around the kitchens take a seat in this food court area. There's plenty of room. And if it's busy time such as during the tourist visits on the weekends, be comfortable sharing tables with strangers. It's pretty normal to do this in other countries except America.
Next to the Borough Market Kitchen is the Three Crown Square. There are places to eat here as well. Or if you're looking to shop for groceries, even if it's for a short trip in London while you stay at a local Airbnb, they provide high quality, fresh groceries to buy. These groceries are fresh every morning.
It's my favorite one-stop shops for wine, craft beer, meat, pies, seafood, cheese, olive oil, and tea. One thing I highly recommend you try when you walk through the Three Crown Square are fresh, raw oysters. The oysters are shucked in front of you, which is always fun to watch. You know they were caught this morning so you have no doubt they're fresh.
If you're looking for excellent sausages, minced meat, and various cuts of meat, I have the place you need to visit: Ginger Pig. They have comparable prices to supermarkets and superb quality.
I don't live very close to the Borough Market, but I make it a point to go out of my way to come here. Despite having a local butcher near my home, it doesn't compare to the wide select they have at Ginger Pig. I have yet to be disappointed with their selection.
If you're looking for seafood, Shellseekers is the place to go. I love their fresh prawns and mussels! There were about five different varieties of prawns when I stopped by and tons of fish to try out. From swordfish to salmon to tuna to monkfish to sardines and much more than I can list here. Whether you want to grill, make stew, or pan fry your fish, they have something for whatever you're craving.
These fish are all sustainably caught. And they even have a wide selection of game shot by the owner himself. I often see pheasants hanging around here, which you'll never see in America.
Of course, you have to stop by for fresh produce. If you stop by after 4 o'clock (but before closing at 5 o'clock in the evening), you may be able to get the produce for cheaper since they're trying to get rid of what they have for the day and will have new, fresh shipments tomorrow morning.
Best Times to Visit
Now, speaking of times, the Borough Market is the busiest on the weekends especially during the early afternoon (12:00 pm until 2:00 pm). It's a very touristy area. During the week and if it's poor weather, it may be less busy. I find the best time to go is before 11:30 in the morning on a weekday or after 3:00 in the afternoon. I visited recently at 1:00 pm on a Friday and I felt like a canned sardine amongst all of the people.
If you want an Old Food Docks of London tour (historic pubs, food & beer tour) for some more historical food places, I recommend Eating Europe:
Check out the Borough Market for yourself. There's a variety of cultures, food, and experiences here. It's only been a few weeks since I moved to London and I've already come back three times! It's a place where you can really experience the London culture of lively community. And it's a place where the traditional British way of life meets the modern and diverse culture and cuisine of London. Don't forget that London is also a melting pot of ethnicities and therefore, food. Let me know how your trip went by leaving me a comment below. I'm excited to hear.
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