Billingsgate Fish Market London

Billingsgate Fish Market – Our definitive guide for visitors

All you need to know to go on a visit to Billingsgate Fish Market

Whether you love eating fish, or just want to see a slice of the ‘real’ East End market trader lifestyle, nothing can beat a visit to Billingsgate Fish Market in London. Billingsgate is the country’s largest in-land fish market, with nearly 100 stalls, 30 shops, a cafe and an array of cold rooms and freezers spread over the 13-acre site at West Poplar, in the shadow of the Canary Wharf skyscrapers.

Billingsgate is a wholesale fish market for fishmongers, restaurant owners and the like, but it is actually open to the public. If it’s your first time it can perhaps be a little daunting if you don’t know the ins and outs, so here’s our definitive guide to visiting Billingsgate Fish Market.

You have to get up early to catch the freshest fish at London's famous Billingsgate Fish Market

You have to get up early to catch the freshest fish at London’s famous Billingsgate Fish Market

What are the opening hours of Billingsgate fish market?

It’s up with the larks to catch the best fish! The market opens at 4am and runs until 8am, Tuesday to Saturday. If you want to get the biggest choice of the freshest fish, you have to get their at the crack of dawn, where the place is bustling with the big buyers. It’s a little calmer between 5-6am, with some traders start packing up as early as 6.30am. Having said that, there’s another school of thought that if you want those end of trading bargains, 7am is a good time to arrive.

When can the public go to Billingsgate?

It’s open the professionals the public at all times and there is no charge to get in. However, Saturdays have become the most popular ‘public day’, where tourists and locals are the main customers. The market often stays open later on Saturdays to around 9am.

On the market floor of Billingsgate early in the morning

On the market floor of Billingsgate early in the morning

How do you get to Billingsgate Market?

First of all, Billingsgate Market isn’t actually in Billingsgate. It moved to its current location with it’s distinctive yellow roof at West India Docks in Poplar in 1982. If you’re coming on public transport, get off the DLR at Blackwall (not Poplar) and it’s an easy 5 minute walk to the main, gated (and only) entrance to Billingsgate.

If you’re going in the car, there is parking at the market. Be warned, spaces fill up quickly. Follow the signs for the public parking and it’s a pay and display system, so remember to take coins with you for the machine. It’s £2 for up to two hours and you can check the up to date details on Billingsgate Market car parking page.

What should you wear?

Not such as daft question as it sounds. Forget heels and even forget trainers, you’ll need non-slip, sturdy footwear. This is a fish market, so there’s lots of water around, not mention porters with their pallet trucks and trolleys. With all the cold storage and freezers, it can be pretty cool in there too, so remember a jacket and don’t bother putting your glad rags on, it can get all rather fishy!

Watch out for the porters of Billingsgate with their trolleys stacked with polystyrene fish boxes!

Watch out for the porters of Billingsgate with their trolleys stacked with polystyrene fish boxes!

Are children allowed?

No. Children under the age of 12 years old are not allowed into the trading areas of Billingsgate Market. If you want to visit for a bite to eat, they are allowed into Piggy’s Cafe on the periphery of the market, just not on the market floor.

Can the public buy fish or is it trade only?

Yes! Just remember cash is still king at Billingsgate. Also, this is wholesale, bulk buying, so it’s by the kilo or box, which can be a lot of fish. Don’t expect to be able to buy a couple of cod fillets here, you’ll be buying a whole box full of them – and traders very rarely do what they call ‘breaking’, that’s to say splitting a full box down to sell smaller quantities.

Family traders have been selling fish at Billingsgate for generations

Family traders have been selling fish at Billingsgate for generations

What sort of fish can I expect to see at Billingsgate?

