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One of London’s oldest markets (originally founded over 350 years ago), Spitalfields Market is a cut above your usual shopping and dining experience – omit Oxford Street and circumvent Covent Garden in favour of this colourful, covered market, full of fine food and drink options, unique craft stalls and open seven days a week come rain or shine. Here is our guide to the best things to do in and around Old Spitalfields Market.
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Old Spitalfields Market
History of Old Spitalfields Market
East London is teeming with history (don’t be surprised if you bump into a Jack the Ripper tour) and this is reflected by the market building and surrounding area.
The original market (‘Spittle Fields’) on this site dates back to 1638 selling ‘flesh and fowl’ (erm, sounds lovely!). Towards the end of the 1880s, it became a wholesale fruit and veg market which then moved to a new area in the 1990s, allowing Old Spitalfields to become more of a retail and craft market, with hundreds of stalls and kiosks now in place.
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Food and Drink in Old Spitalfields Market
There are over 40 food and drink stalls and restaurants located in Old Spitalfields Market so if you can’t find something to eat, you must be a particularly picky eater! There is something for all budgets here from street-food stalls through to the more sit down restaurant affair.
Pretty much every world cuisine is catered for here from the traditional fish and chips served by Poppies (a London institution) through an European epicurean adventure to the fiery flavours of South East Asia. A recent addition is also a row of street-food vans both inside and just outside the market – your selection of snacking opportunities just got bigger!
Some of favourites here include Pilpel (we think this is the best falafel in London), Dumpling Shack (oodles of noodles and dumplings), Wheelcake Island (Taiwanese pancakes), Wright Brothers (juicy oysters – ‘nuff said!) and Yum Bun (sweet as steamed buns).
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A word to the wise – if you plan on using cash, make sure you get your money out before you arrive here as access to ATMS whilst in the market is limited and the cash queues can be ridiculous – the same can also be true whilst ‘spending a penny’ so prepare for a long toilet queue (free to use but very limited in number) or go in one of the nearby pubs.
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Get ‘crafty’ at Old Spitalfields Market as the range of retailers and kiosks here is immense – from cut-price books to LEGO earrings, you’ll certainly find a way to part with your Pounds (£) here. Every time we visit, we see something new and the rota of retail stalls changes often.
There are also different ‘specialist’ markets on various days of the week including an antiques market on selected Thursdays, Urban Makers market on Wednesdays (crafts) and a vinyl record market on Fridays (occurrences vary each week) so check the website for details.
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Drinking in and around Old Spitalfields Market
Throughout the summer months, the market often hosts a monthly beer festival, with many micro and craft brewers offering tasters before you buy (and often much cheaper and stronger ABV than most of the nearby pubs).
Just across the road from the east market entrance, step back in time and partake in a pint at the historic Ten Bells pub, dating back to the 18th century (and often featured as part of the aforementioned Jack the Ripper tours, as several of the victims supposedly drank here).
The Pride of Spitalfields (once the Romford Arms) is another old boozer worth a mention, around 200 years in the making and with a good selection of local lagers and beers on tap.
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Nearby attractions to Old Spitalfields Market
If you want to continue exploring this area, take a five minute walk to London’s famous Brick Lane, an eclectic East London neighbourhood that is known for sublime street-art and its bagels (two bagels stores here are renowned: Bagel Bake and Brick Lane Bagel Shop – both open 24 hours but expect huge queues during the day).
If your visit to Old Spitalfields Market happens to be on a Sunday, we’d also recommend making the most of your London market experience and combining it with Columbia Road Flower Market, a 15 to 20 minute walk away – read our full blog about Columbia Road >
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