Whitecross Street Market first started trading in the 17th century, making it amongst the oldest markets in London. By the end of the 19th century, the area had become a by-word for poverty and alcohol and became known locally as Squalors' Market. After this period of slow decline, the street is now enjoying an upturn in fortunes, having benefited from a programme of investment and regeneration. It is once again a busy retail hub in the heart of EC1 for local residents, workers and visitors.
Improvements to the street include new pavements and shop fronts, as well as better and more defined sites for market traders. In addition to its daily general market, the weekly specialist food market, which runs every Thursday and Friday, has been key to reviving Whitecross Street. Jamie Oliver's - Fifteen is a short walk away if you want to combine a visit to Whitecross Street Market with a bite to eat. A foodie pilgrimmage, if you like.
The road is closed to traffic while Whitecross Street Market is in operation. There is a small general market every week day and a larger food market on Thursdays and Fridays.
Whitecross Street Market is of course on the doorstep of Shoreditch & Hoxton, which in almost every publication will invite some kind of 'trendy' moniker. There's much more to it than 'trendiness', however. London districts are always developing, and what you have here is a genuine diamond in the rough (and best leave it there), created and supported by locals, without the intervention of marketing, tourism or other organisational bodies. The vans aren't fancy, but the food is exceptional. Like gravity, this quality attracts other vendors at an accelerating pace, in turn the crowds grow, and the market creates its own self-perpetuating energy.
Slideshow of Whitecross Street Market images gives a decent flavour of what to expect. From the 2011 Whitecross Street Party - by rinaldivideo, streamed from their YouTube channel.
So, go now and support something which has had a hand in its own destiny. I'm not sure you could eat this well every day of the week, without resorting to stretchy-trousers in the afternoon, but making it a regular al fresco highlight, is almost no decision at all.
Also, The Two Brewers pub lets you eat market purchases - so long as you buy a drink.
GENERAL MARKET: Monday - Friday 10am - 4pm
SPECIAL FOOD MARKET: Every Thursday & Friday, 11am - 4pm
Tube station: Barbican, Moorgate or Old Street.