Pretty much every type of fish and crustacean you can think of! There are live, fresh, frozen, salted fish, as well as fish-based products all available. There are around 150 different species of fish from all over the world sold at Billingsgate. You might see live lobsters and crabs, then there’s salmon, plaice, scallops, clams, mussels, squid, octopus, oysters, prawns, mackerel, sardines, halibut, swordfish, turbot and herring to name but a few. Exotic fish like mahi mahi, barramundi and blue shark are often sold and then there’s the transformed fish products like cockles and the traditional jellied eels too.

Do the traders gut fish for you?

No. Billingsgate is purely a fish market and traders don’t cut, descale, clean, gut or fillet fish for you. If buying something like a whole salmon or trout complete with head, scales and tail strikes a little bit of fear in your heart, you can sign up for a fish course at the in-house Billingsgate Seafood School. It’s run as a charitable organisation with the aim of promoting the inclusion of fresh fish in a healthy diet and to help promote the market and keep fishmongery alive. The school, which is on the first floor of Billingsgate, offers a wide range of courses including ones to show you how to prepare and cool fresh fish from whole.

Learn to pick, clean, prepare and cook fresh fish

Learn to pick, clean, prepare and cook fresh fish

What’s the best fish to buy from Billingsgate?

Those in the know only buy what’s ‘in season’. For example, in winter many say the best to fish to go for are the likes of cod, haddock, lemon sole, turbot and monkfish. Others go one step further and only buy line-caught fish, whilst others swear by only purchasing stocks from day-boats, with the theory being that the fish is as fresh as possible as it’s been hauled in and brought back to port within a day. You can even find hand-dived Scottish scallops – the sort of thing you’d only find on Michelin-starred restaurant menus at five star hotels!

Can visitors to Billingsgate take photos?

Even if you want to take photos for non-commercial use, it’s best to get a permit. These are easy to get, just email billingsgatemarket@cityoflondon.gov.uk. The use of tripods is forbidden and you musn’t impede the running of the market.

Once you’ve been granted your permit, remember to take the slip with you when you’re filming or photographing and you are supposed to ask the merchant’s permission before taking pictures of the goods for sale on their stands.

Is there anywhere to eat at Billingsgate Market?

Piggy’s Cafe is legendary. This is where you can tuck into a mouthwatering bacon and scallops, or sit down to a delicious haddock and poached egg breakfast over a tea or coffee. The walls are filled with black and white portraits capturing the atmosphere of Billingsgate and the characters who work on the market.

Bacon and scallop breakfast at legendary Piggy's Cafe at Billingsgate

Bacon and scallop breakfast at legendary Piggy’s Cafe at Billingsgate

Does anyone offer guided tours of Billingsgate?

The City of London corporation owns and manages Billingsgate Market, but doesn’t offer guided tours. The Seafood School at Billingsgate includes guided tours as part of their fish cookery classes, where you’ll learn all about buying the best fish, how to prepare and cook it.

Tour the floor at Billingsgate Market and learn all about the freshest fish to buy!

Tour the floor at Billingsgate Market and learn all about the freshest fish to buy!

Billingsgate Fish Market is an institution. Porters and traders have serious banter, (and even their own language), with successive generations running family stalls. It’s steeped in tradition and is a truly fascinating market to not only visit, but also enjoy a bite to eat and buy some fresh fish to cook at home too.


sporting trial cars

Hot Wheels: Unusual Vehicles You Can Actually Drive!

Bored of driving the same old car every single day? Is your motorbike hidden and forgotten in the back of the garage? Cycling to work is the worst chore of your life? Seems like it’s time to think out of the box and add a little bit of spice to your life, then!

What if we said you have the chance to drive some of the weirdest and most unusual vehicles you’ve ever seen? There’s nothing better to break your driving routine than trying something new and exciting, right? From traction engines to shredders, hummers to electric dirt bikes, our collection of rare and unusual vehicles has something for everyone.

Here is a brief taste of all the driving experiences available at IntoTheBlue!

monster truck

Monster Trucks are perfect for the extreme drivers.

