When searching for ‘things to do’ in London quite often days out revolve around food and drink, and if not they are a tourist hub and can quite often be pretty expensive! Living in London means that you don’t always fancy visiting the big museums, or trekking into the centre of the city if you have a quiet weekend free. Sometimes I simply prefer to find something local that is a genuine and memorable day out without any fuss. (That is not to say that I do not enjoy the cultural wonders that London has to offer – many of the museums and art galleries are indeed on the top of my ‘to do’ list.)
However, I know that if I have had a long week at work then I want to balance my weekend with putting my feet up as well as popping out at some point for a little spot of… ‘something’.
But what is that ‘something’ in London, that isn’t a restaurant, bar, or museum?
Instead of paying for an exhibition, or going for brunch in town, I sometimes like going to places where I can wander around and soak up the atmosphere. A recent discovery, and now one of my absolute favourite places to spend the morning is the Colombia Road Flower Market near Bethnal Green Station.
Only a 10-15 minute walk from the tube, this small flower market and Victorian street is the epitome of a local day out. There are tourists, like any area you visit in the capital, however it is based on a local culture going back all the way to the 1860’s. Over the last 50 years the market has grown into one of international repute and today many independent, knick-knack shops complement it, turning the area into a unique and quaint shopping experience.
I visited this gem on a cold February winter morning, yet the bitter and crisp air did not stop the barrow boys’ enthusiastic chanting. With one of this year’s first bright blue skies the market had a positive and cheerful buzz about it. It really was that ‘something’ I was looking for.
Lining the street of Colombia Road are pitches selling every type of flower, cactus, tree and shrub that you can imagine from roses, tulips and sunflowers, to lemon trees, cheese plants and bulbs. Locals and tourists alike are walking down the street arms and bags full of flowers that they have bought at a ridiculously cheap price and everyone there is smiling – flowers really do have that effect people!
In addition, there are also sixty independent shops that sell everything from homemade cakes and croissants, vintage home décor, art and a multitude of vases. You suddenly find yourself wondering whether an old street sign will look good in your modern flat, or whether milk carton vases could be used for serving smoothies, or even whether a metal bucket would be a great place to store kitchen utensils. I seriously had to refrain from all the little ‘bits and bobs’ that were on offer for a price that would sky rocket if they were sold in the same shop on the Kings Road.
There are pubs, cafes and delis in and amongst the shops and market, that are all there to celebrate the historical market that is part of the community in this East London borough.
All around people are clutching hot chocolates, with the sound of a local 3-piece band playing and ‘three for a tenner’ ringing in the air.
Now that I know I am guaranteed a good deal at the market and that I’ll come home laden with gorgeous, brightly coloured flowers, I fear that this will be a regular weekend hangout for me, and that my flat will now become a haven of all things floral!
It really is worth a visit wherever you are based in London, in fact it is a MUST. It runs every Sunday from 8am to about 3pm (ish) come rain, wind or shine! Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Spitalfields all nearby if you want to make a day of heading to the East Side!