Markets such as Portobello Road and Camden are not just London institutions, they’re must-visit destinations for travelers to the British capital hoping to pick up one-of-a-kind antiques, jewelry and clothing. And they’re not the only ones: Visiting foodies know to head to Borough Market for a gourmet strolling lunch; Brick Lane is famous for its vintage clothing and bargain bric-a-brac; and Spitalfields is a great spot for up-and-coming designers. But London also boasts dozens of smaller markets, frequented mostly by locals and offering an insight into London culture, as well as plenty of fun shopping opportunities. We take you through our top five.
This adorable 18th-century Islington backstreet is technically home to four separate markets — Annie’s Antique & Vintage Market, Camden Passage Market, Charlton Place Market and Pierrepont Market — which together offer a wide range of antiques and vintage items and clothing. For jewelry, Annie’s and Pierrepont should be your first port of call — the Andriani Vintage stall at Annie’s is particularly tempting — while unusual items of clothing from the 1900s to the 1990s can be found along the main drag of Camden Passage. Head to Charlton Place for great knickknacks. The main antique market days are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, with a book market taking place at Pierrepont on Thursday and Friday.
Columbia Road Flower Market
People come from across the capital each Sunday morning to browse and buy plants and cut flowers from the dozens of stalls lining this picturesque East London street. The market runs until around 3 p.m., but the best time to visit is first thing if you want to see Columbia Road in all its glory. Mid-morning (the most crowded time) is best avoided. For the ultimate Columbia Road experience, arrive bright and early and have a snacking breakfast as you stroll from Café Columbia (No. 138), a real institution now in its third decade of serving bagels and coffee to hungry Sunday morning market-goers.
Berwick Street Market
There has been a street market on this Soho site since the 18th century, and the place retains its traditional feel, despite the number of stalls selling tasty international street food that have sprung up in recent years. The fruit and vegetable, and flower vendors are reminiscent of those you’ll find at local street markets across London (and across the country, in fact) and many of them are family businesses — Ronnie’s Flowers has been here for nearly 60 years. Most stalls are open Monday through Friday, with a further handful operating Saturday, too.
What do you get when you cross a food market with a night out in the hippest part of town? Street Feast, that’s what. Fill your belly with delicacies from doughnuts and dosas to burritos and brisket at East London’s Dalston Yard Friday and Saturday nights through September 27. Dozens of stalls, including craft beer bars, cocktail makers and a DJ booth create a party vibe that’s hard to beat, even in this most happening of areas. Make sure to visit Jhal Muri Express, where chef Angus Denoon will whip you up this delicious Kolkata street snack of roasted rice, dal, peanuts, tomato, ginger, coriander and more, all served in a handy cone.
Northcote Road Antiques Market
Behind a small, unprepossessing storefront on this South London high street hides a light-filled hall packed with antique furniture, prints, crockery, linen, tableware and more. Thirty freelance dealers form a friendly community, with vendors putting in time at each other’s stalls and working together to help customers find what they’re looking for. Big enough to satisfy proper antiques buffs but not so large as to intimidate beginners, the market features objects from a wide range of historical periods, from the 18th century to the 1980s. Two stalls in particular are worth spending some time at: One on the first floor at the end of the entrance corridor boasts more sets of silver cutlery than you’ve ever seen in your life and the corner space on the right at the top of the stairs to the gallery is a dream come true for fans of vintage earthenware.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Bowles