Once the home of one of London’s traditional fruit and vegetable markets, Spitalfields Market has now been transformed into a vibrant and bustling market place with a large variety of goods, including the works of an array of contemporary artists. If you love exploring markets and hunting for bargains or unusual finds, then head to Spitalfields Market.
The Old Spitalfields Market, founded in 1682, has a long, honorable history. One of its first known market traders, John Bach, was a silk thrower who was granted a charter by King Charles II to ‘have, hold and keep’ a market for two days a week. At that time, it was an area known as Spital Field and was located close to Bishop’s Gate, one of London’s six original gates.
Silk weavers and sellers were a big part of the market in its early days, as Spitalfields was home to a large Huguenot community, many of whom worked in the silk industry. In the 1880s, Robert Horner, a market porter, and George Sherrin, an architect, worked together to conceive and build a traditional market place at a cost of £80,000 – a small fortune at the time. But, the iconic end result has remained in place for over 120 years.
In the early 1990s, the traditional wholesale fruit and vegetable market moved to a new home at Leyton, and in recent years Robert Horner’s market buildings underwent a period of refurbishment and conservation. An element of the original market still remains in Old Spitalfields, but the old stalls are now complemented by adjacent modern boutiques, restaurants, stalls and shops.
Although it has changed a lot over the years, it’s still a thriving and lively market. From Monday to Wednesday, and on Saturdays, you’ll find all the shops and restaurants open, but no stalls. For the full market effect, go on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday, when the market is packed to the brim with a variety of specialist stalls.
If you love hunting for eclectic finds, and don’t mind a good rummage and browse, then you could well bag a bargain on a Thursday when the market is oozing with antiques, vintage items, collectables and unusual offerings. If fashion and art are more your cup of tea, then go on a Friday when the market is dedicated to fashion and art. Young fashion students typically sell their work here, so it’s a good place to find fashionable new pieces by up-and-coming designers.
The busiest day, by far, is Sunday, when all the shops and stalls are open and there’s a wide range of varied offerings in the market. Stallholders who want to have a pitch here pay a fair bit for the privilege, so this is reflected in the quality of goods on offer. Sunday afternoons, from 2pm-4pm, are typically very crowded, so if you want more time to be able to leisurely browse, head over earlier in the day. Open: Thursday and Friday, 10am-4pm; Sunday 9am-5pm, all year round.
To get to Spitalfields Market, the nearest tube stations are Liverpool Street and Aldgate East, which are both five minutes walk away. Old Street tube and Moorgate are approximately 15 minutes walk away.
Old Spitalfields Market
Written by Rachel Newcombe for Europeupclose.com