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Most visitors under the age of 40 will inevitably want to check out some of that liberal, free-spirited vibe London has become known for, and a majority of these will turn to Camden for their kicks. And who would blame them? Camden at the weekend is a party, stalls and wares as far as the eye can see, teens and twentysomething London locals and visitors spilling out onto the streets and traffic beaten into slowing to a crawl.
One of the best reasons for heading to Camden at the weekend are its markets – although to most people, it will come as a mass of one or two massive, sprawling markets spilling into every nook and cranny of London’s streets, Camden’s markets are actually a collection of six markets. The largest and most well-known are Camden Lock and the Stables market, with a few other smaller ones on side streets and along its famous waterways.
Camden Lock is the original market, and located by the bridge on the banks of the canal. Elaborate graffiti murals and pop-art installations overlook the mass of buyers lining the stalls, and there’s a little more space to move around as its depths take you off the main passageways. You can pick up the usual chintz but on the south side, within the buildings and by the lock are some excellent sellers offering wonderful vintage and antique jewellery along with some very good street food by the water.
Stables Market was recently given a refurbish several years ago and is located in, surprises of surprises, a former stable complex which was turned into a commercial marketplace. It feels the largest of the markets, and is a tumultuous maze of stalls teeming with handcrafted goods, from home-made and ethnic jewellery, to funky and alternative clothing and ersatz instruments. Look out for the guy offering free drum lessons inside his cavernous percussion store. Opt to eat at one of the many stalls selling noodles, fajitas and the other usual quick-fixes (though the quality tends to be higher at Lock Market) or opt for a meal inside the opulent interior of Gilgamesh, a good pan-Asian restaurant at the market’s entrance. Proud Camden is also located here, and is worth checking out in the evening for great shows and concerts, though it’s also a good option for a cheeky drink (or an all-nighter, whichever makes you happy). Watch out for the pigeons.
As for the other markets, you’ll catch them at every turn – Inverness Street Market is off a side street before you reach the bridge, and as well as the usual “I heart London” merchandise, it also contains a fruit and veg market with vibrant traders. Buck Street Market is located below the big green “Camden Market” sign on Chalk Farm Road and despite its smalls size, sells an array of used CDs and clothing at knock-down prices. Legendary rock club The Electric Ballroom is converted to a market during daytime weekends too, and the resurgent Canal Market is home to the original Punkyfish stall as well as amazing potpourri and scented candles from Laney’s.
Most markets are open every day of the week from 1100 to 1800, with the exception of Canal Market, which is only open Friday to Sunday. Plan your route on Sundays as Camden Town station gets so busy it becomes “exit only” – you can get off at Camden Town, but you’ll have to get back on again at either Chalk Farm or Mornington Crescent (there are plenty of buses to either station, if you’re feeling lazy).
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 - 18:00
Nearest Tube: Camden Town