London is the home to several different shopping districts and streets full of themed department stores, designer retail and landmark stores. You can find the top brands on bustling Oxford Street in the heart of London, visit the city’s oldest and most famous shops on Regent Street and enjoy the extravagant luxury shopping on Bond Street and Mayfair. If you are in the market for a suit then Savile Row is the “golden mile” of tailoring, or you can visit the largest shopping centre in Europe at the newly developed Westfield in Stratford.
London is one of the top destinations in the world for shopping and the variety seems to be endless. Sadly, after impromptu foot surgery, having to replace our stolen passports and our desire to travel everywhere and anywhere, our budget does not stretch as far as a shopping spree at Harrods or Harvey Nichols at Knights Bridge. What is more in our price range, and provides hours of fun sightseeing adventures and entertainment, is visiting the assortment of markets that are dotted all around London and its surroundings.
While we are here, it is my goal to visit each and every one (I just have to stop having all of these late Saturday nights!). Last Saturday we set out in hunt for Halloween costumes and stumbled across the many markets that surround Camden Town in North London. And on Sunday we spent the better part of the cloudy (and potentially rainy) day wandering through the flower markets and Brick Lane markets just to the north east of the City of London.
See detailed information on London markets here.
Here are some of the highlights –
Markets in Camden
Camden seems to be one of those areas in London that is like nothing else. There is a crazy variety of people and markets which make for a very interesting day out. You will need at least a whole day to truly discover the many markets located in and around Camden Town. Camden Market along the Camden Lock and Camden High Street is full of colourful vintage clothes, bric-a-brac, winter coats, neon sunglasses, skull jewellery, and cheap jeans and T-shirts.
The markets are open every day of the week and sometimes it is better to go on a weekday to have a decent look around. Most Saturdays are packed to the brim with your standard selection of locals, the rockers, the punks, the odd celebrity (apparently), and the excited tourists creating a squishy hustle and bustle. The nearby Inverness Street Market and Camden Lock Village are also full of similar stalls of crafts, clothes, and trinkets.
On Chalk Farm Road only a short walk away is the newly renovated Stables Market, a burrow of fashion stalls, accessories and delicious food and drink stalls. The Stables Markets are only open on the weekend and quickly become crowded with tourists flocking to the partially undercover cobblestone alleyways.
We spent our day there wandering aimlessly through Camden, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and animated locals. We did make a few small purchases at Escapade costume store for Halloween and I may have stretched the budget a little on a new pair of boots that I just had to have!
Markets in East London
On Sunday morning we awoke to a slightly grey and drowsy morning. Undeterred, we ventured out in our ‘Brit kit’ (jacket, boots and umbrella) to explore the markets that are only 3 stops north on the London Overground.
On Sundays between 8am and 2pm the Victorian cobblestoned Columbia Road, off Hackney Road, is transformed into an oasis of foliage and flowers. Everything from bedding plants to roses to 10-foot banana trees are up for grabs and the air is intense with the scent of flowers and the chant of the barrow boys “everthin’ a fiver”. This in itself seems quite strange to me since not many people actually have a garden in central London!
Many traders at the Columbia Road Flower Markets are the second or third generation of their family to sell at the market, which can trace its origins back to 1869! The best deals are promoted towards the end of lunch time when some of the stalls start to pack up. There are also many stalls and boutique stores near by selling anything from cheeses, antiques, garden accessories, furniture and your morning coffee.
After purchasing a bunch of 20 gorgeous roses (that lasted about 6 days) and a hot chocolate (it was cold!) we followed the crowds a few blocks south towards the markets located at the northern end of Brick Lane. At these famous Brick Lane Markets you can find almost anything from old cameras, arts and crafts, organic food, French patisseries, London’s best bagels, antique books, vintage everything and bric-a-brac from all over. Realising I did not have a vase at home for my beautiful flowers, I quickly bargained down a lovely lady for a green glass vase that was as ugly as it was cheap.
The area comprises of several different markets that now include the Boiler House Food Hall, the Tea Rooms, the Backyard Market, the Sunday UpMarket and the Vintage
Market all located in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. To go to Brick Lane you really need a whole day, a pocket full of change and a large appetite for the most incredible international cuisine.
At the south end of Brick Lane in East London, you can find the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community and is known to some as Banglatown (making me think that the area in which we live should be known as Banglacity). You can usually get a cheap curry and free bottle of wine from the many completing curry houses that line the bustling street.
Sadly we didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Brick Lane but luckily arrived at the undercover Spitalfield Markets just as a light rain started to fall. Old Spitalfields Market is a covered market in Spitalfields, just outside the City of London, near Liverpool St Station. There has been a market on the site since 1638 and it is now newly renovated and shiny, full of beautiful clothes, slightly more expensive home wares and lots of beautiful artwork.
We waited for the rain to pass, found a warm green woolen hoodie for Dan and then decided that enough damage had been done to the bank account and it was time to head home where we were greeted by the cosy warmth of the heater. Petticoat Lane Markets would have to wait for another day!
I have a feeling that we will be back soon, especially before the winter sets in !