Alluring and intriguing sights, sounds and smells… historic and bustling Borough Market in London’s Southwark district has them all, and more. It’s the biggest food market I’ve ever seen, part farmers’ market, part international food court, and 100% foodie. Arguably the oldest market in London, Borough Market dates back to Roman times and has a 1000-year tradition of being a central hub for commerce and comestibles as well as a place for the community to gather. It remains so today.
The market has ebbed and flowed with the times, political influences, cultural norms and traffic patterns, and has had various structural incarnations throughout the years. Today’s beautiful iron market hall (shown above) was erected back in 1862, and the iconic art deco entrance dates back to the 1930s.
Borough Market is now a non-profit, describing itself on the web as “a historic market in central London with an emphasis on high quality food, sustainable production and social connection”. The charity is run by a board of volunteer trustees on behalf of their stakeholders: “the community, vendors, “shoppers, our traders, our neighbours, and all the other people whose lives we might affect”. The market’s rich history is preserved and balanced with a forward-looking, innovative outlook that will keep the market fresh and relevant for the foreseeable future. You can read more about it on their website here.
My Borough Market Backstory
I found Borough Market on a Saturday in late January during a business trip, between meetings in the UK the first week and France the second week. Saturday was a free day before traveling on the Eurostar from London to Paris on Sunday, and I checked Google maps to see if there was a market nearby. Farmers’ markets are a Saturday thing in our family, wherever we go, and I’ve blogged about them a few times here. I knew I would feel connected to family far and wide if I went to a farmers’ market, and I thought I might find something worthy of bringing them back to. (Hint: I was right on both counts.)
Borough Market was just a 20-minute walk from my hotel near St. Paul’s Cathedral, so I set out on foot, but only after enjoying one of those iconic London hotel breakfast buffets.
You know the kind of weekend hotel breakfast buffet I mean, where the food is so varied and bounteous you can get tired just perusing all of it, where your first hot dish is cold by the time you load up the last one. The kind where you can’t decide so you just eat it all… There was fresh fruit of all kinds, yogurt, cereals, granola, honey, nuts, dried fruit and juices. Coffee machines steamed out espresso, Americano, cappuccino and hot water for tea. Hot dishes included omelets made to order, scrambled and poached eggs, sausage, streaky bacon and golden hash browns. And, because it was England, there was black pudding, grilled mushrooms, beans and broiled tomatoes. Bread choices were vast: croissants, sliced wheat and white bread, rolls, pastries, baguettes, donuts and danishes. Sliced meats like prosciutto and ham and cheeses like havarti and brie were served alongside smoked salmon and trout, cornichons, crackers and various mustards. The breakfast was paid for as part of the room rate, so of course I dove in.
Needless to say, I was full when I left breakfast and glad for the brisk walk ahead of me. If I had know what Borough Market had to offer, I would have skipped breakfast altogether and created my own breakfast, or a picnic lunch. Next time! And, Dear Readers, that next time is soon, as the Grill-Meister and I are about to embark upon a UK vacation to celebrate our 15th anniversary. Woohoo!!! Borough Market in London is date!
Take as Stroll with Me Through the Market
Although I was “full to burstin'” as my paternal grandmother used to say, my eyes were hungry for all the market had to show off, and I snapped over 300 pictures on that chilly January morning. Share the memories with me now as I walk you through the market’s delights. It’s a feast for the eyes!
There are cheeses galore. Borough Market is the mother of all cheese shops. And the father, uncle, aunt, cousin and downstairs neighbor, too. I think there were at least ten cheese vendors, each of them completely compelling with their artful “don’t you want me” displays and uber-friendly purveyors.
There are traditional farmers’ market offering of fruits and vegetables, looking their finest.
There are sausages and eggs (and other meats, just no pics.)
There are condiments of all kinds, seasonings, honeys and spreads. I wanted to buy an extra suitcase and fill it with these sundry delights to enjoy back home at Glover Gardens.
There are breads of every kind, and the smell of yeast is everywhere, calling out to you to grab a loaf or three.
Olives, pasta and truffles add to the gourmet foodstuffs on offer.
There are vendors selling items other than food at the market, too, but I only captured the beautiful and fragrant lavender.
There are numerous takeaway shops providing an amazing array of international choices for your eating pleasure.
Market patrons sit on the ground to eat, or on stands in the market, or picnic nearby.
Borough Market is in Our Future
The Grill-Meister and I will trek to the market on our last day of the trip in a couple of weeks and gather goods for a picnic nearby. But how to decide on what our feast should be????
Stay tuned for the summer 2023 Borough Market update.
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