4 Must-Visit Markets near London Bridge Station
Markets have been around London for more than 100 years, and it’s still going strong today. In London, you’d often find vintage, flea, antiques, street food, and many more. In this post, we’ll cover street food markets that are worth the visit when you’re near London Bridge Station. Here are 4 must-visit markets near London Bridge Station. Borough Market, Vinegar Yard and Vinegar Yard Flea Market, and Maltby Street Market. I suggest getting off at London Bridge Station as this is the closest station to the 4 markets. If you get off at Westminster Station or Waterloo Station, it would be too far. Vinegar Yard Flea Market and Vinegar Yard is an outdoor venue consisting of food vendors, bars serving local beers, art installations and boutiques. If you have an hour or two to spare, you can have a nice stroll on the South Bank, around a 10 minute walk from London Bridge Station. You’ll see more than 20 attractions worth a visit, including the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the River Thames, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. But for the sake of this post, we’ll cover the 4 must-visit markets near London Bridge Station.
Borough Market is the oldest market in London opened in 1851. It’s kept its Victorian architecture and its iconic green architecture. It’s as busy as ever. The glass exterior of Borough Market looked modern compared to the other 19th Century buildings around it and had been refurbished in 2001 to make it look modern. The narrow street of London Bridge is always busy and full of cars, black taxis, and the iconic red buses going in different directions. It’s also busy with people coming in and out of the Underground Station.
Built under the London Bridge’s train tracks you’ll hear the thunderous noise of the trains driving above you as you shop. You’ll be squeezing through people, going in different directions while you see colourful fresh organic homegrown, freshly picked, fruits and vegetables. You can smell the reeking fresh fish and seafood that travelled straight from the harbour to the market. Live lobsters and crabs are kept in a water tank ready to be sold and bought. I did feel for them, but they say that if it’s not alive when bought, it means it’s not fresh, and if you can’t smell the foul reeking smell of fish, that means it’s also not fresh.
French, Spanish, and Italian wine sellers open stalls from France, Spain, and Italy, and they would describe each wine to you for recommendations. You can hear different accents spoken in English, which means Borough Market is famous from around the world. As I stepped inside the market, I could smell the strong pungent aroma of cheese. They were cut into quarters on top of the circular blocks at the bottom to make it look nice. Cheese sellers would often stop you to try a taste of the type of cheese they sold. They then would lure you into buying a block.
You can also smell the yeasty aroma of baked bread, from ciabatta, white and brown bread, rye, and many others. Although they’re cold, you can eat them on the go if you’re hungry. Further along, cooking oil sellers sold small and large glassed bottles with a label on their neck. He sold them in different flavours, from turmeric, honey, paprika, and hundreds more to choose from. I didn’t know cooking oil could be brought in different colours.
On the other side of the market, I could hear a tour guide talking to a group of people talking about the history of the market. You can book a guide on the Borough Market website if you want to know more about tours. On Saturday, you’ll see a row of pubs, restaurants, bars, and shops. People would drink beer and have breakfast, lunch, and dinner outside. It’s often nice to just stand outside the bar and have a drink while enjoying the buzz of the market. You’ll be lucky to find a seat on Saturday, even if you book a table.
In the street food area, if you come early enough, there won’t be many people queuing up for hot food. Once you arrive, you’ll smell a mix of Thai, burgers, falafel, and many more. You’ll see the smoke coming out of the stall while they cook, and further along, there is a wide wooden staircase made for people eating from their takeaway boxes. There would be space to sit but you’ll be sitting close to other people next to you. By 3 pm, it would already be crowded, and again, you’d be lucky to find a seat. Behind the market, you’ll see a small alleyway consisting of more street food and restaurants. This alleyway is often missed, but it’s there if you want more choice of food.
Behind Borough Market, you’ll find Southwark Cathedral. Southwark Cathedral is not one of London’s top 10 attractions, but if you love history, churches, and cathedrals, Southwark Cathedral is an option for you to visit. It’s quiet, and the cathedral offers afternoon tea and tour guides.
In autumn, you could see the brown leaves scattered on the ground, usually in November as winter can be late here, and you can hear the rustling sound of the leaves on the trees as the wind blows. The Shard stands tall behind the market and it’s only a short walk away.
Annisa’s advice on Borough Market
Although Borough Market is busy on Saturdays, if you’re not used to crowds, then it’s not for you, but if markets are your thing, then I recommend you visit Borough Market on the weekends. The best time to visit Borough Market is between 10am to midday Wednesday to Friday; and 8am to midday on Saturday. Alternatively, come at around 4pm when it gets quieter.
