As the largest inland fish market in the United Kingdom, Billingsgate is a food-lover's paradise. However, it remains well off the beaten track in terms of tourists and it still mainly caters to restaurants, cafes and hotels. London food markets such as Borough seem to have absorbed all the everyday foodies and this has left Billingsgate free to do business pretty much as it has done for hundreds of years, with no pandering to punters and certainly no glamour in the act of browsing and purchasing.
The selling is done in the main hall of the huge building that occupies a prime site in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Docklands. Once you've managed to locate it, you'll probably be seriously overwhelmed by the noise, the smell and the sheer quantity and variety of fish and seafood that's on offer here. The market is open to the general public every day from Tuesday to Saturday, however, Saturday is by far the busiest shopping day for people looking to stock up their freezers.
As this is a serious market that largely caters to the London food industry, you need to set your alarm if you plan on getting there in time for the prime catches. With the doors opening at 5am and closing at 8.30am, it's definitely the early bird who catches the fish at Billingsgate. If you can manage to crawl out of bed and get yourself over to East London in time, then you will be rewarded in spades. The traders and porters are genuine East End characters and the experience of choosing and buying your fish at source is a wonderfully engaging way to go shopping.
So, whether you're planning a dinner party or you just fancy a nose around the most interesting market in town, set your alarm, pull on your wellies and get down to Docklands.