The biggest, liveliest, most alternative market in London is held 7 days a week in the area around Camden Lock, although the market is at its biggest and best at weekends.
Emerging from the Camden Town Tube station (northern line) practically opposite 'The Worlds End' pub, first time visitors are likely to be overwhelmed by the mass of different people milling around here. Camden has long been a Mecca for Hippies, Punks, Musicians, Artists, Designers, Actors (see Withnail and I, which starts there in 1969), and generally any lovers of alternative lifestyles.
Walking up Camden High Street takes you past the Electric Ballroom - one of the many excellent nightclubs in the area.
There is an area on your right grandly labelled The Camden Market1 as you walk towards the lock, but this should really be regarded as a taster of things to come, the stalls here are very tightly packed together and this makes it pretty claustraphobic to all but the most dedicated bargain hunters. However, in case of differences, a good place to wait (and arrange as a meeting point in case people get lost) is 'The Elephants Head', a little further down the road.
A Relaxed Atmosphere
By now you will have probably stated to observe the strict pedestrian code that is in force here, or at least noticed that wandering around in the middle of the road, ignoring traffic lights and so on are par for the course here. Could well have something to do with the aromatic cigarettes that you may (or may not) also notice.
The shop fronts will also strike you as pretty bizzare, dont miss the huge fibreglass boot sprouting out of a wall. It is also one of few places in London where the buildings can be painted without special planning permission.
On the canal you may well see narrowboats and there is a riverbus between here and Regents Park, a short walk away.
You cross over the bridge and arrive where it really starts. You are now faced with somewhere in the region of 600 stalls and shops selling pretty well anything imaginable (that will fit on a market stand) and probibly quite a few things that are not..
- Incense Burners - all shapes and sizes
- Sculpture - African, Indian, Indonesian, Celtic, you name it
- Furniture - From Lampshades to carved chairs and tables, Medieval style Ironwork, antique and reproduction furniture, fireplaces, stuff for the garden.....
Lots of reasonably priced, tasteful stuff, far to numerous to list.
There are a lot of stands stacked with CD's playing samples of what they do. Most specialize in a particular style. Most of the music playing is so good you will probably feel like buying it on the spot. Whilst this would get you a record collection that would be the envy of your frends and peers, be warned that it may sound better in situ than it does when you get it home.
Anything from jeans and T-shirts to ethnic clothing, clubwear (including anything from 2foot high platform shoes, UV active transparent jackets, Tshirts with animated LCD patterns), vintage clothing, theatrical costumes, intriguing latex outfits, new and secondhand leather...
Doubtless you will see people modelling most of the fashions available, others I think would require a more private party..
As all this looking is bound to build up an appetite, there are plenty of catering stands providing meals for around £3. Choose between Thai, Indian, Mexican, Chinese...
You may possibly even find burgers and hot dogs somewhere.
Having had such a wonderful time, should you feel the need to get yourself pierced, tattooed, or otherwise modified, there are plenty of shops that will oblige. Many of the tattooists around here are at the top of their profession, you would have to go a long way to find better.
Plenty of places deal with spiritual stuff and alternative medicine. Get a head massage, your aura balanced, crystals charged, whatever...
Most of the stalls close at around 6pm. Dont miss the underground areas, lots of interesting stuff there. And in spite of the often fragrant atmosphere, normal laws apply.
Relax and enjoy yourself...