(To see a video I put together of Borough Market, click the image at the bottom of this article.)
For diehard foodies, there is no place in London more exhilarating than Borough Market. And yes, that includes the food stalls at Harrod’s and Fortnum and Mason. While those upscale department stores’ food aisles are certainly impressive for their opulence, they don’t offer the kind of participatory experience of dealing directly with the vendors to ask specific questions about their wares and, most important, to sample them.
The market operates only Thursday through Saturday, under the railway arches in Southwark, with 160 vendors selling all matter of comestibles. You’ll find fresh eggs from chickens and ducks; butchers rendering beef and pork; fresh fish and oysters and lobsters; bakers with breads and muffins and cakes; chocolatiers and candymakers; cheesemongers; rows and rows of fresh produce; wines; oils; spices; fresh herbs; and among them are dozens of merchants selling prepared foods, sandwiches and quiches and meat pies. In addition, the market is ringed by full-time shops and merchants, including an outpost of the venerable Neal’s Yard Dairy, renown for its Stilton cheese.
It’s easy to find yourself here for two or three hours before you realize the time has passed. And it’s hard not to leave with an armload of goods that if you’re staying in a hotel without a refrigerator to keep them will no doubt spoil before you can consume them, but you just don’t care because you must have them.
There has been a market on the south bank of the Thames since the Romans built the first London bridge. In fact, it’s speculated that in those early times the tradesmen sold their wares on the bridge itself, and since the easiest way to get animals to market then was under the beasts’ own power, there would have been pens of live animals obstructing the way.
Borough Market has been in its current spot for the past 250 years. It’s just a few blocks from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. You can cross the river over the Millennium Bridge footpath, down from St. Paul’s Cathedral, or over the Southwark Bridge. Follow the tower of Southwark Cathedral; the market is next to it.
For a feel of what Borough Market is like, click the image below to view the video. For more information, visit the Borough Market Web site.