These fresh fruit and vegetable markets offer more than just great produce. Friendly, varied and all open air, here are the best. Farmers’ markets have blossomed in this country since the first was established officially in Bath in 1997. Estimates on how many exist in the UK vary depending on how you define the term (does it require actual farmers to be there selling their produce? Many argue it ought to), but the number is thought to be pushing 1,000.
Over the past year the majority of farmers’ markets, classed as essential businesses, have been able to remain open to the public, albeit with additional safety measures in place. While some temporarily closed, and others were subject to criticism in the early days of the pandemic, farmers markets provided a safe, outdoor shopping arena and were, for many, a welcome alternative to supermarkets.
Throughout the pandemic, anecdotal evidence suggests they have risen in popularity, too. “We’ve seen a three-fold increase in the number of customers who’ve discovered their local farmers market over the past year,” says Cheryl Cohen of London Farmers Markets. “We’ve received many messages thanking us for keeping their local farmers’ market open, as it’s been their only weekly destination, shopping safely in the open air for fresh seasonal produce.”
While some farmers’ markets have faced some criticism in recent years, for being unscrupulous on sourcing, too middle class, or veering too heavily towards street food, their popularity endures – new ones, such as the Market at Fowey Hall in Cornwall, are still popping up.
At their best, they offer the freshest, tastiest and most varied produce, from fresh seasonal vegetables to local meat and fish and cheese.
With the nation’s appetite for outdoor activities set to increase this summer, here are some of the best food and farmers’ markets to visit.
Blackheath Farmers’ Market, London
Held every Sunday in the car park of Blackheath station, this busy and diverse market serves one of south-east London’s prettiest villages. Fresh fish from North Sea Seafood, Norfolk beef and lamb from Beatbush Meats, and affordable veg from a variety of organic and conventional Home Counties growers make it possible to do a weekly ‘big shop’ at this market – before buying a burger and a coffee to enjoy on the nearby heath.
Every Sunday; 10am-2pm; Blackheath Station Car Park, London SE3 9LA
Stroud Green Market, London
Set in a school courtyard on the charming back streets of Stroud Green in north London, this market is one of London’s best. It straddles the line between affordability (see Perry Court Farm’s brilliant seasonal fruit and vegetables), local produce (mostly from London or the Home Counties, including brilliant honey from Tottenham Marshes and Islington) and hot food.
This convivial market often features live music and, you may be pleased to hear, is situated directly opposite one of London’s best pubs.
Every Sunday; 10am-2:30pm; Perth Rd/Ennis Rd, Opposite The Fullback, London N4 3HB
Penshurst Farmers’ Market, Kent
This award-winning farmers’ market, held on the first Saturday of each month, exclusively holds stalls from within a 35-mile radius, ensuring the best in freshness and seasonality. Even the fish, which comes from Hastings, is on point.
“It feels like a proper farmers’ market should, as in it only sells food, drink and plants (no crafts),” says chef and food writer Julie Friend. “All the sellers are the actual producers or growers and can tell you every fine detail you need to know. It’s also in the most stunning setting in the grounds of Penshurst Place, so it’s very easy on the eye.”
First Saturday of each month; 9:30am-12pm; Penshurst Place Car Park, Penshurst Place, Penshurst, NR, Tonbridge TN11 8DG
St Albans Farmers’ Market, Hertfordshire
As with Penshurst, this farmers’ market, held on the second Sunday of the month, has a strong emphasis on the local. Most produce is from Hertfordshire, with all the farmers’ markets classics covered and some of the area’s best street food. Local Becky Alexander, a food writer, is a keen fan of the Redbournbury Mill stall, which produces bread from local wheat milled at the eponymous mill, just outside the city.
Second Sunday of each month; 8am-2pm; St Peter’s Street, St Albans AL3 5DJ
Bury St Edmunds Farmers’ Market, Suffolk
Suffolk Market Events host five markets, in Lavenham, Sudbury, Ipswich, Colchester (pre-Covid), and Bury St Edmunds. The latter is favoured by food writer Nicola Miller, who lives nearby.
Held on the second Sunday of each month, the market features a stunning variety of delicious food, from fresh bread, meat and fish to vegetables, vegan food, chutneys, craft beer, local crafts and more. For Miller, the market has “always been a joy to visit but over the last year, it has been a godsend. Never has it felt more important – and nourishing – to shop in a beautiful location, meet the producers who all live within 30 miles of the market, and buy their food, drink and crafts.”
Second Sunday of each month; 10am-3pm; The Traverse, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 1BJ
Stroud Farmers’ Market, Gloucestershire
This weekly Saturday market is famed for its lively atmosphere – you’re likely to encounter as much live music as local asparagus. But the produce is top notch, too. Local fruit and veg, much of which is organic, is the name of the game here, including some of the finest local strawberries when in season. Locals cite Pippin’s Doughnuts as some of the best in the country, and the perfect fuel for a morning scouring the market.
