Finding a bargain at Ridley Road Market


Rating: 5/10

Address: Ridley Road, London, E8 2NP

Tube: Dalston Kingsland (Overground)

Hours: Mon–Thu: 6:00–18:00;
Fri&Sat: 6am-7pm

Most items from £1-20

Official Website

By Lei He

Located in Dalston Junction, this East London market is the opposite of the modern Dalston Junction style. The market is over 130 years old, old enough to be counted as an antique itself. But unlike typical antiques, it is famous for being cheap.

Many are attracted to Ridley Road Market because it sells everything from “domestic and exotic fruit and veg, fish and meat to cheap clothes, household goods, toys, bric-a-brac and fabrics from Africa and India.”

A hidden side

However, it seems the market could cost you more than just your expenses. “You should be very careful with theft,” said John Evans, who sells fruits and vegetables. Despite this, Ridley Road Market witnesses bargaining and quarreling on an everyday basis – and the shouting can occasionally become quite angry.

But it shouldn’t be taken as an evil society – Ridley Road Market is unique in London because of its lack of hypocrisy.

Essentials over luxury

“This is the real world,” says James Taylor, a 26-year-old musician who compared Ridley Road Market with “high-end places selling silly, nice things.” Fanciful ‘organic’ options are not to be found – people here deal in essentials, not ideals.

“The market is set for people living around, most of whom are welfare recipients,” says Dunyan Zheng, a Chinese ‘doctor’ selling Chinese medicine. Traditionally, the food quality was okay whilst the price was low: thus, the market became famous.

Lacking quality

However, in recent years the fame was converted into notoriety. “It’s still cheap, but the goods are not in good quality,” says Carol Waller, a shop owner in Hackney central station.

When we asked Ridley Road Market sellers about the quality, even they themselves could only say “at least the foods are safe enough for poor people.” ‘Brand’ clothes there are copycats and most bear obvious ‘Made in China’ tags.

So what’s the point of visiting Ridley Road Market? If you are not too strict about quality, it is a good place to taste various food and at the same time save money. Moreover, since this is not a prosperous part of East London, you can hear the bargaining, quarreling and shouting - the hidden voice of London’s underbelly.