Keeping an eye on the market: London
Gentlemanly clichés – tweed jackets and topcoats, steampunk corsets, futuristic accessories, well-worn denim and leather jackets, paintings, baskets, cardboard – the range of London flea markets defies description and inventory. What to hunt for and what to prepare for – illustrator Nadya Lebedeva walked through flea markets of the British capital and especially for 34travel compiled a detailed guide to the action. We are pleased to remind you that we make the “Market Watch” column together with Kufar bulletin board, by the way, the largest in Belarus.
Whatever you imagine London style to be, its key elements can be found at the counters of the famous local flea markets. There are plenty of them here – almost every neighborhood has local weekend markets. But there are also those whose fame goes far beyond the London postal codes: in these markets are filmed movies, they unfold action books, and also there is quite possible to meet world celebrities or buy a painting of the XVII century (not excluded, however, that fake).
Market in London – it’s more than hunting for a bargain: it’s antiques, music, exhibitions, delicious and unusual food, interesting meetings and, of course, shopping.
Most of London’s big markets are open several days a week, but it’s on weekends that you’ll find the widest range. That’s why the market streets become quite lively at the weekend. It’s not just shoppers and traders here – most people come to the markets not so much for the shopping, but for the atmosphere and the partying.
We’ve got a grand plan for you all weekend: head west on Saturday and east London on Sunday. Compare contrasts in London’s cultures, shop for vintage pieces, sample falafel and, of course, try on dresses from the 1960s.
Portobello road market The most luxurious
The most famous flea market in the British capital, the longest shopping street in Europe, the most famous antiques market in the world… And that’s what Portobello Road Market is all about. The most popular day for vendors and visitors is Saturday, when it is very crowded, and it is easy to get lost among the cluster of confused tourists with cameras and shouting salesmen. Keep your head in the hullabaloo and analyze the prices – they are mostly high and you can only buy a magnet or a gingerbread man with a street name for £2.
If you don’t plan to buy anything, all the better. You could sit in one of the many cafes along the street and gawk at the customers and vendors or browse through books in that very bookshop from Notting Hill. Hugh Grant, however, is unlikely to be seen here – unlike in the respectable Fulham area, where the actor lives and frequents the local pubs.
Portobello Market is divided into several parts. Most tourists getting off the subway at Notting Hill Gate station first see the famous antique market, which transitions into a fashion market. There’s handmade lace, furs, jewelry, hats and shoes. Prices are high on all sorts of luxury closet items: a mink coat in good condition from the 1960s will cost £400-600, and vintage YSL and Chanel jewelry costs almost as much as new. For more or less cheap bargains on Portobello you can always pop in for lovely shawls (2 for £35).
Interestingly, the street’s popularity with affluent shoppers has also attracted fashion label stores, which are interspersed with cafes and small stores selling accessories and housewares.
At the very end of the street, where the crowds of shoppers noticeably thin out, you can find directly second hand (tourists hardly ever go there, most customers are from the adjacent streets), vegetables and fruits, which are sold for a pound a bowl, fresh eggs and all sorts of small stuff for the home.
Columbia Road Flower Market The most famous flower market in the world.
Open only on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s not a flea market in the classic sense of the word (although you can find vintage there too), but to be in east London on a Sunday and not visit this place is a great loss!
A little historical background: Columbia Market originated back in the 1860s in what was then called Nova Scotia Gardens. It was just a huge bazaar that was going to be turned into a fish market, but the plans didn’t materialize, and in 1886 the bazaar closed for a while. The place then became a Saturday flower market, which during World War II was severely damaged by a bomb attack on one of the civilian shelters on the adjoining property.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the market became roughly what we see it today: shrieking vendors, fragrant herbs, the freshest buds. Here you can find the most unusual flowers and potted plants (olive trees, Venus flycatchers, pink pineapples) and check out one of the many stores selling antiques.
Be prepared for the fact that there are not just a lot of people here, but a lot – the traffic on the road is more like getting out of a subway car at rush hour. So don’t be lazy to get here early in the morning.
Once you get off the subway at Bethnal Green station, you can tell without a map the direction to go – be guided by people with bouquets and pots.
After going to the market, you can stop in for brunch, such as at Cafe 338 (Bethnal Green Rd, 338) . There’s always a line here on weekends, which isn’t surprising – there are several breakfast options to choose from (served all day), with plenty to choose from for vegetarians and sweet-tooths alike. But the best part is the price: a huge portion and a coffee will cost you just £5.