Every Saturday; 9am-2pm; Cornhill Market Place & surrounding streets, Stroud GL5 2HH
St Nicholas Farmers’ and Producers’ Market, Bristol
St Nicks Market has traded since 1743, so for a farmers’ market in an historic setting, look no further than this Wednesday market, which comes with the added benefit of being situated near further shopping potential, such as the daily St Nicholas Indoor Market.
Look out for some top produce such as meat from Elm Tree Farm, located in Bristol itself, Frocester Fayre’s amazing pies, and Pullins Bakers’ award-winning breads.
Every Wednesday; 9:30am-2:30pm; St Nicholas Market, Corn St, Bristol BS1 1JQ
Moseley Farmers’ Market, Birmingham
Since 2000 the Moseley Farmers’ Market has been providing Birmingham with some of the best produce in the Midlands, routinely picking up regional and national awards. The market emphasises local (within 50 miles), seasonal and affordable produce, and has a wider range of fresh and prepared produce stalls than most.
Alcester Road, Birmingham B13 8HS
Malton Monthly Food Market, North Yorkshire
Billing itself “Yorkshire’s food capital”, Malton has become a foodie hub in recent years. Its market, held on the second Saturday of the month, showcases the best food from God’s Own County. Alongside premium produce, street food and music are on offer at the picturesque site by St Michael’s Church.
Michelin-starred chef Tommy Banks, who lives nearby, is a fan. “There’s always a guy making pies out of Yorkshire puddings or burritos, it’s quite cliche but very popular. Malton also has the most amazing food festival, which attracts 60,000 visitors over two days, it’s pretty rocking.”
Second Saturday of each month; 9am-3pm; Market Pl, Malton YO17 7LX
Kendal Farmers’ Market, Cumbria
Set in the historic and pretty market town, Kendal Farmers’ Market is small by modern farmers’ market standards, but it certainly makes up for it in quality and authenticity. Held on the last Friday of each month, expect delights like freshly baked farmhouse breads, cakes and pies, local Lake District meat, brilliant cheese and hog roast. Watch out for Ginger Bakers’ berry and beetroot brownies, Sillfield Farm’s wild boar sausages and Lovingly Artisan’s ancient grain sourdough breads.
Final Friday of each month; 9:30am-3:30pm; Market Place, Kendal LA9 4TN
The Garage Farmers Market, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire
As farmers’ markets go, this bi-monthly meet on the outskirts of Nottingham is unique, located in an old bus depot owned by the same family for five generations. Local produce is the name of the game on the second and fourth Sunday of each month (there are several and varied other events on other days).
Each week around 25 stalls flog local breads, cheese, patisseries, pies, vegetables and alcoholic drinks. A particular favourite is the fresh lasagna. On the first and third Sunday of each month, a fine food market sits alongside a vintage craft market.
Second and fourth Sunday of each month; 10am-2pm; The Garage, 63 High Road, Chilwell, Beeston NG9 4AJ
Riverside Farmers’ Market, Cardiff
Riverside is a weekly Sunday farmers’ market that has been running since 1998, making it one of Wales’ longest running and most popular. Its picturesque setting, on the banks of the River Taff and overlooking the Principality Stadium, are a draw, but not as much as the excellent produce.
With over 30 traders, Riverside is on the larger end of the farmers’ market scale, and you’ll find a stunning array of Welsh meats, cheeses and vegetables. Smaller sister markets have since opened in the Cardiff suburbs of Roath and Rhiwbina.
Every Sunday; 10am-2am; Fitzhamon Embankment, Cardiff CF11 6AN
Stockbridge Market, Edinburgh
Part of a triumvirate with Leith Market and Grassmarket Market, this weekly Edinburgh stalwart has been a Sunday favourite for years. According to journalist Poppy McKenzie Smith, who used to sneak out of school to buy croissants at the celebrated Au Gourmand Boulangerie, it is “small but perfectly formed”.
The market features the requisite range of traders: local organic veg, a cheesemonger, smoked fish, meat, and a healthy array of ready meals and more, although hot food is currently on hold.
Every Sunday; 10am-5pm; Stockbridge Market, Saunders Street, Edinburgh EH3 6TQ
Bowhouse Market, Fife
Set in the beautiful East Neuk of Fife, the Bowhouse’s regular weekend markets see the Balcaskie Estate turned into one of Britain’s very best markets, with producers from all over Scotland descending on the covered market. Many of the estates’ pioneering producers are also showcased, with meat, cider and fresh vegetables, alongside perhaps its most famous player, baking luminary Andrew Whitley’s Scotland Bread.