I love London markets, they are one of my favourite parts of living here. But today I discovered that I have been doing them entirely 100% wrong. I was asked by Camden Market to do an Instagram takeover which was really flattering. I am the girl who refused to join Instagram for so long because I thought it was going to be a flash in the pan trend (yeah, slightly wrong on that count), so to be asked to do a takeover was awesome. I made the rather radical choice to take a day off work and even went to the extent of deleting work emails off my phone (I will wait for you to get over your shock and pick yourself off the floor before I continue) so I could have an uninterrupted day in Camden.

I had been to Camden market in 2008 (on the ten year anniversary of the Spice World movie coming out on VHS in New Zealand, not relevant to this post but I thought it was worth a mention) on a Saturday at lunchtime. I made a half ditch attempt to crowd dodge before getting fed up and declaring it a lost cause (not before going to CyberDog because Mary-Kate and Ashley went there in one of their classic movies). The sea of humanity was just too much. But some very credible sources (Talonted Lex and Pack your Passport) have raved about Camden over the last few years so something in the back of my mind said maybe I ought to give it a second chance.

I was going to do something I had never done before, I planned to spend the entire day at a market. The plan was to start with breakfast at Cafe Loren (amazing menu full of shakshuka), wander round the market, work from the Interchange co working space and then visit Half Hitch gin distillery (because gin and also because gin distilled with tea). It was in the middle of this day that I realised exactly what I have been doing wrong when it comes to markets.

On a Friday morning Camden Market is super chilled out, most of the stalls have opened but by morning tea time the crowds are already starting to file in, mostly on the hunt for food. Somehow though, the crowds weren’t bothering me this time.

It really puzzled me for a while, but in between my third coffee for the day and a family sized helping of churros I realised why it this market experience was different. Normally I am on a time crunch, I have a target and I go from A to B to get to it. I am so busy trying to get to that stall that sells waffles, or that coffee van where the guy gives me a free flat white and a hug (connections are important), that any mere hint of humanity in my way sends me into a rage. I want to be in and out in a hour and eat all the samples possible.

But this time I was going to be here all day. I meandered. There was no rush to get somewhere and so people being in my way didn’t impact me in the slightest. I had the time to look at the stalls, investigate the food options (while managing to drop churro sugar all over my camera) and hang back and people watch for a bit.

Turns out when you treat a London market as an experience rather than a goal you actually have more fun [insert quote about smelling roses here].

It had never occurred to me to spend an entire day at a market, but I am really glad that I did.

Marché aux Oiseaux

Paris has some amazing markets; food, flea and flowers stretching as far as the eye can see. But there was one market that had always captured my imagination, Marché aux Oiseaux, the bird market. It takes place every Sunday just round the corner from Notre Dame and if you are worried about getting lost, you hear this market well before you see it.

On a cold rainy Sunday morning (I know, summer…sigh) I followed the original tweets to the street of birds. I guess it was what I expected, lots of small birds in tiny cages all crying out for attention. They were colourful little jewels on a grey day that were lovely to see (especially for a pet free expat). But that being said Marché aux Oiseaux didn’t really live up to my imagination.

In my head I was expecting the riot of colour like a flower market, a visual feast.  However because cruelty to animals is so 100 years ago, there weren’t the amount of birds to consider it remarkable.

My verdict is that if you are in the area on a Sunday it is well worth checking out, but its not worth making a special trip for.

Broadway Market

My sister has been raving about Broadway Markets since I arrived in the UK. But like the obstinate little sister that I am, it took me over a year to deign to visit.

It. Was. Amazing.

Unlike my normal weekend market (Borough), Broadway Market is more focused on ready to eat food – or at least ready to take away and then claim you cooked it when feeding friends for dinner. I chose to go for a delicious mince pie (I’m a Kiwi, get over it), followed by a chocolate and salted caramel whoopie pie AND a violet vanilla cupcake. Because, you know… one dessert is never enough.

I liked that the market was split up between school yards and streets, each with their own vibe. It meant that you could spend hours just meandering through them all. It was also a nice change seeing something other than food at one of these markets with clothes, books and antiques all making an appearance, and I got to indulge my magpie-like attraction to jewellery which is always a good/dangerous thing.

I highly recommend Broadway Market as a weekend destination – just make sure you go on an empty stomach.

Salmon at Broadway Market

Heart Tarts

Crowd at Broadway Market

Pigeon and Cheese Graffiti

Duke of York food stall

Yesterday I did something bad, real bad. I cheated on Borough Market.

For months now Borough Market and I have had a loving, regular and fulfilling relationship. We laughed, we ate cheese and we got free coffee. Times were good.

But then in a moment of weakness I did the unthinkable, I went to another market.

The Duke of York Square market takes place every Saturday from 10am-4pm – essentially it is a mini-version of Borough. There are some raw ingredients, but the majority are ready to eat bundles of tasty joy.

I would highly recommend a visit if you are going to the nearby Saatchi gallery which is less than a sneeze away.

Only slight warning I can give you is that Slone Square is a very ‘nose up’ area. So you will have yummy mummies and children called Tarquin the IV proclaiming over whoopie pies while you try to nab a free sample.

Brick Lane Art

The sun has finally returned to London. Weak and cold it may be, but it is the perfect excuse to rediscover Brick Lane.

There are three main reasons to go to Brick Lane on a Sunday:

1} You are hungry
2} You are hungover
3} You are in need of a London indie culture slap

Point the first. As well as the small stall holders and cafes on Brick Lane itself, there are markets dotted off either side. They are chocked full of independent food stalls – sushi, baking, curry, crepes, wraps, skewers and falafels galore. Everything is fresh, colourful and smells so damn good. Fair warning, around lunchtime it gets really crowded – but go with a full wallet, empty bladder and lots of patience and you will be fine.

Point the second. You can get super strong coffee and seriously cheap bagels on Brick Lane. The bagels are infamous, two stores meters apart selling salmon and cream cheese bagels for around £1.50. Hangover cure TICK.

And the last point/fair warning. Brick Lane is very ‘Shoredich’. It is full of so many Indie/alternative kids that you will feel like you forgot to wear the uniform. But if you feel at all insecure, just remember that their army jackets are from H&M, the frowns are because they are hungry and pop princess Miley Cyrus rocks the exact same shaved hairstyle.

This is without mentioning treasure trove vintage shops, the chance to buy from up and coming designers, some of the best (and ever changing) graffiti in London, hilarious buskers, a shop with cats, cool jewellery, loud music, chess competitions and epic crowd watching.

Next sunny Sunday, get amongst it.