It’s no secret that I’m more than slightly obsessed with London. I may have only lived there for six months but I go back whenever I can because it really does feel like my second home. As a struggling American student trying to survive a bad exchange rate, I relied on markets for many of my clothes and household items. Here are my favorite London markets worthy of the avant-garde traveler.
Go here for: Antiques
Don’t be deceived by its West London locale. Notting Hill may be one of the city’s most posh neighborhoods but all that is forgotten when it comes to their outdoor flea market. Portobello Market is mainly known for its impressive collection of antiques but you can also shop for fresh food and score some unbeatable deals on clothing. I walked away with £5 dresses on more than one occasion.
To get here, take the Tube to the Knotting Hill Gate stop, which runs on the District, Circle and Central lines. The antiques and bric-a-brac stalls are only open on Saturdays but otherwise, stop by any other day of the week beginning at 9am. Even if you don’t buy anything, Portobello Road is one of the prettiest and most famous streets in London so there’s no wrong way to spend your day here.
Go here for: Fashion & Food
If you are on the hunt for some serious fashion finds or just in the mood to sample cuisine from different cultures, Spitalfields will become your go-to London market. The market is open daily and they recently launched the “Saturday Style Market” featuring independent designers, award-winning eateries and art that you can actually afford. It all happens from 11-5pm and there are often free events going on as well.
To reach Spitalfields, take the Tube to Liverpool Street Station on the Central, Hammersmith and City, District, Circle and Metroplitan lines. Their official website is pretty informative and a good resource for staying up to date on live performances and special events. Before your leave the area, wander down Brick Lane, grab a bite of Indian food and get lost in the cultural East End.
Go here for: Grunge & Graphics
This market has been around since 1975 and its easily one of London’s most popular attractions, attracting more than 150,000 people each week. If you are planning to see a similar scene to that of Portobello, think again. Nothing about the Camden neighborhood is normal, and that’s exactly how it should be. Be prepared for a more alternative crowd looking for everything from punk clothes and earrings to second-hand books and clothing.
Take the Northern line to either Camden Town or Chalk Farm Road stations. The weekends are especially crowded but there are plenty of quirky pubs and restaurants to slip into if you need a break from the crowd. If you want a stark contrast to Camden, travel via the Chalk Farm station and spend a few minutes, or even an entire afternoon, walking around the residential area of Primrose Hill.
Columbia Road Market
Go here for: Flowers & Mulled Wine
Depending on when you visit the Columbia Road Market, you’ll either get colorful flowers or mulled wine. That’s of course because of the seasons but it gives you two totally different local experiences. The market is open every Sunday rain or shine from 8am to around 3pm. Many of the sellers plant their own flowers while others import their flowers from around the world.
There are 60 independent shops in addition to small art galleries, vintage clothing stores, antique stores and gardens in the nearby streets. Also in the area are pubs, restaurants and cozy cafes. During the wintertime in the evenings, the main focus shifts toward art, with musicians performing and lots of mulled wine available. Take the Tube to either the Old Street or Bethnal Green stations to reach Columbia Road.
Megan Eileen McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough is a New York City-based freelance writer the founder of Bohemian Trails, a blog covering global lifestyle trends for the savvy and stylish traveler. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and across the United States. Megan’s work has appeared on Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, US Airways and USA Today among others.
*Image of Camden Market via Shutterstock