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Travel: Columbia Road Flower Markets

Plants Jul 31, 2013

A few weeks ago I spent a bit of time in London, and I was so happy to be back –  it definitely helped we visited in summer and had pretty good weather the whole time we were there. Although I’m well aware that London has its problems (I used to work in deepest darkest East End when I was living there and safety was always a major concern) in many ways something about the city is just so perfect, which has perhaps become more evident after living in Hong Kong (maybe you love somewhere more when you don’t live there?). For one, I couldn’t stop gaping at the beautiful buildings and the quaint streets, something I barely noticed a few years go – it seems Hong Kong’s bad architecture has put a rosy glow on even the worst tower block! I was so happy to be able to relive my favourite Sunday activity – breakfast and wandering through Columbia Road Flower Markets in the East End. Here are a few of the pics I took, and at the bottom I’ve shared a few of my thoughts if you ever plan on going (mainly remembered from when I was living there), feel free to chime in with any extra tips you have!

  • Go Early (or late): The ambiance at the markets is perfect around 10am – when most of the hipsters are still tucked up in bed and you can get a coffee without waiting for an hour. That said, if you want to score some bargain basement florals, closer to three will bag you ‘two bunches for a five-ah’.
  • Shop up a storm: The stores along Columbia Road partially hidden by the flower stalls are great for homewares and handmade pieces. My favourite has to be Ryantown, the store of the amazing artist Rob Ryan, I also loved Elphick’s for gorgeous art and prints, bought nibbles at Suck and Chew, pined over the ceramics in Nom and pondered florals and prints at Vintage Heaven.
  • People Watch: By far the most interesting part of the markets is the people that work in the stalls. Almost all the vendors are East London geezers, the types of people who’ve been doing that job their whole lives – just watching and listening to the banter is worth the trek across town. All I can say is don’t expect sweet nothings along with your flowers!
  • Be fed and watered: Feeling peckish? Stop in for breakfast or lunch at The Royal Oak, or nip around the back for a coffee and a bagel. I’ve heard that Brawn is very good, and know from experience that Campania Gastronomica is delicious. So many options!
  • Discover the side streets: Wander down the centre of the market and then cut left, hitting the backstreets of Columbia Road. Here you’ll find breakfast joints and smaller stores perfect for rummaging.
  • Make it part of a larger journey: Sunday is a great opportunity to do the east end rounds, hitting the flower markets and then wandering down to Brick Lane pottering in the vintage stores and eating in Truman Breweries. Oh London how I miss you!

Make sure you visit the Hong Kong Flower Markets if you ever get a chance.

Tags Collaborations Flower markets London travel

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