Monster Truck

Bigger, better and stronger, monster truck driving is all about being as large as possible. Literally. These massive vehicles originated in the USA, where they even have their own extreme shows and races, and now the love for these big monsters has finally reached our shores! But there’s more than meets the eye with these bulky beasts. Putting two big wheels on a standard car is not how it works, if that’s what you were thinking, you need to know how to properly modify cars, what type of vehicles you can use, which wheels… It’s harder than you might think!

Not many people can brag about driving one of these colossal cars ever in their lives, so hop on now and enjoy the most unique driving experience of your life. You can even bring a few spectators who will witness your amazing driving skills and bravery!

traction engine

Taking a look into the past with the traction engine.

Traction Engine 

Driving a steam traction engine does certainly have a special charm to it and if you add a gorgeous location with incredible views, it really becomes something else.

Especially recommended for those tinkering heads who love everything related to hydraulics, steam and vintage motors. This is the perfect opportunity to learn all about how to operate a traction engine, the start-up procedures and drive one for a short run near the Lake Windermere. Just be prepared to get your hands dirty!

Sporting Trial Car 

Sporting trials is the ultimate pick in unusual vehicle experiences and, for once, is not all about speed! The main goal is to drive as far as you can over a pre-designed course splashed with bumpy obstacles, muddy terrain and hills. To help you reach the top of the hill, there’s a second passenger who normally moves his weight around to be able to get the best grip on the muddy slope.

You know what they say: all is fair in love and war and sporting trials is no different! Everything is allowed on these two-wheel cars to reach the objective, as long as you don’t hit the route markers. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare your engines and may the best driver win!

saloon stock cars

Colourful saloon stock cars racing against each other.

Saloon Stock Car

What’s better than racing cars? Racing cars that looks a mix between a LEGO and an American football. Yes, you guessed it right, we’re talking about saloon stock cars. This unusual driving experience is perfect for those of you who love racing competitions but are looking for a different, more exciting, approach. After receiving some safety tuition and tips from a professional driver, it’s all the way straight to the oval racing circuit to compete against other drivers. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be crowned king of the extreme dodgem competition! And of course, you get a shiny trophy as well.

routemaster bus london driving

Vintage Routemaster bus across the streets of London.

Routemaster and Bendy Bus

We couldn’t complete our list without the most iconic of London transport methods: the big old red Routemaster bus. Some of you might remember hopping into one of these double-decker buses or seeing the bus driver manoeuvring the massive steering wheel. They first hit the streets of London in 1958 until they were all decommissioned in 2005 and replaced by the double-decker buses you see nowadays.

If that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s also the possibility of driving a “bendy bus”, a 56ft long-articulated bus that used to roam the streets of London until 2008, when they were withdrawn due to “being unsuitable for London”, but worry not! We managed to get our paws on one of these as well!

And there you have it — Whether you’re an engine lover or know someone with a racing itchiness, these unusual driving experiences are the perfect gift to give to all the unusual vehicle aficionados out there!


Betty wing walking

Record Breaking OAPs – You’re Never Too Old to Try an Experience Day

Thursday the 6th June 2017 is a day 88 year old Betty Bromage won’t forget. It’s the day she broke her own record for being the oldest female to wing walk!

Betty set off from her retirement home in Cheltenham to enjoy her world record breaking wing walking flight from Gloucestershire’s Staverton Airport. IntotheBlue wing walking pilot Mike Dentith was at the controls of his vintage Boeing Stearman biplane, that was built in 1945, meaning Betty is a fair few years older than her vintage ride!

Betty’s bravado in aid of the Cobalt Imaging Centre in Cheltenham got us thinking about other world record holding oldies and here are some of our favourite adrenaline-loving retirees:

Oldest person to backflip

Move over Tom Daley, Walter Liesner was 94 years old when he backflipped into a swimming pool in his native Germany in 2007. A part-time PE teacher most of his life, Walter was a bit of a local legend in his teens for his gymnastic stunts – long before parkouring was invented!

