If you find yourself staying in or visiting the thronging financial district that’s the UK capital’s ‘City’ (or ‘Square Mile’), then you’ll be truly spoilt for choice by the retail options very nearby or just a short hop away on the Tube. Some of which are within walking distance, in fact, of the globally-renowned Shard building, which offers a terrific way to view London’s architectural majesty in all its glory…
(2-10 Bethnal Green Road E1 6GY/ open 11am-11pm Monday-Sunday; 12noon-10pm Sunday)
If you fancy trying something a little different, nay a little off-kilter, then this venue’s the place for you. Boxpark is very Shoreditch and it’s also very good, being made up of refitted shipping containers that are strikingly located in The Goodsyard, a 4.7-hectare space beneath the arches of the area’s elevated railway station. This ‘world’s first pop-up mall’, as it likes to call itself, is full to brimming with dynamic fashion outlets like Marshall, Evisu, Wandering Minds and the Scandi-cool Hasbeens and Nordic poetry, as well as jewellery specialists Astrid & Miyu, boutique home-and-garden outfit Decorum and perfumery Diptique. You can also get a bite to eat here, thanks to the quality eateries that are Bukowski, Cottons Rhum Shack and Dum Dums Donutterie, all of which serve up highly tasty offerings all day (and evening) long.
Brick Lane Market
(91 Brick Lane Road E1 6QR/ open 11am-6pm Saturday; 10am-5pm Sunday)
An unreconstructed icon of the East End, this destination – made famous around the world thanks to the novel by hip London author Zadie Smith – is actually made up of a number of different markets that open and sell their wares in all the colourful, aromatic and cultural vibrancy one would expect of this multicultural district of the capital. Brick Lane then is definitely where to head for fruit and veg, household goods and tools; plus, charming ‘unofficial’ items such as dodgy DVDs, electronic goods and, yes, the odd broken doll or two. But diversity’s supplied thanks to bric-a-brac traders combining with indie clothing pop-ups, while the must-see has to be the Sunday UpMarket to be found in the Old Truman Brewery building; yes, it’s full of hipsters, but also locals as they browse through the vintage and retro items on sale, including new designers’ craft-ware and awesome artisan food stalls, which cover the whole gamut of global cuisine.
(Gracechurch Street EC3V 1LT/ open 10am-6pm Monday-Friday)
A hugely atmospheric and, frankly, cool place to drop your shopping moves right in the heart of the City of London (and so perfect if you’re staying at London Suites Montcalm), this covered market that’s a favourite haunt of The City’s workers come lunchtime and the end of the day for all the laid-back and trendy restaurants, bars, pubs and eateries that line its different sides, will be immediately recognisable to ‘Potterheads’. Why? Because it was used to double in the blockbuster movie series based on the hugely popular novels by J. K. Rowley for the London-located magical Diagon Alley. Its grand Victorian era building was constructed in 1881 by the same chap, Horace Jones, who built the particularly eye-catching Smithfields meat market (which itself isn’t that far away). Of particular note is its magnificent vaulted ceiling with the brightly painted wrought iron beams – frankly, it’s worth visiting for that alone.
(1 Battle Bridge Lane SE1 2HD/ open 5am-midnight daily)
Something of an all-round leisure destination just down the road from London Bridge (the train and Tube stations, as well as the bridge itself) and a little way back from the South Bank, Hay’s Galleria is a hugely appealing arcade featuring an impressive modernist glass roof (which was a one-time wharf used for cold storage of goods in the late Victorian age and a site that originated as a brewhouse back in the 17th Century). Its claim to fame today, however, are the exquisite arts and crafts stalls that mingle for attention with high-street chain-store outlets, while food-and-drink options are provided by branches of the popular Café Rouge, Balls Brothers and Auberge restaurants. Downstairs there’s a luxury swimming and gym venue, while eyes are always drawn to David Kemp’s kinetic sculpture, The Navigators – all fountains, water jets and moving parts, which are bound to beguile little ones – while you’ll also discover a Christmas shop that, yes, is open all-year-round.
(E8 4PH/ open 9am-5pm Saturday)
Another must-visit venue for aspiring trendsetters (and those who are curious just to check out what all the fuss is about while on one of those London weekend breaks), this Hackney-based Saturday-only market is a sort of cool, lesser heralded (and less busy!) alternative to Borough Market on the other side of the Thames. The stalls here vend everything from delicious grilled burgers to exotic Vietnamese coffee and irresistible seasonal cupcakes to tasty-as-anything Damascene falafel wraps. It’s also ideal for stocking up on spices, cheeses, breads and olives; all the tasty morsels that add terrific flavour to any meal or snack. Yet that’s not all, between all the quaint eateries, old-school pubs and independent record shops on either side of the street, you’ll also come across stalls offering a cornucopia of vintage clobber, retro tidbits, flowers and crafts.
Mercato Metropolitano London
(42 Newington Causeway SE1 6DR/ open 8am-11pm Monday-Friday; 10am-11pm Saturday; 11am-10pm Sunday)
A street food market with a bit of a difference, this 45,000-sqft space just around the corner from Elephant & Castle Tube station really is worth the effort, thanks to being home all the week to a fine blend of Italian and London-local artisan producers – among their number’s even supposed to be Naples’ greatest pizza maker (and who could resist that? Everyone loves pizza, right?). But also on the menu here is excellent barbecued meat offerings, ice-cream aplenty courtesy of a gelataria and other outlets providing everything from smoked turkey club sandwiches to ice-cream milkshakes. And for those who fancy whetting their whistle come the evening, you’ll bound to be taken by the on-site micro-brewery. Mine’s a pint!