To a lot of people, the gentrification of East London has been a wonderful thing: you can always source almond milk; there are an abundance of ridiculously hipster coffee shops and no matter what you roll out of bed wearing, you'll always pass someone on the street that looks more ridiculous than you. There is even a shop in Dalston that sells cacti. Yep, just cacti. Appropriately, it's called 'prick'.
Yet, it is not without its downsides. Putting aside the fact that if we started saving for a deposit now, we may be able to afford a house sometime in 2040, East London often feels like it's lacking, well, East Londoners. In fact, you have to search pretty hard amongst the streets of Hackney or Bethnal Green to catch that famous Cockney twang.
Market stalls may well be the exception to this, and no more is this true than along Columbia Road on a Sunday morning.
"A pound a bunch - I'm practicaly givin' 'em away!"
"Alright darlin', howsabout some purdy roses fo' a purdy lady?"
(If you read that like you're an extra in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it might come out right!)
In a borough of London that lost the fight against change many years ago, Columbia Flower Market has only grown since its humble beginnings more than a century ago. Visited by local residents and tourists alike, it's absolutely one of our favourite places to visit on a sunny summer morning.
And whilst you will struggle to leave without at least a couple of bunches of flowers, that is by no means the only attraction. Columbia Road, and the small side streets surrounding it, are home to wonderful vintage bric-a-brac and clothes stores, antique dealers, quirky coffee shops, delicatessens, bakeries, restaurants and more live street performers than you can shake a stem at - certainly enough to keep you occupied until long after the traders have packed up!
some of our favourites
Vintage steals: Vintage Heaven at No 82 and The Yard on Ezra Street both have excellent vintage finds.
Deli: Jones Dairy on Ezra Street. And try not to buy everything...
The best coffee: Gwilym Davies’ Coffee Cart. This guy won the UK barista award, so he knows his coffee!
People watching: Ezra Street - if it's sunny, hang-out kerbside with a coffee. There's always a busker or two as well.
Snacks: Café Columbia. Go. Eat a bagel. Thank us later.
things to know
Columbia Road Flower Market is fabulous - but unfortunately the world and his wife know about it. It's listed in countless alternative things to do in London articles and most locals go there at least a few times a year - some weekly. This means that it gets exceedingly busy, especially on days when the sun comes out to play. In order to avoid the worst of the crowds, try and arrive when the market is opening up, or if you fancy a bargain, in the afternoon. There will still be plenty of flowers around but it's significantly quieter.
If you decide to brave the crowds do be warned that between the stalls it can feel a little claustrophobic, and makes carrying anything large sometimes very difficult.
If you're coming here specifically for flowers, don't be afraid to shop around. A lot of the stalls have the same varieties but some may be better quality (or a little cheaper, depending on which is more important to you) than others. Additionally, don't be afraid to barter if you're buying in bulk. These traders know the importance of getting a good deal - however, they will suffer no fools!
And, don't forget to bring cash. Some stalls have handheld machines to accept debit card payments but that should not be relied upon. There is an ATM nearby but it charges around £2 per transaction.
Transport connections: Nearest Overground stops are Hoxton and Shoreditch High Street (that's the orange one on the map); from either it's a 5-10 minute walk. Be sure to look out for some of the cool street art dotted around!
Address: Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG
Opening Hours: Every Sunday 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.