There’s a problem with London’s markets. The best of them have become victims of their own success, getting so crowded on the weekends that it’s hard to move, let alone breathe. Borough Market, London’s most beloved food market, is a prime example. But just down the road is another market that has the best of Borough without all the crowds: Maltby Street Market.

Maltby Street Market

Despite being a market that sells consumer goods, Maltby Street Market doesn’t seem to want consumers to find it. Tucked away in pockets of old brick railway arches in Bermondsey, the Saturday market is so hidden that it would be easy to walk by without knowing it’s there.

Maltby Street Market

But for those that persevere—and I’m one of them—it’s worth the effort. Starting on Druid Street, I find a series of arches in a long line of auto repair shops that have been taken over by some of London’s best bakeries, breweries, and purveyors of all things delicious.

Maltby Street Market

From L’Emporio, with its mouth-watering Italian pastas and pastries, to St John Bakery, where some of the city’s best loaves are leavened, it’s a great taste of what’s to come.

Maltby Street Market

And what’s to come is just through the arches on a skinny alley called Ropewalk (presumably because it’s so narrow that you feel like you’re walking on a tightrope as you move down it). The alley is lined by the backs of the railway arches that I just saw on Druid Street, only this area is all about tasting, sampling, and savoring.

Maltby Street Market

Some of the arches have little restaurants in them, while others dedicate their interiors to production and place an eclectic mix of colorful tables and chairs outside in the alley. Stalls line the rest of the space, and everything from cheerful lemon tarts to open-face beetroot and goat’s cheese sandwiches is there to tempt the taste buds.

Maltby Street Market

Interspersed among the food vendors are architectural antique shops and vintage furniture warehouses, treasure troves of all things forgotten. I wander inside LASSCO, breathing in the smell of old wood and smiling at giant neon London Underground signs.

Maltby Street Market

Back outside, I make my way down several residential streets with a mix of sparkling new apartment blocks and old brick council estates before reaching the other end of Maltby Street Market: Spa Terminus. This area is even more hidden, and if it weren’t for the helpful sandwich boards directing me to various alleys and arches—this way for Monmouth Coffee, that way for Neal’s Yard Dairy—I would never find any of it.

Maltby Street Market

But secreted under arches are butchers, bakers, and fruiterers. I admire the pretty jams in stylish jars at England Preserves, inhale the redolent scent of cheese at Kappacasein and Neal’s Yard, and check out the range of meat and game on offer at The Butchery.

Jams at Maltby Street Market

I stumble upon ripe autumn apples and barrels of squash, wondering if the crispness I feel in the air is a result of seeing them or if it’s really real. And then I find myself back out on Druid Street without really knowing how I got there.

Maltby Street Market

And that’s the beauty of Maltby Street Market. It’s so hidden and labyrinthine that as soon as I’m out of it, I wonder if it was just a delicious dream. The lively ambiance on Ropewalk and the hushed secrecy of the Spa Terminus all felt surreal, but the flavors and colors, scents and sounds were not imagined. Above all, the lack of crowds was a welcome relief. I will definitely go back to the market soon, but I won’t be telling anyone about it. Except for you. Let’s keep it a secret.

34 Comments on Lady at Maltby Street Market

  1. Thanks for this – I have been going to borough market for years, but often end up frustrated and annoyed by the crowds. I had no idea Maltby St market existed, but will def check it out. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone!

  2. The Maltby Street Market is one of my favorite markets in London. It does not have the crowds of Borough Market but still keeps its wonderful energy. I love how your pictures capture the spirit of craftsmanship that this market embodies.

  3. Thanks so much – I have to admit I had not heard of Maltby St market. But after reading your words and seeing the pics I’ll be visiting. It looks fabulous.

  4. I really really REALLY need to make it to London! I’m hoping to explore the city for a week or so in December when I’m on my way back to the States from Spain. Not an ideal time of the year, but hey–travel is travel! Looking forward to getting to know the city that so many people have fallen in love with. I’ll definitely be using your blog to help plan my trip 🙂

  5. No! No no! It’s a sham! There’s nothing in Maltby, stay in Borough, all of you! 😀
    That’s the irony for any wonderful place isn’t it? You want people to visit it because it is wonderful, but once it gets crowded it is no longer wonderful.

  6. I just love the photos on your post! Gorgeous. And I had no idea that market was there, and I’ve been living in London for 4 years now. Looking forward to trying it out! And look forward to reading more of your posts, just great writing.

  7. This definitely makes my ‘London-fangirl-heart’ beats faster! A new place to add to my to-visit list. It looks absolutely wonderful! When I saw the second picture (the one with the arches), it immediately reminded me of Cambridge Heath Rd, where it looks exactly the same, but seeing your other pictures I quickly realized it’s a completely different location. I’m really excited to visit this place and see it for myself.

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