Top Tips for Surviving London’s Markets

One thing there is absolutely no shortage of in London is markets.  From weekly farmers’ markets where you will find stalls selling a whole range of locally grown produce to daily vintage markets which offer the chance to discover trinkets and treasures buried amongst the wares on display, there is something for everyone and if you have a hankering to visit a market then you will most likely be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding one local to where you are staying.

The thing about London markets is that it is often the same stallholders who set up week in and week out and you can be sure they have seen it all, especially when it comes to haggling, which can be daunting and off-putting for anyone who is a first time visitor or who doesn’t necessarily have a lot of experience when it comes to market culture.  If you fall into that category then don’t panic; we have some top tips for you to ensure that your visit to any of London’s wonderful markets is enjoyable and worthwhile and that you come home with a bargain or two to boot.

Arrive early

This is important for a number of reasons; if you are looking for something in particular, then you want to be able to get a good look at what is available, but also because you will tend to avoid the swell of the crowds which happens between mid-morning and lunchtime.  You could get a good couple of hours wandering around and then duck into one of the many restaurants and coffee shops which tend to surround London’s most popular markets to get away from the growing hordes of people.  For some markets such as the Columbia Road Flower Market and the Billingsgate Fish Market arriving early is the only way to ensure that you can have the best pick of the produce; most stallholders tend to have packed up and gone home by midday.

Carry cash

Although we tend to not carry as much paper money as we used to, it’s vital to bring cash if you intend to buy anything when you are visiting the market.  You might find the occasional trader who will accept card payments but these are far and few between and it makes much more sense just to take out the amount of money you are willing to spend in advance; it also makes it less likely that you will blow your London budget if you take out the maximum you have to spend in cash!

Check opening times

Not all markets are open 7 days a week, so if there is a particular market you are interested in visiting then make sure you check ahead of time what days it is operating on and what hours too.  This will help with point 1, arriving early, as well as ensuring that you don’t turn up and discover that there is nothing happening that day, especially if you have to travel a fair distance to reach it.  Of course, if you are staying somewhere central such as The Shaftesbury Premier London Paddington then it wouldn’t matter too much, other than the initial disappointment that you had got the day wrong!

Haggling is okay

At the majority of markets it is perfectly acceptable to haggle over prices, even if the stallholders have the items marked up already.  If you are unsure whether haggling is acceptable at the market you have chosen to visit then spend some time wandering around first and get a feel for the atmosphere; you will almost certainly be able to overhear conversations going on and discover whether discussing prices is an option or not but traders and stallholders are nearly always open to negotiation and it is most likely even expected that you won’t pay the asking price for an item.  This isn’t always the case however, for example, London is home to some of the finest food markets in the country and it is less likely that you can negotiate over price than at a flea market.  The biggest obstacle when it comes to haggling is your own nervousness.  Just go for it!  The worst that can happen is that the trader says ‘no’ and you walk away.  Haggling is extremely fun when you get the hang of it, and is a great way to add a bit of excitement into your market visit.  Just bear in mind the following:-

  • Don’t feel guilty: we tend to have an apologetic air to our negotiations but don’t.  Traders will almost definitely have marked up their items and will be expecting some form of negotiation.
  • Don’t be a cheapskate: there is a big difference between someone who knows the true value of an item and someone who is trying to get a good piece for nothing and experienced stallholders will know the difference.  Don’t haggle for the sake of it, and remember that this is the traders’ livelihood at the end of the day.
  • Don’t be too enthusiastic: likewise however, if you come over too keen on an item, experienced stallholders will mark you a mile away and you will lose all your negotiation power.  It’s a fine line but once you’ve had a bit of practice, you should have no problem.

 More than just the produce

The amazing thing about the markets in London is that many of them have been operating for hundreds of years in the same place and a lot of the streets and areas are virtually untouched and stuffed full of history and heritage.  It is well worth taking a minute or two to look up from your bargain hunting and appreciate your surroundings; maybe even take a walk around the local area.  Perhaps you could grab a table at a nearby cafe and soak up the atmosphere or dive into one of the surrounding streets for a wander.  If there’s a particular market you want to check out then why not have a look online ahead of your visit?  Many of the markets are very active socially with up to date websites and social media and you might pick up some interesting facts which will enhance the experience when you actually visit.


Did you like this? Share it:

Related posts:

  1. Famous Christmas Markets in Great Britain Attract Lots of Visitors
  2. London, the best weekend markets where you can enjoy bargain shopping.
  3. Tips to get around London city
  4. Long-Haul Flight Survival Tips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>