One of the reasons I was excited to go to London again was for the shopping. As I’m sure you know from the showing at London Fashion Week, you can get just about every type of fashion in The Foggy City. From the Dover Street Market to Oxford Street, the options are endless.
However, I found that the best shopping tends to be at the markets and in the nooks and crannies of London’s eclectic neighborhoods. Here, I’ll outline my favorite markets, shops, and neighborhoods in hopes of helping you plan your next trip to London.
Brick Lane Market
Nearest Tube Stops: Aldgate East and Shoreditch
Hands down, this is my favorite market. It’s the best place to find affordable vintage clothing and wares from up-and-coming designers. It’s also a fabulous place to get Indian food, street art, and jewelry. The best day to go is Sundays, as that is when the most market vendors are selling their goods. Note, you will be called to by Indian restaurant owners trying to get you in their restaurant. I’ve found the best ones are the ones that don’t need to be begging for your business. Look hard, you’ll find them.
While you’re there, make sure to check out Absolute Vintage and Beyond Retro, two second-hand stores off the main drag of Brick Lane. Also, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for pop-up vintage markets, as they are frequent.
Nearest Tube Stops: Aldgate, Aldgate East, and Tower Hill
Spitalfields market is open daily and covered, making it perfect for rainy days. It is close to Brick Lane so it is easy to hit up both of these markets in one stop. I’ll be honest, Spitalfields has some tschotske, but sift through the stalls and you’ll find some real gems and local designers. One of my favorites is Chunge Rowe, a local British designer who sells whimsical and feminine pieces.
You can also find lovely accessories at Spitalfields Market, from jewelry to lace collars and more. Be sure to always ask where the items come from, as you want to make sure they are local to Britain and not imported.
While you are at Spitalfields Market, check out the Whistles nearby. Yes, this is a chain, but it’s only in London (to-be-launched in NYC soon) and it offers really beautiful items. While you are at it, stop by into A.GOLD next door that offers some wonderful British curiosities that make the perfect souvenirs.
NOTE: You might be wondering why I don’t drop some love at Petticoat Lane market, which is very close to Spitalfields and Brick Lane. The reason? It effin’ sucks. No really – I went there all excited to hit three markets in one area and I was so disappointed. It’s sketchy – kind of like that backwoods flea market that sells really questionable imports from China. You will find nothing worth purchasing there fashion wise (I’m pretty sure ANY-wise, but I’ll try to tone down the hate). It’s junk. Just stay away.
Nearest Tube Stop: London Bridge
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m cheating – this is a food market. However, it’s awesome and if you plan to hit the market scene, I’d be doing you a disservice by not recommending this market. It’s relatively small, but you can find some real treasures for you and your foodie friends back home. Stay away from this market on Saturdays! It is ridiculously crowded and stressful. Locals know the best time to go is Fridays right before the lunch rush at noon.
My favorite stall has to be Pate Moi which sells mushroom pate (don’t worry – it’s vegetarian!). It is a spread that is absolutely amazing on everything – bread, chicken, sandwiches…everything. Also, don’t forget to check out Monmouth Coffee, which is one of the very few places you can find decent coffee in London (sorry – I’m from Seattle so inevitable to stick my nose up at the coffee scene there). There is also Algier’s Coffee that is internationally recognized and ships around the world, but that is on Dean St. near the Charing Cross tube stop.
There is also an Aesop shop near the market, which if you’re not aware of you should be. It’s an amazing Australian beauty product line that only recently started selling to the US. The shopkeeper was so pleasant and eager to give out samples, so definitely worth a trip to try before you buy.
Camden Town Market
Nearest Tube Stop: Camden Town
I’ll admit, I liked this market a bit more the first time I was in London about six years ago. Being older I realized there’s a lot of junk to sift through, but any trip to London would be incomplete without a trip to this punk-rock destination. As soon as you step off the tube, you’ll see the London from back in the 80s and early 90s, with mohawks, plaid, chains and all. Plus, it has amazing street food dotted throughout the market. Sure, you feel like you might walk away with food poisoning, but I promise you won’t. Weave through the souk-like labyrinth to find interesting shops selling everything from vintage clothing and jewelry to art and do-dads. It’s open daily, but the best day to go for some serious people watching is Saturdays.
Nearest Tube Stop: Notting Hill
I am sad I didn’t get to go to Portobello Road this time around, as it is only really hopping on Saturdays and I ran out of time. This market is quintessential London – quaint, slow, and authentic. It turns into a wonderful antiques and farmers market, meaning you’ll have to dig for fashionable pieces. However, even if you don’t walk away with anything you will have seen the famous pastel row houses. Also, I recommend checking out the chicken burger man, a food truck that parks right in the market near the produce, selling German chicken burgers. They are delightful.