Be Charmed by an Eccentric London Market

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Head down to Columbia Road in Bethnal Green on a Sunday morning for the most colourful and fragrant shopping experience in London: the Columbia Road flower market.

As you make your way through the crowd of shoppers on the busy street, you’ll feel as if you are strolling through London’s finest garden, with countless stalls laid out like flowerbeds, creating a vibrant palette of colours. The excited shouts of vendors that pierce the air — “All bunches a fiver!” — and the sounds of customers haggling add the London market flair that make Columbia Road such a hit.

From tiny pots of pansies to two-foot-tall olive trees, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a pretty little thing to grace your garden or balcony. Locally grown plants, exotic decoratives and aromatic herbs tempt you from all sides. And with prices starting at just a couple of quid for a small plant, Sunday shopping is easy on your pocket.

Once you have picked your flowers, peek into one of the local shops, which are always open on Sundays. The traditional nineteenth century shop fronts are painted in pastel colours, and inside independent retailers and galleries await you. Forget about off-the-peg, mass-produced stuff. Designer and artisan goods dictate the fashion here, and you won’t get these wares anywhere else in town.

Exquisite vintage jewellery and apparel fill the shelves and displays at Glitterati, while at Future Vintage you will find pieces by today’s hottest designers at bargain prices. Pick colourful bowls and shabby-chic ethnic wares at Nom, then browse for bright, contemporary kitchenware and quirky utensils at Keeping House. The higher-end boutiques will tempt your friends who have an eye for luxury goods. Run your fingers over delicate paper at Choosing Keeping, which stocks the finest stationery products from around the globe. Then pop into Angela Flanders and let the crisp, natural fragrances transport you to exotic destinations. Angela has personally been mixing and creating the signature cosmetics and fragrances sold here since the mid-’80s.

To refuel, grab a table at one of the two eateries that sit side by side on the eastern side of this bustling London market. Spanish restaurant Laxeiro has been feeding Sunday shoppers since the early ’80s with hearty, meaty Iberian meals, and Campania Gastronomia serves freshly made pastas, pizzas and antipasti in a homey, countryside setting.

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