Columbia Road Market

Having offered to help a freshly relocated friend to revamp his small garden, I had the perfect reason visit the Sunday morning Columbia Road flower market in East London and I could hardly wait. An old London tradition, every Sunday from 8.00 am to 3ish, Columbia Road morphs into a vibrant street market selling cut flowers, plants, herbs, shrubs and trees  – it’s like an enormous garden centre in the street, each stall with it’s own specialisation.

Blue Campanula at Columbia Road
Stunning Blue Campanula at Columbia Road Market
We set off early, to avoid the midday throngs, on a warm late July London morning and arrived on a pleasantly buzzy but not yet crowded Columbia Road. We were greeted by this blossoming market with a dazzling display of brilliant colour – a feast for the eyes. 

Sunday morning flower market
Columbia Road

More than Flowers: Apart from the flora, there is much to commend this charming market. The little side streets are packed with cafes and courtyards and even more outdoor markets. We headed straight for Ezra Street for coffees and bagels at Samoan Joes, which we enjoyed sitting in the charming little courtyard. Outside a jazz duo bedazzled the coffee drinkers in the square – little kids were dancing everywhere.

Sunday Flower market
Sunday Flower market Columbia Road

Just opposite is the famed Jones Dairy Café, now with a restaurant attached. Down to the left, we stumbled upon yet another court yard, full of independent stalls selling books, ceramics, copperware as well as food stalls selling delicious looking salamis and cheeses, breads, olives and oils, chutneys, sauces and jams.


Cut flowers at Columbia Road Market
Freshly cut flowers at Columbia Road Market

With 60 plus independent shops dotted all around the flower market, there is something here for everyone. Columbia Pottery has beautiful plant containers, Milagros has stunning Mexican glassware and tiles in vibrant colours. L’Orangerie is great for fashion jewellery and accessories, Angela Flanders for perfume, futuristic maps of London from The Future Mapping Company, antiques from Ben Southgate and many other dealers, prints from Elphick’s and lots of vintage fashion and retro accessories. 

Back to the plants: You can get most everything you need here to do with flowers and plants. There is an excellent choice of cut flowers, at very reasonable prices and they stay fresh for ages. You have access to wide selection of shrubs, young trees, indoor plants, bedding plants, annuals, fuchsias, camellias, rhododendrons – all in one place. Also, there are specialist herb stalls where you can buy every possible variety of herbs in varying sizes.
Pearly King & Queen, East London
Pearly King & Queen at Columbia Road

Having purchased all we needed, we prepared to leave around midday as the crowds had begun to arrive in force, but not before meeting the Pearly King and Queen in buttons bright!

After midday, the market tends to get very busy. But that said, the later you leave it, the better the bargains! We obviously left too early as I found out when I tried my own hand at bargaining for my two herb plants.
‘What’s your best price’ I asked the stall holder.
‘Eleventy pence’, was the instant retort.
‘Haha very funny – no really what’s your best price?’
‘Ok you can give me a £7.50!’
Me, shocked – ‘What? But they only cost £2.50 each?
‘Ok – you can give me a fiver!’ It turns out he had been running a stall here on Columbia Road now for 55 years – there ain’t much he hasn’t heard.
Haven’t had so much fun in ages!

Now – anyone else in need of a garden make over?