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Review of a tour of Borough Market in London

I went to the market decades ago, and mostly remember being overwhelmed. So, while in London at the end of August, I signed up for a tour of the market with Eating Europe. It was not great.

The main issue is that tours are not allowed in the market, so we spent very little time actually in the market, and our guide would get samples and bring them to us just outside the perimeter. The guide was knowledgeable and enjoyable, but it wasn't really a good way to experience the market.

We were a small group, 8 people, but one was a 6 year old child with the expected attention span. Not a plus on a tour.

Posted by
33142 posts

So sorry. Borough Market is good fun but crowded, sorry you missed it.

Posted by
8823 posts

That’s unfortunate.

IMHO Borough market has become too touristy. That’s the negative side of Rick Steves travel shows.

Over years of London visits I’ve learned to seek out neighborhood farmer markets. Places like the Duckpond in Richmond or Ealing’s farmers market.

So much to experience in neighborhoods away from central London.

Don’t even get me started on boot sales! And no, not boots that you wear.

Posted by
3312 posts

We are actually signed up for this same tour in October and now I'm thinking of canceling based on your experience. Thank you for sharing, we will still go to the market, but do it on our own.

Posted by
2482 posts

@Tammy
I would definitely cancel, or switch to another tour.
I just checked the website, and of course there is no mention that they aren't actually allowed to guide through the market. We did get some tasty food, but it was not the fun experience I've had on other food tours, and I don't feel that it was a good way to see the market.

Posted by
3312 posts

Yes Liz, I just looked again at their website and no mention that tours are not allowed in the market. Geez, kind of a major thing if you ask me, so yes, just sent an email to cancel and waiting to hear back. Like you, I love food tours, but not if I can't be in the market.
Can I ask if you tasted anything we should check out? Was it crazy busy?

Posted by
3813 posts

Tammy,
I just don't think people need a tour for Borough Market, being quite honest.
It's easy enough to just wander through and look at all the great food stalls.
It's pretty self-explanatory after you know the history is that there's been a market on this site dating back to at least the 12th century. The present buildings were built in the 1850's.
That's basically what the tour guides are charging you for, as well as leading you around to look at the stalls (which you can do yourself).

We spent a lot of time wandering through Borough Market the last two times we were in London. Our favorite things were sampling the cheese stalls, eating a grilled chicken sandwich from one of the vendors, buying goodies to take back to the hotel for snacks, such as freshly made breads, bakery items, cheese, fruit, and wine.

It's easy to just meander around Borough Market on your own:
https://boroughmarket.org.uk/visit-us/

Here's a page with a map of the food areas:
https://boroughmarket.org.uk/visit-us/#split-content-block_600303ec493ee
Note that the church in the photo at the top of the page is Southwark Cathedral. This is easy to locate as you walk along the riverfront on the south bank.

Browse these pages to see the traders and stalls, to make some food choices before you go.
https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/

Food tours here for anyone who wants that:
https://boroughmarket.org.uk/events/official-tours/
Celia Brooks:https://celiabrooks.com/london-food-tours.html
The Totally Tailored looks good:
https://totallytailored.com/tour/borough-food-tasting-tour-london/#panel-details

There are two restaurants where we have had a meal. Fish! Restaurant and Roast which is
upstairs over Borough Market 2nd floor (elevator/lift at the back of the market).
Roast is really expensive but good.

Borough Market is crazy crowded at lunchtime.
Plan to get there slightly before lunchtime if you can.
As Claudia said, since it's been touted in guidebooks and on foodie websites as a "must do" place, it's been elbow-to-elbow crowded.

Another issue is where to sit and eat the food you buy. Most people are standing up, eating, as places to sit are almost nonexistent. You could gather up your goodies and head back to the riverside to look for a bench to sit on while you eat.

Enjoy!

Posted by
2482 posts

It was crazy busy, and it was also a very warm day. Not a good combination. This was a Thursday, starting at 10:30.

Good places I remember were:
Humble Crumble
Fish! (Fish and chips)
Ginger Pig (sausage roll)
Boot and Flogger (not even in the market, but near, and a good version of Sticky Toffee Pudding).

Posted by
2482 posts

The advantage of a tour, especially if you are traveling alone, is that you can get smaller tastes of more things.

Posted by
3813 posts

Liz, yes that is a good point.
I'm really sorry you were disappointed in your tour.
Thanks for posting this so others will be warned they are not really getting the full tour they are expecting.
Some of the various tours are surprisingly expensive.
The tour I was looking at online was $180. for 2 people to be toured around the Market.
Ridiculous.

Going page by page of the trader pages, here are the places we've tried and liked.
Page 1: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/
Applebee's Fish Box--seafood wraps. Thumbs up.
Arabica Bar & Kitchen
Bath Soft Cheese Company--bought 2 varieties to take away.
Berenjak Borough--kabobs--thumbs up.

Page 2: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=2
Borough Cheese Company--bought 2 varieties to take away.
Bread Ahead Bakery--bought 3 items to take away.

Page 3: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=3
Fish! Restaurant--ate here; excellent.

Page 4: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=4
Hobbs Roast--slow cooked meat baguettes--so good; a carved roast beef/BBQ type sandwich. Enjoyed it back in the days
before I gave up such things.

