Smithfield is central London’s last surviving meat market. Its name derives from 'smooth field', where animals could graze, although its history is far from pastoral as this was once a place where public executions were held. The market has been here since the Middle Ages, but the current colourful building was designed in 1868 by Horace Jones, who also designed Leadenhall Market and Tower Bridge. Visit by 7am at the latest to see it in full swing.
Described in terms of pure horror by Dickens in Oliver Twist, this was once the armpit of London, where animal excrement and entrails combined in a sea of filth. However, the area's bloody history goes back far further than Dickens, as this was the site of the notorious St Bartholomew’s Fair, where witches were burned at the stake. Scottish independence leader William Wallace was executed here in 1305 (he's remembered by a plaque on the wall of St Bart’s Hospital, south of the market, ending with the Gaelic words Bas agus Buaidh or 'Death and Victory'), as was Peasants’ Revolt leader Wat Tyler in 1381.
Part of the vast market complex is now abandoned; the Museum of London is planning to relocate to the semi-derelict General Market section by 2022.