After a full breakfast it’s time to head in the direction of our main target for today – the two main markets of East London. We start with the cozy and clean indoor Old Spitalfields Market.
Old Spitalfields Market The most creative.
Not far from bustling Liverpool Street is the Old Spitalfields Market – a small, covered market open seven days a week. It’s busiest on a Sunday.
The assortment is quite chaotic, but be warned at once – don’t expect to buy everything at this flea market for three kopecks. The cheapest dress I could find was £5 – probably because it was torn at the seam. But look at the ’60s-inspired print!
You can also get fancy lettering from old signs and lettering from a print shop. Our attention was caught by the “S” and “B” letters, apparently once part of a Starbucks sign.
This market is a great place for those looking for all sorts of interesting artisan souvenirs, like funny clocks or glasses made from flattened or cut glass bottles. We found prints with reproductions of Chagall, vintage Hermes scarves (selling for £170 a pair), and next door, a booth from the guys who make shoes with motley tapestry fabric inserts (from £40).
And here are some more interesting stores.
The owner of the AUNTIE AVIATOR stand, Sharon, tells us about her eyewear: she sells 20th century frames – from the 1910s to the 1990s. What’s remarkable is that you can order lenses with diopters to match a particular frame.
Simon, the owner and part-salesman of FORK OUT, makes jewelry out of old silver forks.
And this brand makes outerwear out of wool and cotton. The cost is £40 to £80.
There is a tent, where they sell old maps, we wanted to make a picture of Eurasia, exactly as in the geography class in the schools, but the owner of the stand firmly put an end to our attempt to make a picture. But we learned the price of the map itself – 75 pounds!
Colin, who co-owns a hat store called The last stop for curious vintage, was delighted to show us a selection of vintage hats, from vintage cylinders to new hats made from authentic patterns, and innovative folding hats which don’t crease. “Every girl needs a leopard hat,” Colin assured us. And even offered to take selfies together.
Laconic leather bags that could be an alternative to the overly recognizable Cambridge Satchel cost £40-45.
Also catching our attention were bags made of silicone. Similar in form and colors to the popular in Europe brand Sophie Hulme, they do not tear, do not lose their shape, do not spoil from moisture and dirt and look quite decent. The asking price is £60-70.
This market, of course, is the place to try excellent food from around the world. On average, expect to pay 5-8 pounds for a full, hearty meal.
By the way, if you like exoticism, every fourth Sunday of the month the market hosts The African Market, where you can buy African souvenirs, fabrics, books, cosmetics and food. There is also usually a fundraiser for charitable initiatives during this event.
It’s not that hard to rent a stand at the market and the prices range from £30 on a weekday to £95 on a Sunday. The prices are not as high as on Portobello Road, which is a tough place to come to, and many vendors wait months for an empty seat.
Moving on to the beehive-noisy Shoreditch, where most of London’s street art is concentrated, and where the concentration of coffee shops and barbershops reaches a critical point. Here you’ll find the famous Brick Lane.
Brick Lane Market The hippest
Brick Lane is a quintessential East London landmark in its own right, a small world of creative bohemians, fashionistas, musicians, artists and anyone else who wants to be a part of it. Don’t plan anything in particular for a visit to this market and to this neighborhood: go through all the open doors, you are sure to get either an exhibition or a party.
Brick Lane is open from 10 a.m. and, strictly speaking, it is not one bazaar, but an intricate weave of five different markets known as The Truman Markets.
The markets are located in a large area of a former brewery. The place is now a major venue for various creative events (may we use the term “creative cluster”), short sales of fashion brands, trade shows and just hanging out.
What to do at the market? Here you can eat matzo, curry, Caribbean food, buy hookahs, vintage Levi’s, 60’s nightstands, and retro-futuristic sunglasses. At the same time, of course, look at the products of up-and-coming designers.
Vrisk Lane includes the indoor vintage clothing market The Vintage Emporium, the Upmarket flea market, the Tea Rooms antiques showroom, and a great selection of incredible food at the Boiler House Food Hall.
The Tea Rooms has been open on weekends since 2009. This market gets its name from the huge selection of all sorts of teas and coffees. You’ll find everything there is to associate with having tea: slightly fancy lounge furniture, silk cushions, tablecloths and napkins, freshly baked goods, even books…
The Vintage Emporium is located in the lower level under the café. Here you can find items that can be safely considered antiques: furnishings and jewelry from the Victorian era to the 1950s.
