Columbia Road Flower Market is easily one of my favourite places in London. Tucked away in Hackney, this gem bursts open every Sunday like a spring peony. Carts, stands and shops filled with flowers unfurl into the street and hug the curvature of Columbia Road.
Though it can be tricky to find, my recommendation is simply to follow the flowers. On a walk towards the market, you can’t help but pass at least a few fellow flower-enthusiasts making their way home, arms stretched wide to keep the waterfall of flowers from escaping their grasps! Seriously, if you feel lost, just look for anyone else holding plants (That’s actually how I discovered the market in the first place!) Either make note of the direction they’re coming from, or simply ask! Usually, people with flowers are in a good mood. Even Londoners! 😉
The market runs from 8:00am to 3:00pm, and while every hour of the day has its pros and cons, I definitely recommend an early start, though not too early! 8:00am is somehow both chaotic and peaceful. The crowds haven’t yet arrived, and yet neither have all of the vendors! Everywhere you step, a warning bellows from behind to “watch your step, watch your toes!” as massive trollies of plants are pushed through the narrow street. That being said, if you despise crowds, the earlier you go the better. The major downside of an extremely early start comes down to the quaint shops and cafes that share the road with the market vendors. These don’t tend to open until 9:30 or so, and they really do add to the overall experience. Perfumeries, stationery shops, ceramics and art galleries are tucked in amongst the flowers and trickle down into the nearby side streets. A few holes in the wall dish out coffees, bagels and tempura. That is a big part of the experience, and for that matter, I actually enjoy a bit of hustle and bustle. So for me, 9:00-10:00 is the perfect window frame to spend at the market. Near midday, the crowd becomes almost unbearable, and you’ll find yourself unable to really browse, or, for lack of a better phrase, stop and smell the flowers! And there are so many to smell!
As for the time of year, every season brings a new feel to the Columbia Road experience! A go to place in December for poinsettas and Christmas trees transforms into a banquet of Mother’s Day bouquets and Easter arrangements by Spring.
Throughout the course of the year, you can buy just about every plant imaginable at Columbia Road Flower market, from peonies and birds of paradise to orange trees and pitcher plants. It’s not simply beautiful, but a marvel, a true feast for the senses. The prices are quite marvellous, as well. Now, don’t get me wrong– if you want to spend a fortune, you can. And I definitely have on occasion. But on average, you can get three bunches of different flowers for £10. (All of my Sunday Bouquets average £10- £15). The citrus trees and orchids are extremely well priced, and Iv’e had fantastic luck with three of my orchids (which each blossomed for over three months!) These orchids averaged about £5 to £8, though the larger variety will go for £15. My beautiful Lemon Tree was £15, and is already re-flowering!
But even if you don’t plan on buying anything, I recommend a visit for the beautiful ambiance in and of itself. Sip a latte, smell the flowers, chat with the cockney vendors and soak up the seriously happy vibes bursting from the crowd. The smells, sights, and sounds emanating from this otherwise peaceful little street are sure to put a smile on your face!