Wizardry, wine, gourmet eats and shopping. All in one place? Oh yeah, we’re in. On a recent trip to London, we discovered Leadenhall Market for the first time, and we were enchanted.
Leadenhall Market is a covered market in London, located on Gracechurch Street in the City of London. It dates back to the 14th century, and is situated in what was the center of “Roman London” (and referred to as Londinium). Originally a meat, poultry and game market, it’s now home to a number of boutique retailers, restaurants, cafes, wine bars and an excellent pub. If you’re in the mood for old London atmosphere with modern amenities and shopping, definitely beat a path to this place.
Like so much of London, Leadenhall Market has a long and eventful history. In 1411, it became one of the best places in London to buy meat, game, poultry and fish. In 1488, it was decreed that leather could be sold only from Leadenhall Market. In 1622, cutlery got the same designation.
The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the City of London, including parts of the market. When it was rebuilt, it became a covered structure for the first time. Extensively restored in 1991, it now offers a lovely Victorian wrought-iron setting with the original roof, cobblestones and buildings carefully preserved.
We visited for the first time on a chilly and rainy morning this spring, and it was an excellent stop on a day with inclement weather. We were greeted with vibrant bouquets of flowers, plenty of options for a cup of tea, and a mercifully dry place to perch and watch the world go by for a while. It has a deep sense of place that reminded us of why we travel – not for all the stores and foods we can find everywhere in the world – but for these special, authentic, magical hideaways.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the preservation of the old buildings and streets has made the market a popular site for film production. Part of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was filmed here in 2001. It was used to represent the area of London leading to the popular wizarding pub The Leaky Cauldron and the magical shopping street Diagon Alley.
Currently, the space houses upscale retailers like diptyque, Barbour (holder of three Royal Warrants), Hobbs, Oliver Sweeney and Windsor Flowers. There’s also a Waterstones bookstore, and Hawkes & Wainer Opticians for smart spectacles.
In terms of food and drink, The Lamb Tavern is a vintage bar and dining room that has been part of the city of London since 1780. Luc’s Brasserie is a French bistro, Bedale’s is a wine shop that also hosts tastings and classes, and Amathus offers wine, beer and spirits sourced from all over the world. If you’re a carnivore, Viandas is the spot for “London’s best jamón Pata Negra,” and Chamberlain’s is owned and run by a fourth-generation family of fishmongers.
If you love Covent Garden, you’ll find Leadenhall Market to have that same level of charm and authenticity, but far more serenity (at least, during the day).
We’d vote for this atmospheric setting as a splendid place to end a busy workday, to while away an hour or two over lunch, or to do a bit of light shopping with no worries about the weather. The public areas of the market are open 24/7 except for a few holidays, so you can stop in anytime. Just mind the wizards – it seems unwise to get between a man with magical powers and his pub.
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