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Markets have been a part of London life for centuries, a place to buy food and catch up on the local gossip. Today you will still find many thriving markets across the city, offering everything from local produce and clothes old and new, to arts and antiques.

Portobello Market claims to be the world's largest antiques market, winding its way through the West London area of Notting Hill. Although in reality, it is five different markets, by far the biggest is that selling antiques. The busiest day is Saturday when it is best to do your browsing before 11 am, although Fridays are becoming increasingly popular.


If culinary exploration is more up your street, then Borough Market nestled next to Southwark Cathedral is a must. Although there has been a market here since the 12th century, the present buildings date back to the 1850s, and are home to specialist food suppliers and a dazzling array of street food. So, come hungry.

Very close by is another weekend food lover's destination. Tucked away under the railway arches, are the food stalls and shops of Maltby Street Market.

A little further south is Greenwich Market, the only market set within a World Heritage site. Open seven days a week it is one of London's best markets for arts and crafts, unique gifts and collectables.

Over in East London you will find Old Spitalfields Market which dates back to 1638 when King Charles gave permission for 'flesh, fowl and root' to be sold in the Spittle Field. Nowadays, it is a market dedicated to fashion and crafts, both vintage and contemporary.

Another must for the dedicated follower of fashion has to be Camden Market in North London, a sprawling muddle of a market that stretches along the canal and extends into the old stables that used to house the 700 plus horses that worked at the Camden Goods Depot back in the 19th century.  As you would expect with an area now synonymous with the music scene, this is a treasure trove of street fashion.

Finally, knowledge of the London markets would be complete without a mention of the big three; Smithfield Market (meat), Billingsgate Market (fish), New Covent Garden Market (fruit and veg). Collectively these markets have fed Londoners for centuries.

For the seriously curious, or incurable insomniacs, all three offer guided tours, but a word of warning, they are bustling, working markets and the tours start very, very early - though they do offer a completely unique experience that few will share.