For a city at the bleeding edge of innovation, London’s got a lot of love for all things retro. Whether you’re looking for a 1920s-themed cocktail party or a vintage market packed full of old-school threads, you’ll find it all in our guide to London’s knowingly nostalgic venues and events.
Vintage shops in London
We scoured the capital to find the best vintage shops, secondhand boutiques and antique fashion houses, including Camden's rockabilly stockists and east London's thrift warehouses. Here's our comprehensive guide to pre-loved fashion…
London's best speakeasies
Traditionally, speakeasies were places for illegal boozing that came to prominence during the Prohibition era in 1920s America. But ever since, they have taken on a mythical status: teacups brimming with gin, suave jazz musicians and a glitzy, retro dress code. Here's our pick of the new wave of London's speakeasy-inspired bars.
London's best car-boot sales
Whether its a high-end fashion steal or a cut-price antique, everyone loves a bargain. Thankfully, there are loads of great car-boot sales in London where you'll find much more than just chipped crockery and musty old clothes on offer. If you think we've missed out one of London's best car-boot sales, let us know in the comment box below.
London's ten best thrift stores
Now that vintage clothes seem to cost more than anything on the high street, it's time to find out where London's fashion bargains truly lie. Between the charity shops' rags and the vintage boutiques' riches lie the wonders of the thrift store; second-hand stuff that's beautifully curated but doesn't cost the earth. Sift through the wares in London's ten best.
The best vintage shops in London
The Vintage Showroom is a retro haven for men, stocking basic items such as Pendleton shirts, Barbour jackets and vintage denim alongside more specialist items like heavy duty ex-soviet army surplus, and sailor's smocks. You won't find ironic T-shirts and jeans here - the focus is on quality rather than quantity.
Among a nondescript parade of shops on a rather scuzzy bit of Kilburn Lane stands Merchant Archive, an artfully crumbling old Lipton general store that’s been reworked into a stylish emporium with striking art and sporadic taxidermy. The shop emanates an atmosphere of specialness as soon as you enter, and asa destination shop for both vintage and contemporary clothing, it takes pride of place in the address books of many a stylist, fashion designer and celebrity (namely Florence Welch). Owner Sophie Merchant’s discerning eye is evident in the well-edited selection of beautiful one-off antique pieces for sale, with vintage numbers from Lanvin, jumpsuits from the 1920s, antique velvet jackets, a good range of elegant dresses and some very special jewellery all waiting to be snapped up. Merchant Archive is number 46 in our list of the 100 best shops in London.
Blackout II was peddling vintage threads long before it became fashionable. For some 25 years, the Covent Garden store has specialised in antique apparel (largely dresses from the ’20s and ’30s) as well as more wearable men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from the ’40s through to the ’80s. The duplex store is heaving with stock, and you’ll need a great deal of rummager’s enthusiasm to prise through the stuffed rails, but incredibly knowledgeable staff, together with signs on rails indicating era, make the shopping experience a smidge easier. An ideal place to go if you’re after a specific item from a specific decade. Blackout II is number 52 in our list of the 100 best shops in London.
Vintage food and drink
Afternoon teas in London
Recent years have seen an explosion of afternoon teas around the capital, but some are better than others. Having tried most of London's better-known afternoon tea places for this feature, we've found some of them to be cynically overpriced tourist traps – but others have been utterly refreshing delights. Think we've missed a great afternoon tea in London? Use the comments box below.Reviews by Zena Alkayat, Tania Ballantine, Simon Coppock, Guy Dimond, Charmaine Mok, Cathy Phillips
London's best traditional sweetshops
Cola cubes, Chelsea whoppers, blackjacks, rhubarb and custard... Everyone's got their favourite retro sweet. Here's our guide to the best purveyors of old-fashioned confectionery in London.