Out of all of London’s world-famous markets, Camden has to be one of the most well known. Even people who have never set foot in the UK are aware of Camden’s brilliance, such is its reputation and calibre.
It all started in 1974 when a small crafts market, comprising 16 stalls, popped up every Sunday in the backyard of Dingwalls – a legendary gig venue that was a favourite of The Clash, The Sex Pistols and Blondie.
Although only temporary at first, the market’s popularity quickly gathered pace until it developed into London’s largest market, opening seven days a week. Some 100,000 people descend on Camden Market every weekend, making it the fourth-most popular visitor attraction for London.
Today, it specialises in much more than crafts and you’ll find a whole host of unique and kooky wares down Camden Market.
Six markets in one
It is a common misconception that Camden Market is all in one place. Instead, the name is a collective term referring to more than 1,000 unique stalls, shops, bars and cafes spread across six distinct locations in the Camden Lock area.
Camden Lock Market, which runs alongside Regent’s Canal, is perhaps what most people mean when they talk about Camden Market.
But there’s also Buck Street Market, which has a sign outside reading ‘The Camden Market’, so you can understand why the formal definition of Camden Market is so loose. Here, stallholders sell their own self-designed wares.
There’s also Stables Market, which has an eclectic, youthful vibe with stalls and shops selling fashion, accessories and music.
Another element of Camden Market is the Electric Ballroom, which aside from housing a 50-stall indoor market, doubles up as an iconic rock music venue.
Finally, there’s Inverness Street Market, specialising in good ol’ fruit and veg. It’s been in the area since around 1900.
Until recently, there was also Camden Lock Village, the part of Camden Market that was famously devastated by fire in 2008, but it was closed down early 2015.
What can you buy there?
Enthusiasts would be suitably served at Funky Town in Stables Market, with pre-loved Levi’s, Doc Martens and leather jackets. What Goes Around, also in Stables, offers varsity jackets, college sweatshirts, bowling bags, Hawaiian shirts, classic jeans and sneakers, all boasting that worn-in feel.
Other vintage stockists worth checking out include 80s specialists Power Dressing on Chalk Farm Road and Stables Market’s suitably named Modfather.
For more dapper 1950s-style menswear, head to Camberry in Camden Lock Market and Teddy Boy in Stables.
Cyberdog is one of the most eye-catching shops in all of London, let alone Camden Market, with what looks like two 20-foot robots guarding the doorway. This striking shopfront is enough to arouse suspicion in anyone and inside, you’ll be able to buy futuristic fashion, clubwear and fluorescent rave clothing. Not for everyone but this Stables Market shop is legendary in the clubbing scene.
Music is a big part of Camden Market too, unsurprisingly for a market that grew out of the back of a gig venue.
There are no prizes for guessing what Camden Guitars in Camden Lock Place specialises in, while second-hand record hunters could spend hours exploring the racks and crates in Massive International and Disc Disciples, also in Camden Lock Place.
There’s also Rock N Roll Soldiers in Chalk Farm Road, which stocks classic punk rock tops including those of The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.
Camden was a favoured stomping ground for Amy Winehouse before she died of alcohol poisoning in 2011. As a lasting tribute to the tragic star, a 175cm bronze statue of Winehouse, with her trademark beehive hair and short strapless dress, was erected in Stables Market.
London is home to some of the world’s best art museums and that is reflected in Camden Market’s selection of art sellers.
Fleming Antiques in Stables Market offers an ever-changing offering of classic one-off antiques, from statues and candlesticks to paintings and portraits.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s a large contemporary gallery in Chalk Farm’s Accepted Rebellion, housing work from some of the urban art scene’s finest street artists. If you can’t make it to Camden, these guys have another gallery in Notting Hill.
Camden Lock’s House of Guadalupe specialises in Mexican folk art, with many Day of the Dead-style decorations, while Planet Bazaar on Chalk Farm Road sells modern design and vintage decor.
If the standard London souvenirs just aren’t cutting it for you, We Built This City offers a unique take on the capital’s keepsakes with fresh, alternative recreations of many classic London scenes.
‘What about the kids?’ I hear you cry. Well, the little ones are specifically taken care of by Village Games in Camden Lock Place, which has been selling traditional handmade toys, board games, jigsaws, mechanical puzzles and magic tricks since 1981.
A few units down is Josiah Amari, which offers unique child garments, designed by the owner and lovingly created on a sewing machine in-store.
If you want to fill your belly, then you’re in luck because the choice of food stalls is vast in Camden Market. Pretty much any type of food can be found here.
Head to Camden Lock and Mr Piadina can give you a genuine taste of Italy with a tasty thin flatbread, devised from a traditional recipe. Mama’s Jerk Station dishes up amazing Caribbean street food from flame-grilled chicken wraps to veggie bean cakes.
Cowboy Cottage serves scrumptious cottage pie, nacho salad and the juicy-sounding cowboy sloppy joe. For afters, check out Chin Chin Labs’ liquid nitro ice cream or South East Cakery’s award-winning brownie bars. Hungry yet?
How to get to Camden Market
Camden Market is very well served by public transport, with the nearest Tube station being Camden Town and Chalk Farm Road on the Northern line.
Alternatively, bus is an effective way of getting there. You could take any of the following routes: 24, 29, 31, 88, 168, 253 or 274.