Smithfields Market

The largest meat market in the UK today, Smithfields has been in use since Medieval times.

TravelCurious Tip

If you are looking to buy meat, be sure to get there early – the market usually starts around 3am, and by midday most places have packed up.

Just to the northwest of the City of London sits Smithfields Market, the UK’s largest wholesale meat market and one with a rollercoaster past, to say the least. Originally known as “Smooth Field”, the area established itself as a livestock market over a thousand years ago, due to its excellent access to water and grazing. If you wander around the area today, you’ll see this history reflected in many of the street names: Cow Cross Street, Duck Lane, Pheasant Court and Goose Alley are all nearby.

Smithfields on the Silver Screen

As a large, open space close to the city, Smithfield became a popular location for large gatherings and events during the medieval period. One of the more famous of these was the 1390 jousting tournament put on by Richard II, in which 60 knights from across Europe came to London to tilt for two days, accompanied by sixty noble ladies. Organising the tournament was a 47-year-old Geoffrey Chaucer, and this episode served as inspiration for Paul Bettany’s role as the great English poet in the film A Knight’s Tale. Most famously, and continuing the cinematic theme, the Scottish revolutionary William Wallace was executed at Smithfields in 1305, though whether he really did shout “Freedom!” with his dying breath is subject to some speculation.

These days, most visitors come to Smithfields for the colourful history, though you can of course still buy meat here at surprisingly affordable prices. There’s also a certain charm in experiencing the cheerful hawking and clatter that has been going on continuously for over a thousand years.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
St Bartholomew's Hospital
St Bartholomew's, often known simply as Bart's, is the oldest hospital in all of Europe.
William Wallace Memorial
See the place where Scottish patriot and independence fighter, William Wallace, was executed in 1305.
St Paul's Cathedral
The seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London.
St John Bread and Wine
Now a bustling bakery, dining room and offering a number of delicious wines St John Bread and Wine provides a menu that changes daily.
Museum of London
A great museum dedicated to the history and evolution of London.
Grays Inn
For over a year, Charles Dickens clerked at Grays Inn in the heart of Holborn.

Related Tours

London's Historic Pubs & Rebels: Private Half-Day Walking Tour

Enjoy a pub tour of some of the oldest pubs and taverns in London's vibrant East End, see where Handel and Hogarth liked to drink, while also learning about the bloodcurdling history of Smithfield, and the fate of miscreants, drunks and political rebels.

On your private pub tour you will:

  • Walk through Smithfield Market, the famous old meat market of the East End, as you hear about its lengthy, gritty and fascinating history;
  • See where Sir William Wallace was killed, and learn of his courageous life fighting for Scottish Independence (you can debate the accuracies of the film with your guide!);
  • Enjoy a drink on us at two different traditional pubs - two pints or two glasses of wine are included on your tour;
  • Hear about the history of the buildings, some of which date back to the Middle Ages, like the Hand and Shears Pub;
  • Learn about the distillery process and take the chance to cultivate your own palate: will it be a stout, cider or a traditional British ale?;
  • Learn about the local area’s gruesome history, where tales of drunkards and cadavers, doctors and anatomists, and unwary pub-goers overlap; 
  • Walk by St Bartholomew’s Hospital (St. Bart’s), the oldest in Europe, famous for its work on anatomy…and because of Charles Dickens, and as the place where the iconic fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes first meets Dr Watson
  • Wander into traditional pubs like The Viaduct Tavern and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (frequented by Dr Johnson) just off Fleet Street and enjoy their aged, relaxing ambience.

Looking to quench your thirst whilst taking in London’s past? On this fantastic tour, you will have the pleasure of visiting some of the most historic drinking spots in the City of London. Enjoy some excellent locally-brewed craft beer whilst exploring the dark and chequered history of the Smithfield area.

The central meat market for London, Smithfields has been in continuous operation for more than 800 years. Undoubtedly the most gruesome location in the capital, this ancient marketplace has long been a site of gory traditions: from the cattle that were slaughtered in its streets to the presence of countless heretic witches, public executions (of the likes of Sir William "Braveheart" Wallace) and the slaying of Wat Tyler during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

Murder and mystery define the district, which is often referenced by London’s literary legends – the nearby St Bartholomew Hospital, more commonly known as St. Barts, is where Sherlock Holmes first meets Dr Watson. Once described by Dickens in Oliver Twist as “the armpit of London, where animal excrement and entrails created a sea of filth”, today Smithfield thankfully operates in beautiful ornate Victorian halls - no entrails in sight!

As you venture through these labyrinthine streets with your expert local guide, you will be going off the beaten track, journeying back in time as you explore some of Smithfield's most interesting pubs and breweries.

One establishment you might venture into, The Hand and Shears, dates as far back as the Middle Ages – the Lord Mayor used to open the famed St. Bartholomew's fair from outside its doors. Another, the Viaduct Tavern, lies opposite the notorious old Newgate Prison.

Its cellars are rumoured to have once been cells, though you’d never guess as you sit comfortably inside this former ‘Gin Palace’, which boasts a beautiful Victorian interior of ornate wooden screens and engraved glass panels.

As you make yourself at home in these traditional watering holes, your guide will regale you with tales of the city, whilst you sample a variety of authentic British ales, stouts and ciders.

James Bond Filming Locations in London: Private Driving Tour

Delve into the world of espionage with Bond, James Bond on a private tour of London to uncover many filming locations in the city of London that you have seen in your favourite movies for over 40 years.

On your James Bond filming locations tour, you will:

  • Travel in the comfort of a private and iconic London Taxi;
  • Relive your favourite spy flicks and their lead characters with an accredited London Driver Guide who's a 007 aficionado
  • Become a special agent of "His Majesty’s Secret Service" and explore the haunts throughout London where Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and Craig each brought Bond to life;
  • Explore the places behind the stories in Ian Fleming’s iconic novels and the subsequent films;
  • Learn about the real-life world of the Secret Service as you tour Westminster, Whitehall, Downing St, and the National Gallery.

London is a city unlike no other in respect of its long associations with the world of espionage - the spies, double agents, traitors, heroes and villains from every continent played out their cloak-and-dagger games of cunning, deceit and treachery on the mean streets that we shall traverse.

Like in real life, the city has played host to some incredible spy moments on the big screen, including in Bond film scenes over the past 55 years. Your 007 expert tour guide is here to take you undercover and whisk you through the film locations from ‘Dr. No’ through to ‘Spectre.’

James Bond fans will not only get to see those film scene sites - but also most of London's iconic landmarks, plus a special visit inside one of the world's most famous spaces, the National Gallery.

DISCLAIMER: This tour is an unlicensed and unauthorised tour of sites featured in the film series 'James Bond' produced by Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Travel Curious Ltd. and this tour does not have any association with, or connection to, the film series 'James Bond', Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 



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