on April 23, 2011
Sometimes at weekends my partner and I pop up to Old Spitalfields Market and have a mooch about. The area is on the Eastern side of Central London, just a few minutes walk from Liverpool Street tube and mainline stations. There has been a market on this site since the mid Seventeenth Century. Sunday is the best day to go (closed Saturday) for general browsing, as then all the stalls and shops are open. This is the day I usually go, but if you are interested in antiques then Thursday is the best day to go. Because of the proximity of the city, the area has been gentrified and there are lots of coffee shops, upmarket chain restaurants and some pricey shops. To be honest I don't really visit for the shops or chains, but to see the eclectic mix of stalls in the market. Fruit & veg are not sold here, they are at New Spitalfields Market, which is further out towards Leyton. The market area is undercover and has two sections to it, to be honest I don't know if there is any particular difference to either side, as both seem to offer a good mix of products – both handmade and imported,, although one is bigger than the other, I think this is the original side. I checked on line, and it seems the newer side maybe more Arts & Crafts type items, but I have bought art from both sides, so I don't believe there is an 'offical' delneation.FASHION & ACCESSORIESThere are quite a few stalls for fashionistas. Some sell vintage goods, some sell 'recycled' clothes like a range of outfits made from old ties (featured in The Apprentice). Some sell printed slogan T-shirts, original lingerie and there is also sometimes a unique range of baby outfits and accessories. Personally I like the ones that sell quirky scarves and pashminas, but I have to say that I have not yet purchased any fashion items as I have found them a bit pricey, and not always to my taste. This is a good place to come if you like original clothing that is a bit different, but this is not the sort of market where you will get anything uber-cheap. There are also a few jewellery stalls – some are selling second hand goods, some sell original silver pieces designed by themselves and there are some very tasteful pieces. There are also a number of stalls selling watches, usually plastic fashion watches though. According to the website, Friday is the 'Fashion' day at Old Spitalfields, but never having visited on this date I cannot comment. FOODAs well as a pub and some chain restaurants (Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Giraffe etc) within the newer part of the market, there are also smaller establishments selling take away foods items. On the bigger side there are a number of food stalls selling mainly ethnic dishes to eat, as well as 'deli' type stalls selling olives, nuts or sweets and an oyster stall. There are also a number of restaurant just outside the market perimeter, and a short walk up Kingsland Road (A10) towards Old Street brings you to a run of Vietnamese restaurants . ARTThis is my favourite category. People sell original art and photographs of various sizes. One of my favourite stalls in that of Tina Maas, who sells a range of photos from her travels, London scenes and colourful photosquares. The latter show food, household items at unusual angles, and scenes by colour from which you can make an unique collection of small images. These are priced at about £7 each. Another artist my boyfriend quite liked was Jenny Rose who produced some original digital collages. Some artists produce heavy glass coasters and place mats with photos on, and some produce art in its more traditional forms. If you are looking for a contemporary and original piece of art for your home, then you may get lucky here. OTHER PIECESOther stalls vary, selling an assortment of goods. Here you can buy travel card holders or notebooks made from old maps., which I think look really good, if quite expensive. Some stalls sell general goods like beauty items or household goods, but with a quirky edge, and there are a few selling books and music. As I have said before, we usually go on Sundays, and you may see the same stalls as the previous Sunday, but you are always bound to notice something you missed on a previous visit and this is a good day to go to get the feel of the place. I have been mid-week many moons ago, but found the place lacking in atmosphere and uninspiring to shop. A market needs to be fairly bustling to get your interest I think! Sundays will be the busiest day, but the 'aisles' are generally a good distance apart and it is not so busy that you can't move. Sometimes you do have to be patient if a certain stall is busy and wander past it again later. The place is wheelchair and pushchair friendly, as it is completely flat. There are toilets here, but I don't think I have ever used them.
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