Historic London Meets the Modern World at Borough Market

Posted on January 16th, 2011 by

Southwark Cathedral Over Borough Market

Consider Borough Market a feast for all senses. While the main draw is, naturally, the vast variety of food and drink, the sights and sounds of Londoners and tourists alike meandering the alleys and avenues of stalls is certainly something to behold. While not all smells are definitively pleasant, the alternating whiffs of cider, grilling meats, baking breads, pungent cheeses and ethnic foods of all varieties can be quite tantalizing. And the location (right by London Bridge and the beautiful, 1400-year-old Southwark Cathedral) brings modern foods and people back into a sense of historic London. Those that choose to take an afternoon to explore Borough Market will catch a glimpse of many thriving London communities, as well as have the opportunity to try some interesting, quality foods.

Bakeries and bread stands abounded

Cheese was also a popular selling point

While the  variety of people visiting the market was staggering (I spent most of my time there worming my way through rivers of shoppers and standing in queues), there were definitely some communities I saw as being better represented than others. Young people (for clarity’s sake I’m going to define this as “under thirty”) were the most predominant audience; groups of hip twenty-somethings would move in clusters through the crowds, often sporting very distinctive fashion choices. In fact, a fashion blogger would have a blast patrolling the alleys of Borough Market; although winter coats and knitwear were predominant in the January weather (albeit much more interesting ones than in most other places), I spotted a young, jaunty looking man flaunting his vintage striped pajama pants with Doc Martens and a button-down sweater-vest. Another girl had a skirt made entirely of what looked like pocket squares and handkerchiefs.  I got a sense that a lot of these young folk were there for the sole purpose of being seen in their street fashions and checking out what others were wearing; though I’m sure fashion at the market has its own history just as much as the food does.

Hundreds of people peruse the alleys of the market

The tourist faction was also well-represented; Borough Market isn’t exactly wallowing in obscurity. I noticed a great number of American accents percolating through the waves of chatter, as well as snippets of French and occasionally Italian. London is an extraordinarily cosmopolitan city, filled with foreign tourists and immigrants alike. However, it was difficult not to notice the number of people toting cameras and examining maps. Borough Market is definitely a tourist hot-spot, and a deserving one at that.

People and produce in the Market

The two other groups I took most notice of were probably who you’d think of as attending city farmer’s markets: young urban families (typically with one or two small children) and more mature “earthy” couples. The young urban families were most often seen shopping for actual produce and organic foods, choosing Borough market as an alternative to supermarket grocery shopping, the kids often pleading for some sort of cake or sweet when passing the pastry stalls. The older couples seemed to be there just for the pleasure of being surrounded by an environment conducive to their worldview, walking around the stalls and generally seeming very content just to do so. They seemed more comfortable and relaxed than the tourists, which led me to believe that they were probably regulars that lived in the area as opposed to just visitors. All in all, everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Emma, Abby and Anne enjoy meat pies purchased at the Market

My favorite stalls, as a tourist, were the ones selling things I could eat right away, as opposed to the meat and veggie stalls (which were still very fun to explore). I bought an absolutely delicious chicken-and-bacon pie (called the “Chicken of Aragon”) from a stall operated by “The Pie Minister”. For dessert I purchased a giant chocolate meringue from a French patisserie, and had a cup of warm mulled cider from a stall next to the pie shop. Friends purchased giant Bavarian pretzels, slices of meat pie, and various other delicious take-aways. Everyone had a great time exploring and trying foods they might not otherwise find in the United States. I will definitely be returning before we leave London!

-Jenna Chapman

Giant meringue!


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