No matter where you stay in London, chances are there’s a market to explore that’s just a short walk or Tube ride away, whether you’re a foodie, fashionista, or arts and antiques aficionado. And if the buzz of traders, fellow shoppers and street entertainers gets you going, you’ll love strolling through one of the city’s markets, even if you don’t spend a dime. Here are a few of the best:
Best for Vintage Fashion and Art: Brick Lane
With its diverse selection of “pre-loved” fashion and accessories, furniture and various other curiosities, Brick Lane Market is a veritable treasure trove for visitors with plenty of time to spend perusing the stalls, stores and art galleries. The Old Truman Brewery at the north end is home to independent shops and up-and-coming designers selling everything from vintage clothing to antique home wares. You’ll also find the must-visit Tea Rooms, which features more independent traders selling beautifully displayed items, as well as hot beverages and baked treats. For heartier fare, make a stop at The Boiler House Food Hall — more than 30 food stalls feature international cuisines. Brick Lane is located in the heart of East London’s Bangladeshi community, so try one of the curries. Best time to visit: Sundays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closest Tube station: Aldgate East.
Best for Gastronomes: Borough Market
If fresh, seasonal produce; artisan goods; and home-baked treats are your thing, then Borough Market is the place to go. This foodie favorite is a great market to sample local specialities, meet and pick up tips direct from the producers, fill a basket with bites for a picnic, or purchase some tasty treats for family and friends back home. Best time to visit: Thursday (11 a.m.-5 p.m.), Friday (noon-6 p.m.) and Saturday (8 a.m.-5 p.m.), when the market is fully open. Closest Tube station: London Bridge.
Best for Antiques and Second-Hand Goods: Portobello Road Market
Fans of the popular 1999 rom-com flick Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant might recognize this colorful stretch of West London. Maintaining the same charm in real life, Portobello Road Market is a great place to stroll through, even if you don’t plan to do any actual shopping. Although if you happen to be in the market for something unique, you’re sure to find it here: This is the world’s largest antiques market — with more than 1,000 sellers — and it’s been operating since the 1880s. Tables adorned with various curios line both sides of the road, and you’ll find a host of shops, chic boutiques and cafés. Best day to visit: Saturday 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Closest Tube stations: Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Park, Latimer Road.
Best for Location and Entertainment: Covent Garden
The walk from the Covent Garden Tube station to the main Covent Garden square and market place is a special sort of entertainment by itself — the area is steeped in history and beautiful architecture, not to mention you’ll be treated to street performers. When you arrive, head to the Apple Market in a 19th-century piazza for handmade jewelry, arts, clothing and crafts; hit the East Colonnade for confectionaries, children’s toys, accessories and homemade beauty treats; and wander through the Jubilee Hall for antiques (Monday), household goods and clothing (Tuesday to Friday), and handmade arts and crafts (Saturday and Sunday). You’ll also find plenty of other standalone boutiques (Cadenhead’s Whiskey Shop, which has more than 170 malts; La Anabela, a chocolate shop) to keep you busy shopping. There’s a stellar selection of cafés and restaurants when you need to refuel, too. Best time to visit: Right when it opens (9:30 a.m. daily). Closest Tube stations: Covent Garden, Leicester Square.
Best for People-Watching: Camden Stables Market
Camden Town is a hub for eclectic shops and stalls, attracting an equally colorful, buzzing crowd, with various markets dotted around the area. The gem of the lot is the Stables Market, a former horse hospital and Midland Railway stables filled to the brim with a maze of around 700 small outlets selling vintage clothing, second-hand books, art, home accessories, music, bespoke furniture and more. Plus, you’ll find a multitude of sellers serving up food you can eat as you stand and watch the crowds go by, or while you picnic beside the nearby canal. And since it’s mostly covered, the Stables Market is a good place to check out when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Best time to visit: Saturday and Sunday. Closest Tube stations: Chalk Farm, Camden Town.
Photos Courtesy of Capital & Counties Properties PLC