If you’re looking for something to do come Sunday brunch time, then you need look no further. Columbia Road Flower market has it all: budget friendly, chic, hip and pretty. Plus, it also happens to be where all the local Londoners hang out. From cut-price flowers to quirky little cafés, Columbia Road is the perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday. Besides, where else could you pick up two orchids for a fiver?
If you’ve ever visited central London, you’ll know that ‘London’ and budget don’t often appear in the same sentence! That’s why I was so thrilled to find somewhere where I could actually afford to buy the flowers…
Columbia road is not only home to a ton of flower stalls but other independent shops. Vintage clothing sits next to delicatessens and bookstores. In total, Columbia Road is home to around sixty independent shops. So by visiting, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you’re supporting local businesses and the local tourism industry!
History of the Flower Market at Columbia Road
So just how did this little street in Northeast London become the place to head to on a Sunday brunch time? Well, the market on Columbia Road was originally held on Saturday. However, as the local Jewish population grew, so did the demand for a market on Sunday. In Judaism, Saturday is the ‘Shabbat’ or ‘rest day’ and the seventh day of the week. As such, Saturday is a holy day and one of rest. In time, the market came to only be on a Sunday. This change of day was actually passed by an act of parliament.
During WWII, the market suffered as a result of strict food and produce rationing. It went into decline and by the 1960s, it was on the verge of closure. However, during the 1960s, new rules were introduced, forcing traders to attend the market on a regular basis. Columbia Road Flower Market was saved.
The architecture of the road is predominantly mid-Victorian. Most of the two-story houses that line the road were built in the 1860s. Below, the market in 1869 as taken from the Illustrated London News.
Columbia Road Flower Market is only held on Sundays (although some shops are open on other days of the week). The flower market runs between 8 AM and mid afternoon (depending on how quickly everything sells/ weather etc.)
If you head to the market early, you’ll have your pick of the best flowers and there will (hopefully) be fewer people around. You’ll have to trust me when I say that it was literally one of the busiest places I’ve ever been to. And yes, that includes all those times I was elbowed by tourists with their selfie sticks around the Mona Lisa!