There are many kinds of shoppers. Most, if the numbers of people bustling around Oxford Street or Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, venture to the well-tread paths and massive department stores. Others stick to the safe, if sprawling, confines of their neighborhood mall. And lots prefer to peruse the less manicured streets of markets and vintage shops in search of a brilliant one-of-a-kinder or some baubles their friends will never be able to track down. If you're a member of that last set, Camden Market in London is your spot.
Like a mash-up of New York's East Village and Canal Street, Camden is a wonderful place for haggling and people watching. On sunny days, racks line the street from the Camden tube station to the Camden Lock and Stables Market, and you can browse through smaller clusters of side street vendors, too—the entire neighborhood is essentially an open air bazaar punctuated by brick and mortar shops.
Though it can be overwhelming how big it is (and how much there is to buy), the neighborhood is worth a thorough look. 'Camden Market' is really a group of markets: the larger Stables, Camden Lock, and Camden Markets are connected by Camden High Street, and are each somewhat specialized. The Stables Market, at the top of High Street, are the best for exotic (or just exotic looking) home-wares and tiny vintage stalls. Camden Market has rows upon rows of snappy t-shirts and sometimes questionable tables of neon tutus and platform boots, and the Camden Lock is aesthetically like a real-world ModCloth, if ModCloth also sold street food and featured a man with bird whistles on the corner. So actually, probably more like a real-world Etsy.
Vintage stores abound, and though some are a bit pricey, the sales staff knows their stuff. And with the 90s coming back in sartorial force, Camden is the best place in London to find all those kitschy knick knacks that designers are re-imagining lately for much, much less than you'd pay at Selfridge's (see Meadham Kirchhoff, Libertine, and Christopher Kane). Wander up Inverness Street for more vendors selling everything from Manchester United jerseys to Polynesian earrings, and head over to the east side of the Camden Lock Market for booths featuring up and coming designers next to street food and more run-of-the-mill t-shirt hawkers.
Aside from the tent and market stalls, there are a few chain retailers dotting the neighborhood—much to the outrage of some of the long-time vendors and visitors to Camden, and Aldo and an obligatory H&M popped up close to the tube station a few years ago. A less intrusive three-floor AllSaints is also tucked next to the footbridge over the lock.
After you've shopped, there are a ton of great restaurants, pubs, and clubs to check out: The Hawley Arms, The World's End and Dublin Castle are perfect London music pubs, and The Fifty-Five Club is great for when you're wearing shoes you don't necessarily want stepped on.
images: london-attractions.info, lifeovereasy.com
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