The Hanbury Street Upmarket stockists second-hand clothes from the 1920s to the 1990s and also sells old records and fancy figurines. You’ll also find cheap sunglasses from unknown manufacturers, national costumes from different nations, elements of stage costumes, and eye-catching 1980s party shirts – why not?
On the vintage side of the market is a large selection of outerwear: from, apparently, cognizant of the rough brokerage party leather coats to mink coats from the 1950s. By the way, according to the locals, it is the only ethical way to buy a fur coat made of natural fur – the seller of one of the stands tells us that it is popular to wear furs, which show that they are not the first decade: “There is no risk that you will be doused with paint or just judged”. Prices start at about £50 for furs.
The Vintage Market is open Friday and Saturday from 11am to 6pm and Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
More addresses for the tireless explorer of London’s markets
Camden Lock (6 Ferdinand St).
A market in Camden, an iconic spot of the grunge nineties. Consists of open-air rows and a covered Victorian market. Arts and crafts, jewelry, vintage clothing, and a large selection of outfits for all subcultures. So for finding clothes for a themed party, this is the place to go! Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bermondsey Market (Bermondsey Square).
A definite first choice for anyone who wants to see what a classic London antiques market looks like without the vicious crowds like Portobello. You’ll find porcelain dolls, copper kitchenware, and a large selection of old silver here. Open until Fridays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Nearby Bermondsey Market is London’s most famous food market with a huge selection of quality produce and ready-to-eat foods. From pad thai to Greek souvlaki, you can try authentic dishes from almost any cuisine in the world here. Very crowded, which local thieves love to take advantage of – pick your pockets!
Brixton Market (Electric Ave)
Southern colorful neighborhood known for being the birthplace of David Bowie. Afro-Caribbean products, fabrics, ethnic jewelry and furnishings, and interesting ceramic and metalware. Open weekdays from 08:00 to 18:00 (Wednesdays until 15:00).
Text by Nadzeya Lebedzeva , photos by Nadzeya Lebedzeva and Alexandra Kononchenko
All the flea markets on a map of London
Everything you need to know about the features, pros and cons of London’s famous flea markets, how to haggle, addresses, and what to buy.
London is a city replete with sales of various types. Whether it’s food (Borough Market, Moltby Market) or flowers (Columbia Road), these are great tourist spots if your budget is tight.
And while the description “flea market” is not really used in the United Kingdom, there are indeed many places in London selling used clothing and goods at low prices, ready to reward all treasure hunters!
Learn Special Slang
Knowing the lingo used by London merchants will definitely come in handy for treasure hunters. Frequently used expressions of British lingo coming from second-hand sellers include: “car boot sale,” “jumble sale,” and “bring and buys.” These are different versions of the same thing, and if you take away the technical aspect, they all indicate that a bargain is being struck. If you’re buying used goods, it’s always worth a little haggling. However, you won’t get much of a price reduction like you usually do in other parts of the world!
Since there are many flea markets in the UK capital, you need to narrow down your choices. For convenience, the guide is divided into regions: West, East, North and South of the capital.
Address: Portobello Road & Golborne Road Train: Notting Hill Gate or Ladbrook Grove When: Fridays and Saturdays
Portobello is one of London’s most famous and largest street markets. It is about 3 km from Portobello Road. There are five departments along the road. For second-hand clothes go to the north end (near Ladbroke Grove Underground). For pricier antiques you’ll find some closer to Notting Hill Gate. Portobello is open every Friday and Saturday.
Helpful tip: Friday visits will help you avoid the huge crowds and get a better deal.
Brick Lane Market
Address: Brick Lane Train: Shoreditch High Street station, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East tube station When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
On Sunday, head to Brick Lane. It’s not just one, but several markets with lots of second-hand clothes and goods. Head to Truman’s Brewery, where you’ll find more options. There is a special vintage sale on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A resident favorite, the Sunday (Up) Fair is the place to find designer items at affordable prices. Add to that delicious street food and the neighborhood’s visual appeal.