Alternatively, go to Broadway Market, or Real Food Market just behind Southbank Centre. No matter what day, you can sample free food from stalls, but people just like to try anything for free, but overall, Borough Market can be expensive.
As for COVID, the atmosphere here is already back to normal. The majority of people here are double vaccinated, and the majority aren’t wearing masks anymore, but a few still wear them for caution.
Vinegar Yard food and drink venue
On a dark, fresh, breezy afternoon, during the end of December 2022, the weather is still cold. When you exit towards Guy’s Hospital, turn left, you’ll find rows of store fronts ranging from quirky restaurants, cafes, and boutiques under the train tracks with its bricked arched stone walls above. I suggest visiting Vinegar Yard first once you get off at London Bridge Station. The bright yellow board with its colourful artistic paintings cannot be missed. “Vinegar Yard” is written sideways. Above, an old train carriage from the 19th Century, painted in grey, is used as a large sculpture with five gigantic red ants crawling the carriage. The “Blue Moon” beer logo can also be painted on the carriage. In front, you can see advertisements of tv programmes and movies from the Disney channel.
The first two stalls you’ll see is a Gentleman’s Barista, a coffee shop and a stall selling focaccia situated outside the venue. Once you’re outside the trendy Vinegar Yard food and drinks venue, sign in at the door as you can’t just go in. Once you’ve sign in, the door staff will take you to your seat, and order through the QR code sticker on the tables. This will enable you to browse the menus and order from your phone, and they’ll bring your food and drinks to your tables.
The large white tent covers 50 long benches enough for 6 people to sit. Beams of lights above the tent can be seen to make the room lighter. Nik’s Kitchen food stall is painted in bright orange and black serving bao buns, dumplings, curries and curry laksas. On the side, a bricked wall painted in black and white has the “Buns and Balls” font serving hand pressed burgers and croquettes. A colourful yellow, orange, and pink petrol barrels sits used as decorations. In the corner, a stall serving alcoholic beverages can be found alongside a bright neon pink stall signage says “Baba G bhangra burger”. Babi G serves Delhi burger, Thai chicken and chips, Thai chicken burger and more.
That’s not all, the venue is larger than you think. A door leading to a dark area looks artistic and intimate. Its yellow painted walls consists of a large bar, a sofa and bar seating area to drink, and a chandelier. A spiral metal staircase leads upstairs to Abigail’s cocktail bar. The cocktail bar seems like a secret place, because as soon as you’re upstairs, you’d be entering what seems like a metal cage with curtains as its entrance. You will also find igloo areas upstairs for food and drinks. A large monkey ornament made of metal dangles above you, but I didn’t explore upstairs. This place looks artistic and unique. There was no one serving when I visited, it was only an area where people sit and socialise. It’s very peaceful during the day, maybe it will come lively at night. You can also buy burger and chips in this area too.
Insider Tips: Since COVID, we are reducing the way we pay by cash, so don’t worry if you don’t have cash in hand. They prefer it if you paid by card, but we still accept cash in most retail and hospitality outlets. If you’re a little old fashioned like me, you can bring some extra cash with you, just in case. If you’re out to specifically eat, then bring at least £15 in cash per adult. Most places do still accept cash, some only accept card payments, and order through the app in some bigger places.
Vinegar Yard’s menus range from £3 pounds for fries to £6 to £12 for medium to large meals such as pizza and burgers. The venue mainly serve dirty fast food, pints of draught beer as well as soft drinks. These will cost you around £4 – £5 per pints, not much difference from pubs around London. You can also check out their website (link) for more information on the menu and the types of food they serve. Before COVID, Vinegar Market was always full of people socialising outdoors, but when I visited in December 2021, at around 1 pm, it was empty.
If you want to visit Vinegar Yard, visit during the day around lunch time as it gets very quiet. During weekends, especially Friday and Saturday nights, it can get overcrowded, and the service can be poor, hence, signing in to avoid overcrowding. I found during the day when it’s quiet, they still ask you to sign in, but I don’t agree with this as it’s quiet. I recommend booking an igloo in advanced on their website. It’s a great way to socialise in the heated igloos. If you want to avoid poor service, visit during the day to avoid weekend overcrowding. I found that there’s lots of spaces available in short notice on their website. Compared to Coppa Club Tower Bridge igloos, you’d have to book at least 3 months in advanced. It’s not much of a view in Vinegar Yard, unless you want to see trains rumbling past.
