Camden Market guide
Despite rumours that Camden Market is a shell of its former self – the one-time undisputed centre of London's alternative scene – there are still plenty of delights to be found if you know where to look: from vintage fashion and retro T-shirts to second-hand books and bric-a-brac
Once the hub of London’s alternative scene, attracting cool cats and rockers from all over the world, Camden is perhaps now struggling to keep up with the times. But in spite of fires and refurbishments, the markets here work hard to cling to their rebellious roots.
Among the sea of T-shirts, corsets and chintz there are still some treats to be found in the caverns of vintage clothes, antiques, retro glasses, chandeliers, crafty goods, furniture, second-hand books and bric-a-brac, all served in style by passionate stallholders. And Camden’s reputation as the capital’s subculture hangout still attracts thousands of tourists looking for a photo with a punk. On weekends, they mingle with gangs of sulky teens buying things to shock their parents and musicians looking for their big break.
Go later in the afternoon during the week when you can have a quiet mooch around the shops before retiring to a pub to watch some bands. There are brand new toilets in the basement of the Stables Market and another set on the bridge of Middle Yard.
Nothing sums up the spirit of Camden like a piercing, so if you truly want to live the dream, be brave and head to Cold Steel (238 Camden High Street, NW1 8QS, 7267 7970). They have been puncturing flesh for more than 17 years, so you couldn’t be in better hands!
The tidal wave of excitable tourists and teenagers outside Camden Town tube (approach instead from Chalk Farm); strangers mumbling ‘Skunk, weed, hash…’; getting a part of your body tattooed on impulse.
Yumchaa in Camden Lock Place is an oasis of calm above the market madness. Choose one of their vast selection of teas and have a well-deserved piece of handmade cake.
Camden’s top stalls
The Black Rose is a Camden institution. Once the biggest and best goth shop in town, it was forced to downsize due to hefty rent increases, but it is still kitting out London’s alternative scenesters. These days, it stocks less classic gothic garb and more rockabilly and burlesque items: corsets, stockings, fetish-wear, accessories and wigs, plus a great range of menswear including T-shirts and work shirts.
Shop 26, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH (www.myspace.com/blackroselondon). 11am-6pm daily.
A Dandy in Aspic
The duo who runs these two shops are nothing if not dedicated. The units are packed out with handpicked retro finds from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s to supply authentic ska, mod, jazz and rock ’n’ roll get-up, with an emphasis on classic menswear. For Dandy’s owners, this is about embracing a whole retro lifestyle and culture, not just dressing up.
Unit D13, Horse Tunnel Market and Unit 566, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH (7485 3979). Noon-6pm Mon-Fri; 11am-6.30pm Sat, Sun.
Brian’s Classic Luggage etc
Brian has manned his stall in Camden every weekend for more than 25 years, selling an eclectic mix of beautiful old suitcases, cameras, sportswear, telephones, typewriters and anything else nice he can lay his hands on. Having moved all over the market, Brian has seen it all – from the makeshift punk recording studios in the old Gin House to the drunken antics of a certain Miss Winehouse.
Unit D38, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH (07973 445537/07757 144574). 10am-7pm Sat, Sun.
One-time Camden stallholder Anna Burns (www.annaburns.net) is a set designer and art director. She has recently published her first book, entitled ‘The Deformers: Attempted Deception’.
When should you visit Camden Market?
‘It’s open at 10.30am on weekdays and 10am at the weekend.’
‘I used to work at Camden for my auntie when I was a teenager, selling Lycra neon cat suits and leggings – it was the early ’90s rave days – and it was amazing, totally buzzing. I then started my own stall for a while selling hats and vintage clothing. Since then, Camden has had its heart ripped out [the market has undergone a series of major redevelopments], so I am very selective now and only go in and out guerrilla-style, mostly to [vintage eyewear store] Arkiv at the Stable Market. I have been buying my specs there for a good few years now.
'I used to prop shop in the Stable Market before it got turned into the Proud Gallery, and still go to the vintage knick-knack stalls that have been relocated to the basement. I also like Victory Motorcycles (49 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8NX). I have my BMW R100rs Café Racer serviced there. The man there only works on old motorbikes and has some great ones in his workshop. Above the workshop is a small, secret shop selling all sorts of motorbike and rock ’n’ roll memorabilia. Also, you can’t go to Camden without trying one of the amazing ice creams at Marine Ices (8 Haverstock Hill, NW3 2BL).’
What should you avoid?
‘Get the tube directly to Chalk Farm to avoid the trash part of the market. And avoid Camden Lock unless you want to see the same product on every stall.’
Camden Market and Camden Stables Market, Camden High St/Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH. 10.30am-6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat, Sun. Camden (Buck Street) Market, Camden High Street, junction with Buck Street. 10am-5 30 pm Thur-Sun. Camden Canal Market, off Chalk Farm Road. Camden Town or Chalk Farm tube. 10am-6pm Sat-Sun.
- Add your comment to this feature