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Borough Market is a must-visit for any food lover in London. As the city’s oldest food market, it has been around for over a thousand years. With more than a 100 stalls, it is one of the most famous food markets in the world. This is the place for amazing street food, artisanal cheese, delicious cured meats, fresh veg, wine and more.
It was a windy day in March, when I visited London for the n-th time (I’ve also lived there for a year, as a postgrad student). After visiting The Shard earlier that day, I stepped outside and a cold blast of wind greeted me. This didn’t look well for a day of sightseeing.
So I turned right from The Shard and just a few streets down I reached Borough Market. Just at the entrance, there was a stall selling delicious warm mulled wine. Oh heavens! Best thing to warm up a frozen traveller. Thus, with a mug of warm wine at hand, I started my foodie exploration.
About Borough Market
The market’s history begins around 1014. Even though there’s no specific opening date, a market has existed near London Bridge since Anglo-saxon times. Back then, times were difficult and the market a chaos of live animals and traders in the middle of the high street.
As the city of London grew over the years, at some point the market was forced to move and almost closed. But the people living in the area petitioned for it. Finally, a 1754 Act of Parliament ruled that the market would stay “for the use and benefit” of the local community forever.
Nevertheless, the adventures of Borough Market were far from over. You can read more about its rich history here. In the end, the market got a new breath of life in the 1990s. The renewed interest in artisanal foods, with the likes of Neal’s Yard Dairy and others, meant the market became more and more popular.
Borough Market today
Nowadays, the market’s a vibrant place, full of delicious smells, colours and activity. You’ll find everything from French cheese to Italian liquorice, amazing sourdough bread sandwiches, wine, oysters, flowers, fruit and veg, you name it. It’s not cheap, but it’s the quality is the best.
The market is also a champion of the Slow Food movement and has many accredited Slow-Food traders. In addition, it actively supports the environment, with low energy lights, recycling food waste and more.
As well as reducing its impact to the environment, the market also aims to put any leftover food to good use. In fact, the market participates in the FoodSave scheme run by the charity Plan Zheroes. This way, any surplus produce goes to local charities.
How to make the most of your visit to Borough Market
Rule number one: come hungry. You won’t be able to resist the amazing street food anyway, so why fight it?
Secondly, allow plenty of time to explore the market at your own pace. Or even make it a whole day! After you finish shopping and snacking, you can also eat a proper meal at any of the wonderful restaurants nearby.
Explore it on your own
Borough Market is a maze of open spaces, stalls and passageways. Although you can always get a map, which will give you an idea of its layout, the best way to experience it is to just walk around. Let your nose and sight be your guide. Stop by any stall you find interesting and ask the traders about their wares. They are more than happy to talk about food.
Last but not least, come prepared with a large shopping bag. But even if you forget it, the Market’s souvenir shop has got you covered.
Or, book a tour
Even though it’s best to allow plenty of time to fully explore the market, if you are short of time, a tour might be a good idea. There are a number of walking food tours of the area, but food expert and writer Celia Brooks is the only one officially licensed to conduct tours there. In fact, the guided tour was her own idea and creation!
What to eat in Borough Market – The best stalls
Firstly, it’s difficult to decide which stalls are the best, as almost everything is delicious. That said, there are some “classics” that you shouldn’t miss.
This is both a bakery and cookery school. The school is just across the road, but they have a stall in the market, selling glorious bread and other baked goods. Their sourdough bread is a must. – breadahead.com
Brindisa & Brindisa Kitchen
Renowned Spanish deli and charcuterie, first opened in 1988. Go for best quality imported Spanish goods, like ibérico bellota ham and spanish cheese. Also, don’t miss their famous chorizo roll, served outside. – brindisa.com
Une Normande à Londres
Do you love French cheese too? I sure do and this stall was one of my first stops! Run by the Le Blais brothers, who came to London from Normandy, France. This is the place to get favourites like camembert de Normandie and brie de Meaux, but also rare gems like Sainte Maure de Touraine. Everything carefully selected from French artisan producers. – www.instagram.com/unenormandealondres/
Cannon & Cannon
One of the best British charcuterie brands. Since opening in 2010, they revolutionized the cured meat market. They also have tastings and workshops at their Meat School in Jubilee Place. – cannonandcannon.com
The best Italy has to offer. From pulses to jam and some seriously good cured meats and cheese. The owner works closely with small artisanal producers in Italy, in order to offer top quality all the time.