Old Spitalfields Market
Address: 109 Commercial St Train: Shoreditch High Street or Liverpool Street Metro When: Every day
The old Spitalfields Market only underwent a major redevelopment less than a decade ago. It wasn’t without controversy, as chain stores moved into spaces formerly owned by independent retailers. Nevertheless, you can still find good merchandise among the kiosks. It’s open seven days a week and changes themes daily. It might be vintage fairs on Thursday or music fairs every Friday. For more information, visit their website.
Address: Camden High Street When: Every day Metro: Camden Town
Fun fact! Camden receives 100,000 visitors every weekend. It is the fourth most popular tourist attraction in London.
It’s undoubtedly a fun place, but you’ll find that most Londoners aren’t happy with the quality of the merchandise on offer. As a rule, souvenir t-shirts rule here.
It would be foolish to pass up a Stables sale. In and around the former stables and railroad viaducts are about 700 vendors. Every weekend they sell everything from used watches to coats. And while popular, the prices are also reasonable.
Camden Passage Market
Address: Camden Passage Metro: Angel Station When: Wednesday and Saturday (major sale days)
Ignore the name – Camden Passage has nothing to do with Camden Market. In fact, it’s on a pretty cobblestone street near the Angel subway station, where independent vendors operate. This fun place can be visited any day of the week. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, Camden Passage is even prettier. Small stalls sell collectibles at a very affordable price.
Bermondsey Antiques Market
Address: Bermondsey Square Train: London Bridge or Bermondsey Underground When: Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This durable antiques and silver market is located in Bermondsey Square. You can also wander the neighboring streets in search of other second-hand stores. Bermondsey is not as high class a place as the name might suggest, and the vendors here are not too knowledgeable about the goods. It’s just a good place to explore, even if you’re not going to buy anything. Bermondsey is open every Friday from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm, so we recommend heading straight to the nearest Borough Market to reward yourself with delicious (and equally high-quality) food.
Address: Greenwich Market Train: Cutty Sark station (Docklands Light Rail) or Greenwich (DLR or surface rail) When: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Greenwich Indoor Market was established in 1787. Go for used collectibles on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. Independent makers and designers sell their wares on weekends.
Interesting fact! This is the only old market operating at the Unesco World Heritage Site.
Greenwich Clock Tower Market
Address: Greenwich High Road Train: Cutty Sark station (Docklands Light Railway) or Greenwich (DLR or Overland Railway) When: Saturday and Sunday
For plenty of vintage and retro finds, head to the Clock Tower Market, which operates on weekends and is very popular with antique lovers.
Address: Deptford High Street Train: New Cross or Deptford Bridge Station When: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
It’s not as popular with tourists, but you can get some great bargains here and not go broke. Every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, Deptford High Street has a sale. You can find household items, clothing, and food. Douglas Way is the main section of the second hand. You have to get there early (the area opens at 9 a.m.). To find really valuable and rare items you will have to try very hard.
Buttersey’s Luggage Sale
Address: Battersea Park Train: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road stations When: Sunday
What is a “luggage sale?” It’s when things are sold from the trunk of a car. The sellers are most likely regular people who want to get rid of used items as soon as possible, so they offer lower prices and make quicker concessions. The Buttersey luggage sale takes place every Sunday and has a great reputation. Items cost no more than 50 pence, but are of good quality. This includes anything that can fit inside the car.
Capital Carboot Luggage Sale
Address: Lupus Street Metro: Pimlico When: Sunday
Want to find clothes on the cheap? Then you should visit the stylist-founded Capital Carboot sale, which offers only quality items. Capital Carboot takes place in Pimlico every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You only have to pay £1 to get in.
Chatsworth Road Market
Address: Chatsworth Road, E5 0LH When: Chatsworth Road sale on Sundays from 11am to 4pm; Chats Fest on Saturday September 10; East London Vintage Fair on the second weekend of every month
Like most British flea markets, Chatsworth Road uncompromisingly takes over part of main street Hackney every Sunday morning. It has existed, by the way, since the 1930s. At that time, its grounds were occupied by 200 stalls, operating up to five days a week. Today, the rather small area is occupied by about 50 active vendors who work every Sunday. They offer high-quality goods to the public, making Chatsworth Road one of the best markets in London.
As you browse through all the stalls, don’t forget to chat with the locals. They sell paintings of unusual landscapes, polka-dot print shirts, and old-fashioned metal cans.
Most of the stores on Chatsworth Road are self-operated. It’s one of London’s longest streets. Combined with the Sunday sale, it becomes the perfect place to find unusual and eccentric items.