When you’re on a hunt for treasures to fill the blank spots in your flat or the empty spaces in your closet, grab your friends for a day of shopping in the markets of Camden Town. On crowded weekends — which is every weekend these days— the energy pulsing through this vibrant London borough is contagious. While no longer a secret from tourists, Camden Town has retained its funky edge, with pierced, tattooed, and dreadlocked denizens of alternative culture rubbing elbows with clean-cut shoppers. The shopkeepers contribute to the carnival atmosphere, chatting amiably with customers as chaotically illustrated murals and splashy storefronts heighten the swirl of color and motion.
Although every street teems with vendors, it’s best to begin your journey at the birthplace of Camden Town’s shopping scene. The Camden Lock Market, which opened in 1972 as the first crafts market in this once-industrial neighborhood, is still the go-to place to buy one-of-a-kind handicrafts.
Even though this is a serious shopping mission, you can’t resist pawing through the Japanese kimonos and goth-style dresses, then modeling a ’50s-style hat or the prim, Princess Kate-style fascinator that just gave you the inspiration for your next theme party. Test your haggling skills for those hip sunglasses or that gorgeous antique bracelet, and feel a satisfying rush when you talk your way into a sweet discount. When you fall in love with a Persian rug that would fit perfectly in your bedroom but won’t quite fit in your backpack, don’t sweat it — just arrange to have it delivered to your home.
Continue your bargain hunt at nearby Stables Market, where you’ll gawk at the gold-and-steel canopy, flanked by golden statues, that stands at the entrance. Like the Lock Market, the Stables Market is overflowing with clothing and appealing trinkets, but also has the neighborhood’s best selection of unique furniture and accessories, with a singular mix of antiques and original pieces. You’ll remember it later for that canopy, though, along with the giant horse statues in the walkway — Camden Town is nothing if not artistic.
Once you’ve filled up your shopping bags, there’s no need to rush back to the Camden Town tube station. Instead, sit down with your friends on the second-floor terrace of Yumchaa for a black chai tea and some primo people-watching. As the tide of shoppers flows by your little perch, you happily chat about your triumphant negotiations, compare purchases, and announce your idea for that theme party.