Ask any Londoner and they will probably have heard about Columbia Road Flower Market. And there is good reason for this: every Sunday, this picturesque road in Hackney is piled high with seemingly every house and potted plant under the sun – every city dweller and millennial’s fantasy (see here for a highly probable theory as to why).
Not only is the variety on offer at Columbia Road astounding; many of the stall-holder’s prices are quite reasonable, and certainly competitive with larger plant sellers. For example, the plant that has become synonymous with 2018 – the Monstera deliciosa (aka theSwiss cheese plant) – retails for just £7 or £8 at most of the stalls where it is sold, in comparison to £15 at IKEA and £26.99 at Waitrose! Hence, not only are you saving money by visiting a market such as thing one, but you are doing your bit to support small businesses and sellers – the value of which is immeasurable in our increasingly corporate world in which large businesses often win custom due to their low prices.
Although the fresh flowers and plants lining the street are evidently the main attraction for the hundreds that visit the market each Sunday, the independent shops which are permanent residents of Columbia Road are certainly not to be missed. From the beautifully fronted In Bloom – piled high with pots of every shape and size for your market buys – to the sustainability-driven jewellery and homeware store Artisans & Adventurers, there is something for anyone and any occasion. I may well be popping back to do some Christmas shopping!
Top tips for the market:
- Arrive early.
The market can get incredibly busy, especially when the sun is out! I would recommend aiming to arrive at 9am, when sellers are due to be all set up and ready to start selling.
Not only will the atmosphere will be far more pleasant for browsing the wonders of the market before deciding what it is you want to buy, but you will have the opportunity to chat to the sellers, should you want to ask about the care of your plants/flowers, for example.
Arriving early also means you will be able work out which sellers offer exactly what you want (like a plant in a certain sized pot to fit into a pot you already have at home!) and, most importantly (at least for frugal students such as myself), which offer the best value for money! Evidently the sellers are in strict competition with one another and you as the customer are able to discern quite easily whether you are being ripped off or not, but it always feels good to grab a bargain, such as getting a plant at one stall for £1 less than you would have at another stall, since this means your bus fare might only have costed 50p!
Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to properly look round the gorgeous – but often tiny! – shops both on Columbia road and in the surrounding streets.
- Take your own reusable bag
This will not only cut down on plastic consumption (extra brownie points if you manage to get your flowers wrapped only in reusable brown paper/your plant not packaged in plastic), but it will also make it easier to safely get your plant babies home if you can carry them in a sturdy shoulder bag as opposed to in a plastic bag with those really inconvenient thin handles that won’t be easy to negotiate on the bus.
- Be sure to check out the vintage shops/stalls on the cobbles of Ezra Street
At the risk of further indulging the millennial stereotype, I do love a good flea market (even though I rarely buy anything at them). I would advise having a think beforehand if there is anything you are looking for in particular, like a vase/jug for flowers, or a little trinket dish, and then if you find that thing, brilliant. If not, there’s always next time! Only get something you love and know you will use to avoid wasting your money and accumulating clutter (something which I have been guilty of in the past – just ask my mum who has been begging me to ‘have a sort out’ for the last 3 years (at least)). On a serious note, sustainable living is very cool and should be embraced in every way possible.
- If you get peckish, pop into SITE
SITE is tiny little independent vegan cafe which sells VEGAN ALMOND CROISSANTS (among other delights such as, from memory, a double chocolate oreo cookie and spiced carrot cake). In my opinion that’s enough of a reason to visit Columbia Road in itself tbh. Also their default milk is oat milk, and I think that’s pretty awesome given all that has come to light about almond milk recently – check out this article if you don’t know what I’m talking about – guaranteed your mind will be blown.
If I hadn’t needed to head to the library so soon I would have loved to have gone to Hackney City Farm, which is just five minutes up the road from the market and open from 10am-4:30pm everyday. There are also so many vegan eateries I’ve always wanted to try within a 15-20 minutes walking distance from Columbia road. The ones I’m desperate to try are: Vida Bakery, The Gallery Cafe, Genesis, Antonio’s Kitchen and Love Shack.
In the meantime, here’s one last picture of me looking all happy after a lovely morning spent at the market. Until next time!