The Roast Hog
I found this one on my way out of the market. As the name suggests, they roast a whole hog, raised on their own farm in Suffolk. Makes amazing pork sandwiches. – roasthog.com
Fancy a pie after all that exploring? If you do, this stall with traditional British pies has got you covered. They use only free-range meat and eggs, and fresh vegetables. You’ll find plenty of vegetarian options too. – pieminister.co.uk
This is a very niche shop: it only sells liquorice products from Calabria, Italy. Here you’ll find everything liquorice, from brownies to jam. – facebook.com/sweetrootslicorice
I have one word for you: raclette! The cheese here is made of only unpasteurised, full-fat milk. It makes simply the best raclette. Highlights include the potatoes with melted cheese and pickled onions, and the toasted sandwiches with Montgomery cheddar, onion, leeks and garlic. – kappacasein.com
The creation of Greek-Cypriot Nadia Stokes, of award-winning Gourmet Goat fame. Nadia takes lesser meats and transforms them into delicious Mediterranean dishes. The menu is inspired by her Greek-Cypriot heritage. These days it also includes many vegetarian options. Don’t miss the kid goat kofta wrap.
Creators of the Original Borough Market burger. This is the place to get your Salt Beef sandwich with mustard and pickle. Also steaks, burgers, sausages, dry cured bacon and more. There is a queue, but the food is worth the wait! The meat comes straight from Northfield Farm in England. – northfieldfarmatboroughmarket.com
Neal’s Yard Dairy
Although it’s outside the market, it would be a big miss not include the shop that started it all. You can find amazing cheese here, all sorts and kinds. – nealsyarddairy.co.uk
Richard Haward’s Oysters
Seven generations of harvesting oysters from the same river in Essex can only mean the finest oysters in the market. Enjoy them with a glass of crisp prosecco wine. – richardhawardsoysters.co.uk
Monmouth Coffee House
All that food is bound to make you feel full after a while. So what better than a cup of the best espresso in town? Bonus points for it being Fairtrade. – monmouthcoffee.co.uk
How is it that there is always room for dessert? No matter how much food you’ve had? I don’t know. But what I do know is that there’s no better way to round off a day of food tasting at Borough Market than some Italian gelato. Freshly made every day in public view. – gelatria3bis.co.uk
Best time to go to Borough Market and how to get there
When to go
Borough Market can be busy, so it’s important to time your visit right. On Mondays and Tuesdays, it is open as a “limited market”, which means that not all the stalls are open. In contrast, all stalls are open from Wednesday to Saturday.
The best time to go is any day from Wednesday to Saturday, before noon. Saturdays have the most people but this is also when it is most fun to go.
How to get to Borough Market
The market is next to London Bridge underground (Tube) station. You can take either the Jubilee or Northern line to stop there. By bus, the closest stops are London Bridge and Borough High Street. The bus lines that go there are the 43, 141, 149 and 521.
Finally, the market has a bike rack in Jubilee Place and there are many car parks within walking distance.
What else to see nearby
First of all, the market is near London Bridge and in one of the oldest areas in London. Just a few blocks from the market, you will find the tallest building in London, i.e. The Shard.
Also, just minutes away you will find the working replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, at its original spot. Just before that, in the canal, there is a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous ship, the Golden Hind.
Finally, a little further away, but still within walking distance, there is Tate Modern. In other words, you could easily spend an amazing day in the area.
In conclusion, if you are a lover of gourmet tastes and quality produce, Borough Market is the place to go in London!