Colors of London: A look into the London’s variety of markets

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Upon entering any market found on London’s cobbled streets, the wide spectrum of colors, scents of grilling food and spices and the sounds of busy market-goers immediately hits one’s senses. Although each are unique, what pulls the young parents with toddlers as well as the usual older customers back to the market on a daily basis is color; specifically, the colors of London’s markets.

Markets in England are hardly ever monochrome. The ever present liveliness and energy permeate each stand. Straight from the hands of farmers and artisans come the locally sourced honeys, fresh produce and handmade goods. The markets are a blend of multiple international cultures that each develop their products together in these diverse yet unified locations.

“You have different people from all over the world and different cuisines and a lot of vibrancy that pulls people in, and these shops are obviously very colorful,” a middle-aged woman at the market said.

However, what makes these markets feel so similarly memorable are the eye-catching pops of color present in every stand or store. Whether it’s an array of fresh picked roses and hydrangea blooms that are arranged in patterns of blushing pinks, peachy yellows or baby blues or an assorted patterns of scarves fluttering in the brisk England air, the multitude of hues always surrounds one in a dizzyingly enjoyable swirl.

Take the Cambridge market, a wide open huddle of brightly colored tents placed together tightly in the open square of Cambridge. In one particularly popular stall, a family sells a variety of dried goods from multiple parts of Europe. The overpowering exotic scents of the dark brown coffee beans, warm-toned spices, olive mixtures and dried fruits envelop the stall as the young and bashful part-timer handed happy customers a package of yoghurt covered honeycombs.

Similarly, one might wander the compact and multi-layered streets of the Covent Garden market, which, although much smaller than Cambridge, is still full of identical bustling energy. The same colorful palette of artisanal gelato, chocolate shops and stands offering variegated trinkets line the streets; however, the unique underground plaza of this market features tunnel-shaped restaurants filled with ambient yellow light. Meanwhile, busy market-goers above-ground flock under the bright glass skylight, filling the space between each stand. One specific stand by the name of M. Strand, centered in the entrance of the market, offers artisanal soap in a variety of fragrant rose, lavender and citrus scents that perfume the air in an alluring yet rich blanket. The bright pops of orange, peach, dark red and hazy purple buds decorate the tops of each carefully designed block of soap and jar of cream.

“This is my friend’s shop that started in 2000, so we’ve been going for almost 20 years,” said the young man working the stand. “It’s all natural and handmade in North London in our small little workshop, a family owned business. We specialize in organic handmade soaps and handmade creams.”

The classic methods used by M. Strand to create such vibrant yet vintage colors mirror stores in Borough Market, another popular location right in the center of London itself with a more laid back and homey style. Near the entrance of the market is Ted’s Veg, an open faced store of 20 years that hand grows all their fresh fruits, vegetables and preserves. Plump, dark crimson plums sit among the wooden crates alongside crisp spring green pears and nectarines mottled in varying shades of dark pink and peachy yellow. Directly above, sunny yellow bananas and fresh orange citrus decorate the top of the fruit stand, faintly perfuming the air.

Outside, the painted wood overhanging the connected structure of the small stores are a more dated deep forest green that contrast the brighter pops of red on store doors, suggesting the longtime existence of the market. Although less busy, the doors to Borough Market are just as vivaciously bright as the bouquet of flowers and crisp fresh produce.

Rich in scents, textures and visuals, these markets truly offer London’s vivid colors in the city’s most familiar and memorable locations, easily accessible by both tourists and Londoners alike. When in the market, always remember to look out for pops of color!

Alysa Su
A bouquet of flowers in Borough Market stands out against the beige storefronts that line the street.

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A neon green bench contrasts with an iconic red double decker bus in Borough Market, London.

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A Londoner motions to cross to the other sidewalk as a cherry red double decker rushes down the busy street.

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Bright red gas tanks behind the storefronts of Borough Market stand out against the gray pavement of London, matching the color of a food stand.

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A bright blue taxi rolls down the street near the London Bridge, contrasting with the dull background of old buildings in London.

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A busy tourist in Cambidge Market takes a photo. Usually, the streets of markets are filled with busy tourists excited to visit what the stands have to offer.

Alysa Su
Two friends chat in the Cambridge market. One of them bites into a hotdog served at a stand near the King’s College Chapel Church.

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Cylinder soaps decorated with miniature dried rosebuds line the stand of M. Strand, an all natural and hand-made soap and cream stall. M. Strand is located in the Covent Garden Market.