Leadenhall Market is London’s most beautiful market – tucked away in the heart of The City. Discover the fascinating history of the market as well as the bars, restaurants and shops you shouldn’t miss when you’re visiting Leadenhall with this guide.
Leadenhall Market is a beautiful covered marketplace in the City of London. It’s a contemporary shopping precinct with trendy bars and cute cafes, but housed in a historic Victorian-era covered building still makes you feel a little like you’ve stepped back in time a century or two.
The history of the market dates all the way back to Roman times when it started as a bazaar on the very same spot you find it today.
It’s entrance sign declares that the market itself was established in 1321, but it’s certainly come a long way from those days when it was just for butchers and fishmongers. Instead, you’ll find wine bars and a Spanish tapas restaurant.
More sophisticated and prestigious to other markets in London, Leadenhall attracts a mix of people from businessmen who come for lunchtime meetings to art students who come for the pretty architecture and old quirks.
The market is most lively during the week, with many stores and restaurants closed on weekends.
A Peek into the History of Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall market is one of the oldest in London. From as far back as the 1st century, it was a lively bazaar area and the centre of Roman London. However, it wasn’t until the 14th century when it became something a little more similar to what it is today.
Poulterers and fishmongers began meeting on the site to trade their meats in the early 14th century. Then, in 1408 the former Lord Mayor, Dick Whittington, acquired the market’s lease and began turning it into a more commercial space.
By the end of the 15th century, the market had introduced a granary, a weighing mechanism for wool, a chapel for the sites vendors and a monopoly on the leather trade in the city.
Leadenhall had very much become a well-established centre for commerce in London but was then partially destroyed in the city’s Great Fire in 1666. When it was rebuilt it was decided that it would be covered rather than open air, and it remains like that today.
In 1881, the city architect, Horace Jones, redesigned the market and it was redeveloped to include wrought iron and glass rather than stone. Much of the ornately decorated interior and cobbled laneways that you see preserved today is from this very redesign.
By the mid-20th century the market had also become a more general retail shopping and leisure centre as well as still selling the original food and natural products. By the end of the 1990s, it had emerged as one of the main shopping centres in the city.
Today, it includes boutique retailers, restaurants, wine bars and pubs and is one of the more popular places for shopping and eating in the city. It’s even added another feature to its name, as a popular film set.
Leadenhall Market or Diagon Alley? Step into the World of Harry Potter
Leadenhall Market played a starring role in the Harry Potter films when it was used as a filming location in the series.
It was used as the exterior to Diagon Alley, the wizarding worlds shopping hub for Hogwarts’ students, as well as, The Leaky Cauldron, the popular wizard pub.
With the picturesque Victorian-era laneways in Leadenhall Market Harry Potter is not the only movie to have been filmed there either.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, Hereafter and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, have also used it as a filming location.
Broker’s Wine Bar and Restaurant
Monday – Friday from 10am – late
If you want a perfect people watching lookout then Broker’s Wine Bar is your spot. It’s situated above the crossroads inside the market, and offers a bird’s eye view over the bustling market lanes below.
It specialises in international wines and the restaurant also holds a number of events throughout the year from art exhibitions to wine tastings.
Giorgio at Leadenhall
Monday – Friday from 11.30am – 3.30pm and then 6pm – 9.30pm
One of the best Leadenhall Market restaurants, Giorgio is a sophisticated Italian restaurant that prides itself on authentic subterranean food. Their freshly made pasta and seafood dishes usually steal the show, and they have an extensive wine list to match.
Cheese at Leadenhall
Monday – Friday from 9am – 8pm
With over one hundred artisan cheeses on offer to try and incredibly good quality wines, Cheese is the best place to sit with friends for a relatively casual yet delicious lunch. With laneway seating, you can sit and watch the world go by as you graze over a platter of cheese, olives and charcuterie.
La Tasca Restaurant
Monday – Friday from 11am – 11pm and Saturday from 11am – 9pm
This Spanish dining experience is fast becoming one of the more popular establishments for Leadenhall Market food. Serving tapas and speciality Spanish dishes along with wine, sangria and cocktails from their bar, it’s the perfect place to come with friends to relax and unwind. It strikes a good balance between casual and sophisticated.
Monday – Friday from 8am – 6.30pm
One of the last remaining specialist bookstore chains in inner London, Waterstones prides themselves on outstanding service and exciting bookshop events. It’s a refuge from the crowded market, where you can sit and ponder some of the latest titles in store. It also has a number of events and book signings throughout the year.
Monday from 6.30am – 5pm and then Tuesday – Friday from 8.30am – 5.30pm
Windsor Flowers is a family-run florist that was established in 1982 and is now the preferred supplier for some of the most respected businesses in the area such as The London Guildhall, Mansion House and St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a nice store to poke your head into for vibrant colours and beautiful aromas.
Monday – Friday from 9.30am – 6.30pm
This classic British brand founded in 1894 is right at home in the Victorian-era Leadenhall Market. With a brand history going back generations, their iconic and original wax cotton jackets are still top sellers. It’s the epitome of traditional British style.
London City Shoe Shine
Monday – Friday from 10am – 4pm
For something a little different, head to this historic institution, where the guys from this shoeshine shop have been shining shoes since 1991 in Leadenhall Market. For an authentic Leadenhall experience, brush up any of your leather or suede by dropping it off to the guys here.
Bars + Pubs
The Lamb Tavern
Monday – Friday from 11am -11pm and Saturday from 10am – 6pm
Serving a variety of meals from traditional British pub favourites to light lunches with a pint of classic real ale. This tavern is a bar and restaurant stretching across three levels with stunning old interior and has been operating as a bar since 1790.
Old Tom’s Bar
Monday – Friday from 11am – 11pm
Down the stairs from the cobblestone lanes of the market you’ll find a fully preserved old bar in antique décor. The extensive drinks menu includes gin, craft beer and cocktails, as well as old English favourite snacks and light meals. It’s one of the trendier and more boutique Leadenhall Market bars.
New Moon Pub
Monday – Friday from 11am – 11pm, from Saturday 12pm – 7.30 and Sunday from 12pm – 5pm
One of the more traditional Leadenhall Market pubs, New Moon is an old dark wood bar on the edge of the covered market. The place is overwhelmingly popular with some patrons preferring to stand outside on a summer evening with their pint rather than battle with the crowds indoors.
Looking for more secret London finds? Check these out:
- Finding the ancient Roman temple at London’s Mithraeum
- Neal’s Yard – Covent Garden’s Colourful Hideaway
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