I visited London’s world-famous flower market, and it’s an Instagrammer’s dream

At London’s famous New Covent Garden Market, there are flowers as far as the eye can see. Alice Johnston for Insider
  • I visited London’s New Covent Garden Market, and it was a stunning sight.
  • The market has been around for hundreds of years and still supplies flowers and produce to local businesses.
  • Since the flower market opens at 4 a.m., I arrived and left before the sun was up.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If you’ve ever seen “My Fair Lady,” you’re likely familiar with London’s world-famous New Covent Garden Market, the place Audrey Hepburn’s character buys the “flahers” she sells on the street every morning.

The market is like something out of a dream, with flowers spilling out of every corner, vendors loudly bargaining, and roses making everything smell magnificent. But unlike many magical places in films, this flower retailer is very real.

Formally established in 1670, the market’s presence has been felt at British weddings, birthdays, and funerals for hundreds of years. The market moved from Covent Garden to Battersea in 1974 due to lack of space, but its flowers, fruits, and vegetables are still shipped all over the country.

Best of all, it’s open to the public and filled with Instagrammable flower walls and stunning floral props.

Read on to see what the market is like as soon as it opens.

The flower market is open from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday to Saturday, so I knew I was in for an early start

New Covent Garden Market
Things start early in the floral world —the market opens at 4 a.m. Alice Johnston for Insider

I was keen to have the most authentic experience possible, so I set my alarm for long before the sunrise.

The flowers are shipped into the UK overnight, so the early bird gets the worm. The sooner you arrive, the more choices you’ll have.

The market is easy to find if you watch for the delivery trucks

New Covent Garden Market
It’s very clearly an industrial market. Alice Johnston for Insider

Located on a main road next to Battersea’s power station and close to the Thames, the market was marked by an endless flow of delivery trucks coming in and out of it.

It was still dark when I arrived, so the neon sign was a welcome pointer that I was in the right place. I chose to visit on a Monday, since that’s when British flowers are sold.

The outside of the New Covent Garden Market is unsurprisingly industrial-looking

New Covent Garden Market
Flowers being unloaded, ready to take inside. Alice Johnston for Insider

This isn’t a commercial florist that needs to attract customers by looking pretty — it’s a working market that’s already famous worldwide and a popular site for traders.

It’s also where many London restaurants source their flowers and produce and where local florists buy their stems and greenery to turn into thoughtful arrangements.

However, the stacks of Christmas trees and flower displays outside of the pedestrian entrance made it clear where I was

New Covent Garden Market
There were seasonal flower displays showing off the market’s wares. Alice Johnston for Insider

After admiring the displays, I walked through the door and into the market proper.

The first thing that hit me was the temperature

New Covent Garden Market
The whole market is very cold to keep the flowers fresh. Alice Johnston for Insider

The entire market building is kept at fridge-like temperatures to keep the flowers cool and fresh. This means vendors can set up endless rows of beautiful flowers without worrying about them wilting.

I had never seen so many flowers in one place before

New Covent Garden Market
There were flowers everywhere the eye could see. Alice Johnston for Insider

There were rows upon rows of roses, huge bunches of hydrangeas, and armfuls of lilies, tulips, and baby’s breath. Forget flower walls — this felt like an influencer’s dream.

It was a beautiful sight, and it also smelled great, though it may not be best for those with certain allergies.

Although the market is designed for wholesalers and professionals, everyone was very welcoming

New Covent Garden Market
The colour choices were dizzying. Alice Johnston for Insider

It’s important to note that this is a place of work, not a farmer’s market, so be ready to hop out of the way quickly when a trolley full of miniature cacti is coming up fast behind you.

Fortunately, the vendors and fellow shoppers were welcoming and didn’t mind me poking around and browsing the wares.

The market is divided into sections, and each division is occupied by a different trader

New Covent Garden Market
Each flower trader has a different specialisation. Alice Johnston for Insider

In a large rectangular room, the traders run through the middle and around the edges of the market, which have a connecting walkway.

New Covent Garden Market
The options were endless. Alice Johnston for Insider

Each trader has a specialisation — the ones in the middle rows tend to work with a variety of cut flowers, and the ones around the edge deal mostly with greenery, dried flowers, florist equipment, and potted plants.

The market seemed to have everything a crafter or florist could need

New Covent Garden Market
An aisle of different coloured ribbons for tying bouquets. Alice Johnston for Insider

You could pick up ribbon, baskets, vases, and foam to make wreaths and other arrangements while you’re here to get flowers.

One of my favourite vendors was one that stocked the kind of decorations that I loved at the garden centre when I was a child

New Covent Garden Market
There were plenty of holiday decorations to be had. Alice Johnston for Insider

Because I visited in mid-November, the market was packed with Christmas decorations. It would be a great place to shop for unique ornaments and, of course, seasonal flowers and wreaths.

I was very ready for some coffee at this point, so I headed to the on-site café

New Covent Garden Market
The Garden Café was warm and welcoming. Alice Johnston for Insider

The temperature in here was gloriously warmer. While I ordered, vendors chatted at tables and enjoyed an early breakfast.

The menu had some delicious-looking greasy-spoon fare, plus a strong cup of tea you could stand a teaspoon up in.

New Covent Garden Market
Photos on the café wall showed the history of the market. Alice Johnston for Insider

Compared to the rest of London, the fairly low prices in the café felt like they hadn’t been updated much since the market’s early days.

The market’s offerings change with the season

New Covent Garden Market
There were all sorts of niche plants, such as these crates of fresh moss. Alice Johnston for Insider

There were some fascinating items on display that I’d never considered before, such as crates full of fresh moss, trolleys with fresh-cut logs, and fake flowers for customers who prefer a low-maintenance option.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without taking some flowers home

New Covent Garden Market
Almost every conceivable plant could be found here. Alice Johnston for Insider

Unlike if I were at a normal florist, I was on my own to collect my order. I also knew I wasn’t going to find a handcrafted, pre-curated bouquet. That said, there was almost too much to choose from.

The flowers are sold by the bundle or by the crate, usually in a single variety and colour

New Covent Garden Market
Flowers are sold by type and colour. Alice Johnston for Insider

Hydrangeas are one of my favourite flowers and the market had so many colours that I usually can’t find anywhere else. I picked up a huge bunch of the purple-blue ones.

The quality was also higher than what I usually buy. This wasn’t too surprising since the flowers here are supplied to some of the fanciest places in London and are super fresh.

New Covent Garden Market
It was hard to choose which flowers to buy. Alice Johnston for Insider

Although the prices are lower than on the high street, they’re not cheap — flowers are a luxurious commodity, after all. Definitely bring cash if you visit the market, since old-school payment methods are king.

As I left with my armful of flowers, the sun had yet to rise, but the market was only getting busier

New Covent Garden Market
I was very happy with my bunch of purple-blue hydrangeas. Alice Johnston for Insider

It’s incredible that this one market is the source of so many beautiful flowers across London, and it has been for centuries.

Whether you want to pick up a fresh holiday bouquet or have a quick and colourful photoshoot, the New Covent Garden Market is the place for all your floral wishes — and it’s totally worth a visit.

Note: At the time of publication, the market is open to visitors and is following a range of social-distancing guidelines and protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic.