You walk between market stalls, eyes darting to and fro (as if watching a tennis match) whilst you try to judge the gourmet produce and watch your step at the same time. It’s a dangerous one-step, stop, two-step, stop, shuffle. You were smart enough to arrive early, but as 10:30am approaches on a Saturday morning the market become an increasingly claustrophobic crush of humanity. Babies squeal, shoppers amble past with bagfuls of vegetables and a galaxy of scents enter your nose as locals and tourists alike hurry to bargain with traders for the finest truffle oils.
Borough Market, London’s oldest market with roots in 13th Century, is a busy congregation of stalls offering artisanal nibbles, exotic ingredients, gourmet British produce and international cuisines. If food is your thing it is THE place to go, and seeing as food is everybody’s thing (except for that lady who claims to live off energy from the sun), I thought why not share my best TIPS for getting the MOST out of Borough Markets. There is ONE TIP in particular that I have found a foolproof way of ensuring you get the most freebies and have the most fulfilling time, which I shall teasingly leave until the end.
Let’s get started.
TIP #9: VISIT DURING QUIET(ER) HOURS
Borough Market is open Monday – Saturday from 10:00am – 5:00pm. However, some stalls are only open Wed – Sat, and on Saturday mornings the markets start at a blissful 8:00am. If you can only get down on a Saturday, I assertively demand that you arrive as early as possible to avoid a mosh-pit experience. If you can make it on a weekday afternoon (after lunchtime), even better.
TIP #8: BRING A CLOTH / REUSABLE SHOPPING BAG
If you plan on buying some goodies, a flimsy plastic bag ain’t going to cut it. Bring something trustworthy.
TIP #7: DON’T EAT / DRINK TOO MUCH BEFOREHAND
You will want to go with an empty stomach and un-stimulated brain, ready to indulge in some quality goodness.
TIP #6: WANDER AROUND FIRST
Before diving into the thrill-seeking, capitalist pleasure of purchasing, make sure to explore the entirety of the market. Take your time and try not to get overwhelmed by everything going on. The trading area is huge, and you don’t want to be left with buyer’s remorse wishing you had bought that jar of sumac instead of the mushroom pate.
TIP #5: BUY NOVELTIES YOU CAN’T GET ELSEWHERE
If you can get it at Tesco, rethink your decision. Go on, get something exotic.
TIP #4: ASK PERMISSION BEFORE TAKING PHOTOS OF A TRADER’S PRODUCE
Most will be happy to let you, but some can be arsey if you’re snapping away in front of them with no clear wish to purchase anything.
TIP #3: SHARE YO FOOD
If with others, try and share the food you get to eat so you can taste as much as possible. It’s all delicious, why stick with one dish?
TIP #2: DON’T BE AFRAID TO HAGGLE
Yes, you are in Britain, not Morocco – but it is a market after all.
READY FOR MY FINAL TIP?
THE #1 TIP THAT WILL ENSURE YOU HAVE A GOOD TIME, GET THE MOST FREEBIES AND HAVE THE MOST PLEASANT INTERACTIONS WITH THE TRADERS?
A GENUINELY USEFUL (IF NOT THE MOST REALISTIC) PIECE OF ADVICE ON THE BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE BOROUGH MARKETS?
YOU ASKED FOR IT…
MY NUMBER #1 TIP IS…
GO WITH A FARMER.
Honestly. Before my first visit to Borough Market I was lucky enough to befriend Margaret, a friendly fellow Aussie from my hostel who was also keen to visit. Little did I know she came from a true-blue farming family, and turned out to be the best companion whilst scouring market stalls.
Every stall we went to – be it cheese, meat, oil or otherwise – she would chat up the trader, digging deep into their enthusiasm by asking about the specifics of their produce.
Every stall-holder loved her knowledge and respect of their craft. Every stall-holder gave us more free nibbles of food than anyone else. Every interaction with stall-holders left both parties smiling. It was incredible. I’ve never eaten more pate or bathed my taste buds in more oils in my life.
If you don’t have a farmer friend to accompany you to Borough Market, GO FIND ONE.
If not, you’ll still have a grand time if you follow the tips above. You might not get as many freebies, but you also won’t be dragged into a 25 minute conversation about the specifics of Edam cheese manufacturing.
HAPPY MARKET-ING EVERYBODY! Go stuff yourself with some goodies.
Thanks for reading!