Billingsgate fish market is one of London's special attractions that few locals and fewer visitors have heard of. In anticipation of a New Years Eve dinner, we set our alarm clocks for 4am to visit London's biggest fish market.
Everyone from fishmongers, restaurant chefs and casual shoppers visit Billingsgate market to get the freshest seafood out there, at prices much cheaper than supermarkets or other shops. As an example, you can buy a scallop for £1.80 here, and see it in a restaurant with a garnish for £25! The market is open from 4am to 8am on Tuesday to Saturday, but note that you can't buy anything before 5am. With that said, the earlier you get there, the better the selection!
Most public transport is closed this early in the morning (except for night buses), so we decided to hop on a Santander Cycle and get our exercise on the way. Parking at the market is notoriously difficult, but if you do arrive with a car, remember to bring £2 coins to pay for your ticket. It's a surprisingly calm bike ride, considering that most of London is tucked away in their warm beds at this early hour.
Billingsgate was bustling by the time we got there, so we quickly scanned the market to see what was available and at what price.
It helps to have a "shopping list" before you go, as the selection available can easily become overwhelming...
Our shopping list had oysters, crabs and lobster on it, but as we quickly found out, the recent weather had prevented the fisherman from catching crabs. We were happy to see ample lobsters to choose from!
Among the many crustaceans and fish available were salmon, trout and coley (a type of codfish).
And plenty of nice deals to be had...
In terms of recommendations, I highly recommend that you bring cash, as none of the fishmongers seemed to accept payments by card. There's no need to fret in case you forget - the nearest ATM is a 10 minute walk over to Canary Wharf, which serves as a reminding backdrop of the City of London.
I'd also recommend you bring strong plastic bags and/or containers for your purchases. In terms of pricing, here is what I could gather:
- Lobster: £20/kg
- Crab: £5.40/kg cooked
- Oysters: £12.80 for 25, £12 for 6
- Salmon filet (skin-on): £8/kg
- Scallops: £10/kg (broken), whole scallops for £24/kg
- Prawns: £22 for 3kg or £10 for 1kg
All in all, a visit to Billingsgate is always a great experience and the fishmongers are generally very friendly and will help answer any questions you might have. You also get a head start on the day ahead, and some fantastic fish to look forward to!
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or further recommendations I can add, and any updated pricing information!