Abseiling at 101

Briton Doris Long certainly has no fear of heights. She holds the record for the oldest person to abseil, tackling 305ft of the 560ft Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. Not a novice of the sport, plucky Doris had been already abseiling for 16 years when she set the record… but that means Doris only took up the sport when she was 85, which makes the feat even more impressive.

Doris abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth - the person to have achieved such a feat!

Doris abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth – the person to have achieved such a feat!

Never too old to tandem paraglide

Soaring over stunning Northern Cyprus, Brit Margaret Mcalpine set her world record as the oldest person to tandem paraglide in 2012. She took to the skies at the tender age of 104 years old and apparently loved every minute of her aerial adventure.

Still jumping in their 90s

Ninety-six year old Mohr Keet holds the world record for the oldest man to bungee jump, whilst 95 year old Margit Tall is thought to be the oldest female to shout ‘one, two, three bungee’. Mohr jumped solo at the Blaukrans Bungee in his native South Africa in 2010, whilst Margit did her 150m bungee as a tandem in Finland. Apparently the bungee team thought she was joking when she asked if there was an upper age limit.

Mohr takes the leap of faith  at 96 years old - one, two, miss a few, 96 bungeeeee!

Mohr takes the leap of faith at 96 years old – one, two, miss a few, 96 bungeeeee!

Beyond the gravity at 79

We can’t quiet believe that, at 79 years old, American Dorothy Simpson managed to get her GP to even sign off her medical certificate for such a head-spinning space flight! The Space Adventure company took her up in a Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft from Russia’s Zhukovsky Airbase to seal her place in history as the oldest person to experience zero gravity.

A tour de force on two wheels

Tony Rathbone from Keswick was always a keen cyclist. At 81 years old he decided to take on the famous Land’s End to John o’Groats because ‘it was something nice to do’ – even though it’s one gruelling, 950 mile-long bike ride that few of the younger generations would even contemplate taking on. And of course our Tony smashed it!

Tony clinched the record for the oldest person to ride from Land's End to John o'Groats

Tony clinched the record for the oldest person to ride from Land’s End to John o’Groats

From navigating to flying at 87

Having been a navigator in the US Air Force, it’s little wonder James Warren wanted to get his pilot’s licence himself. What makes the achievement all the more impressive (and Guinness World Record-worthy too) is the fact that Warren got his wings when he was 87 years old. A fine achievement for a long-time aviator!

Double record holder Jack

Age is no barrier to Brit Jack Reynolds. He became the oldest person to get a tattoo on his 104th birthday (wonder if anyone tried to tell him he’d regret it when he was older?) and on his 105th birthday he treated himself to a day out at a theme park. There was no sitting around watching the youngsters having fun though, Jack was there to break the record for being the oldest person to ride on a non-inversion rollercoaster. He chose the Twistosaurus at Flamingo Land in Malton for his record attempt and it was broadcast live on breakfast TV. And yes, he clinched the record and even said he wanted to on the ride again straight after!

A tattoo at 104 years old and a rollercoaster ride for his 105th, Jack is the holder of two records

A tattoo at 104 years old and a rollercoaster ride for his 105th, Jack is the holder of two records

Record holding hot air balloon flyer

Emma Carroll took a one-hour hot air balloon flight straight into the records books when she became the oldest lady to go ballooning at the age of 109 in Iowa in the USA. Her record was set in 2004 and still stands today, so if you know any go-getting Grannies or Granddads, this could be one to beat!

In fact, there are a couple of interesting vacancies going in the way of World Records. At the time of writing, there’s no holder for the oldest person to ride a zip wire and no-one who has claimed the crown of oldest competitive powerlifter. It might be time to get Granny or Gramps in training to see if you can get them in the World Record book with an age-defying feat.

And if you want to follow in the footsteps of the amazing oldies, you too can go wing-walking, abseiling, flying or hot air balloon rides with IntotheBlue too!

You're never too old to go floating up and away on a hot air balloon ride

You’re never too old to go floating up and away on a hot air balloon ride