Page 5: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=5
None of these were there the last time I visited.

Page 6: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=6
Two of the classics that have been @ Borough Market from the start:
Monmouth Coffee Co.--delish coffee!! Had cups of coffee. Bought bags of coffee to take back home.
Neal's Yard Dairy--bought wonderful cheeses.

Page 7: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=7
Olivier's Bakery--excellent bakery treats.
Pieminister--these are supposed to be excellent & if I still ate such things I would buy.

Page 8: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=8
Roast, the aforementioned very expensive restaurant above the Borough Market, on the 2nd floor. Featured in Rudy Maxa's London program. Very good food. More expensive than it deserves to be.
My first clue was that the menu had no prices on it. But it was good.
https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/roast-restaurant/

Page 9: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=9
The classic that has been here forever....Tapas Brindisa.....excellent, you must go.

Page 10: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=10
The Globe Tavern. Good place to break the afternoon with a pint. Classic Victorian architecture inside & out.
Better yet, a place to sit down after all that walking and standing around and being jostled by crowds.

Page 11: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=11
Not familiar with any of these. All new within the last several years.

Page 12: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/?bo_p=12
Another classic....Wright Bros. Oyster & Porter House....great oyster & seafood house that's been here for many years.

Now I'm really hungry.

Posted by
3312 posts

Wow Rebecca thank you so much! I really feel I will be well equipped to tour the market on our own now! Can't wait, one more week!

Posted by
3942 posts

Definitely the Ginger Pig for a sausage roll. Best around and quite large. My hubby and I shared one.

Posted by
33142 posts

I haven't been to Borough Market for a couple of years, but my impression used to be that while there were a few tourists around at lunch time the vast majority of folks were local office workers who had come down for the lunch. Weekends probably more tourists and greater London locals. But I always avoided Borough Market on the weekend.

After or before the nibbles a visit to Southwick Cathedral next door is well worth it, as is the old galleried pub (National Trust - no entry fee) the George just a few feet the other way.

Posted by
6850 posts

Liz, sorry it didn't work out for you. I'm not big on tours so probably wouldn't have done one but still good to know. I'm staying not too far from Borough Market and hope to go there several times (and will try to avoid lunch time). :)

Rebecca, thanks for all the links and tips! Great info!

Tammy, have fun on your trip! Can't wait to read about it!

FYI, Bread Ahead (at the Market) has half day workshops on bread baking (croissants, doughnuts, Middle Eastern baking, South African baking and so on). I'm planning to take one of those workshops when I'm there next year. I like to bake and it would be a fun thing to do while traveling.

Posted by
5650 posts

I took a tour of Borough Market years ago (probably 15 years ago) with Celia Brooks and we definitely went into the market. Her website says, ”Celia is the only person permitted by Borough Market to conduct tours there.”

She does very good food tours (I also did one of her tours in Marylebone), but she does them infrequently. She is a cookbook author and food writer.

https://www.celiabrooks.com/london-food-tours.html

Posted by
3312 posts

We went to the Borough market twice yesterday (Saturday). Once in the am when it first opened and then later in the day about 1pm. The morning was great, hardly anyone there. We had a delicious breakfast from Bread Ahead. Then later, we went back for lunch. It was a madhouse!!! I was wanting a cheese toastie from Kappasain Dairy, but, no way! The line was so long. There is no cheese toastie in the world that would be worth waiting that long for! We ended up at a sit down restaurant (ahhh), called Brindisa that was very good.

Posted by
33142 posts

so Saturday at Borough Market lunch time is still a zoo.... thanks for the update. Tammy, did you feel that the crowd was tourists (US, other, Brits) or locals?

Posted by
3312 posts

Nigel, I think tourists mostly because in the am, we actually saw people shopping for vegetables etc that they were going to take home. Locals would know better than to try to shop on a Saturday at lunch!

Posted by
33142 posts

good deduction.

that said, not today but often on a Sunday, we (reasonably local to Cambridge) often visit Cambridge to listen to the 9am to 10am bells of Great St Mary church - the University Church, with an impressive ring of bells - and when the bells finish we walk around behind to the open market to browse the stalls for that day's fresh fruit and veg.

But not at Borough Market at lunch!!

Posted by
508 posts

I visited the Borough Market on a Rick Steves tour of London a few years ago. But my favorite food tour that week was a food tour of the East End. I think it was called “Eating London.” It was great! We went various places and sampled bacon butties, English Pudding, fish and chips at Poppie’s, a cheese sampler, and curries. It was wonderful and our guide was great although I do not recall her name.

Rereading the comments, the East End tour might have been with Eating Europe. I hate that your tour of the Borough Market was disappointing.

Posted by
2872 posts

Friend and I did the East End food tour last year. It starts at Spittalfields and then goes through the East End to Poppies Fish & Chips, curry, wine & cheese and a couple desserts. Not a neighborhood we would have gone to so it was interesting and food was good.

Eating London does have a tour of Borough Market. https://www.eatingeurope.com/london/?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAjw7c2pBhAZEiwA88pOF0NP931vAy3sgVEvZafI5Hd09kSZPC5PmL8lT2z9OQPyPZphNYaxjBoCLuYQAvD_BwE

Sorry your tour was disappointing LIZinPA