Vinegar Yard Flea Market
Next to Vinegar Yard, you’ll find a small colourful Vinegar Yard Flea Market consisting of vintage clothes, cashmere products made from Nepal, art, records, handmade products, candles, and many more. The simple bright yellow sign that says “Vinegar Yard” can be found above the entrance. The flea market is situated next to Vinegar Yard food and drink venue. Vintage clothes and colourful brick and bracks can be found by the entrance. It seems quirky, but don’t spend too long here. People usually browse for no more than half an hour. There are no more than 15 stalls, so it’s smaller than Camden Town and Portobello Market. That’s the beauty of this flea market, it’s intimate and not too crowded. Camden Town and Portobello Market are always full of crowds, but more choice. Once you finish browsing, you can explore Bermondsey Square Antiques Market further up.
As you go further up, you go through tunnels under bridges, tunnels that have been around since the 19th century. It seems so peaceful as you go through there, a contrast to the busy Borough Market and the South Bank area further up. You can also see it in the quality of the stones. Old, black, moldy, and spooky. You can tell there were shops that were previously in operation as some doors are boarded up and closed with shutters full of graffiti, the window glass already shattered. A lot of people take the tunnels for granted as they just pass through the tunnels without a care in the world, but when I look at the stones, I always think about how they could stand strong after 200 years. It shows London has been prosperous for hundreds of years.
As you go past, you’ll come across council estates; public housings built and owned by the local authority, and you’d be away from the tourist spots. You’ll also be surrounded by working-class residents and you’ll be walking under London Bridge’s train tracks. You could also hear the rumbling noises of the trains above.
As you go through the peaceful residential area, there’s also a hidden Whites Grounds Skate Parks, dark and peaceful. The skate park is full of colourful graffiti, and you can take photos for your Instagram feed or social media if you like. It’s free to go in. Walk a few steps more, you’ll see Tower Bridge over the River Thames that will lead you to the South Bank area. Click for more information on 31 Things to do in South Bank London.
Walk up, you’ll see several small independent shops built under 19th Century bricked archways under the train tracks. Some shops are closed during the weekend. Along this road, the shutters are painted in bright colours, from green, orange, bright blue with some graffiti. A quirky and trendy independent florist named Igloo Flowers can be found here, full of colourful flowers and plants, and trendy decorations for your garden. A great shop for your Instagram feed. A dark intimate yet trendy café can be found hidden at the back. The florist is longer than I thought. It’s as if you’ll find a hidden door when you visit a particular place. Very unexpected.
As you go up, you’ll still see crates, cardboard boxes, several commercial general waste bins full of rubbish in the black bin, wooden boards, and rubbish thrown by the side from fly-tippers. Although there are trendy shops, bars, and pubs, the area is not the cleanest of places. There are also car valets and car garages under the train tracks still in operation and many more.
Maltby Street Market
Five minutes away, you’ll see Maltby Street Market located in a small alleyway. It’s hidden between the bricked walls of these quiet residential flats. I was surprised to see that the market is hidden from view, as I imagined it’d be next to Borough Market. The Maltby Street market alleyway is crowded with people, a contrast to the quiet residential square. I found it hard to find the place since you won’t even notice it’s there, but once you go through it, there are many street-food stalls, gastro pubs, purveyors built under the train tracks. It’s not a long alleyway, but it’s an option to other street food markets out there.
Food from around the world can be found here. People standing, socialising by the entrances on both sides, and wooden seating areas where people sit as soon as they get their cardboard takeaway boxes. It’s very hard to find a seat though, as most people would just stand to eat and drink. A long queue can be found in front of all the stalls. It’s very hard to pass through considering it’s located in the alleyway. It can be cramped but as you look up, you’d be enclosed in different coloured flags of the world hung from one end of the apartment wall to the bricked wall under the train track. It’ll cover the sunlight as you walk through. I assume someone thought any random alleyway found near council estates could be a great location for Maltby Street Market to open. Their idea has been a great success as I see crowds of people walking to the market. It’s going strong. You can also see the view of the Shard nearby.
In conclusion, although there are so many trendy, quirky street food markets in and around London, the vibes are all the same, the people are all the same and the food comes from all over the world, and it’s always busy. The same can be said with antiques and vintage markets around Camden Town and Portobello Market. The only difference in vibes is the surrounding areas. Portobello Road Market has different coloured houses, mews, and Instagram-worthy areas, and Camden Town has punk/rock vibes, but that’s another topic for another day.