European Product Manager Elizabeth Frels shares her London market guide to five of the city’s best markets for the discerning traveler.
From the bric-a-brac of Brick Lane to antiques of Portobello to the scrumptiousness of Borough, London is filled with marketplaces that cater to all tastes, styles, and preferences. The weekends seem to be devoted to bargain shopping at these city hotspots. Which markets, then, are the absolute best ones to consider for the discerning traveler?
Five markets get the grade.
Portobello Road has been a household name since the 1800s. Whether taken from the cheerful tunes of Bedknobs and Broomsticks or from the famous Hugh Grant montage of Notting Hill, Portobello is known for its collection of antiques, floral, fashion and food. Yet one thing that many forget to mention is its monstrous size. The road literally feels like it never stops, which makes it over-exhausting for those in need of a stop-shop-and-go atmosphere.
However, there is one thing that cannot beat this adorable Notting Hill location: variety. From the Notting Hill Gate entrance one finds trendier, vintage apparel and high-end antiques, while food vendors and the invaluable accessories follow further down the road by Ladbroke Grove. It is the epitome of classic London, where around every corner, there is either the smell of old antiques or the sight of endless stalls. Come here for a full day of shopping, when price expectations, time limits and “have to get” wish lists are not a part of the picture.
Camden Lock Market
Camden Lock Market is an extremely popular market in north London. It is considered to be a mecca for the student types and those searching for different, non-mainstream styles. Stepping into Camden Market, however, is an experience one is not likely to forget. Men sport multicolored mow-hawks, and skateboards, piercings, and black-and-hot-pink stripes saturate the crowd. The streets are usually so packed it can be difficult to move, and the vendors are dedicated to selling a lot of commercial wear. It’s authentic London at its best and an ideal scouring ground for those looking for the next trend and the edgiest designs.
Covent Garden is one of the most popular stops in Central London. Characterized by its pure beauty, it is what one might call part of “fairytale London.” It is magic for any visitor, even when it is not decked out in all of its holiday glory. For a true shopping experience, head inside the 19th-century piazza where quaint shops and street performers take the scene. Favorites include the Il Papiro paper goods store and the Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop – which is enough to make anyone smile. In the end, Covent Garden is a beautifully enchanting experience, adding a dash of color to an everyday shopping event, but the market itself is more than overpowered by the indoor expensive boutiques and surrounding entertainment.
Greenwich could be described as a small getaway in the middle of a massive city. The streets are nothing short of charming, filled with one-of-a-kind shops, cafes, and restaurants. The same can be said for its markets. Within Greenwich, there are multiple markets of various sizes, but the one that is worth all the time is the main Greenwich Market. Located in a covered alleyway, this site is filled with the truly original, ranging from Moroccan home essentials and baby clothes to tea made in Thailand and antique jewelry. Almost all of the products are handmade and irreplaceable. Their gift ideas are exceptional, and their prices are livable. This is, by far, one of my favorite stops and one I return to every time I visit London. It’s the sort of place for those looking for well-thought-out gifts, good prices, and easy shopping.
Borough is not what you would consider your typical London market. That’s because this weekend affair was conceived with the foodie in mind. Hidden amid the treasures of London’s South Bank, Borough Market boasts a 1,000-year-old history and more than 100 stalls and stands featuring fresh produce and handmade delicacies from across the country. Delectable cakes and patisseries? They have them. Hordes of cured meats and buckets of olives? They have that too. The best Turkish Delight selection you’ve ever laid eyes on? Most certainly.
Of all of these vendors, there is perhaps none more important than the raclette aficionado, who serves steaming scrapes of the cheese on top of potatoes and inside grilled cheese sandwiches. Being the foodie I am, every time I return to London, I can’t help but feel at home amid the sweet and savory gifts and treats of Borough. At the very least, it serves as a mandatory lunch stop as you explore London Bridge, Globe Theater, and Southward Cathedral nearby.
In conclusion, whether your cup of tea is Oxford Street or the local antique store, go for something original and worthwhile during your stay in London. Visit the markets, haggle the prices and look for the true one-of-a-kind – chances are you will find it in the Big Smoke.
For more information about our London Market Guide, or to include a stop at one of your favorite markets on your next Ker & Downey journey, contact your Luxury Travel Consultant. Stay up to date on all our online content by following us on Facebook and Twitter.