You can buy anything in London. There are extravagant department stores, markets where you can find affordable treasures and window-shopping opportunities so enjoyable it’s amazing online shopping ever took off. Swerve off Oxford Street for and discover the places where shopping will never feel like a chore.
Shops and markets in London
A weekend institution in east London, the Sunday flower market that lines Columbia Road is the hippest and one of the best places to buy flowers, bedding plants and even a banana tree if you’ve got the patio space at home. It goes on until 3pm in all weathers, but for the best buys you need to get there for 8am.
A few blocks south of Tower Bridge, Bermondsey Square has been developed as a classy enclave of bars and arty hangouts. However, the Friday antiques market is no new arrival. For years it’s been a savvy spot for browsing vintage homeware, furniture and jewellery. The hardcore buyers show up when it opens at 6am but you’ve got until 2pm to surf the stalls.
One of the trendiest places for bargain gear is a school playground in Stoke Newington. Every Saturday and Sunday sellers just roll up (no need to book a pitch) and spread out their wares. Keen shoppers look for vintage fashions, vinyl and anything stylishly retro. Gates open at 8am Saturdays and 7am Sundays.
There are stalls selling veg and new goods through the week, but on Saturdays Portobello Market is at its best. At the Chepstow Villas end of the road you’ll find the antiques and bric-a-brac stalls. Don’t be fooled by the fold-out tables, this isn’t cheap tat, there are some serious treasures here. For secondhand goodies, head further along the road, beyond the Westway.
The ornate mock Tudor exterior and the warren of rooms and galleries are all part of the magical experience of a shopping trip to Liberty. Established in 1875, the original store sold fabrics and fine objets d’art from the Far East. Eclectic style throughout its fashion, beauty, gift and home departments continues to set rather than follow trends, with leading designers selling exclusive ranges through the store.
At its Chalk Farm store, General Eyewear is passionate about spectacles design from 1790 to 1995. Their collection of original frames reflects the timelessness of genuine style and if you have the money, they’ll make you a replica pair in acetate. Alternatively you can buy from their own ranges, including frames that rework English and Italian designs from the 1940s and ’50s.
Teenagers may flock to Camden for stalls and shops crammed with goth essentials in 50 shades of black, but Cyberdog is a burst of colour with a space-age anti-retro philosophy. Its three-floor flagship store in the Stables Market is as much a club space as a boutique, with music pumping and wildly clad dancers gyrating on podiums to inspire your spending.
Sensory overload is a serious danger at London’s oldest food market, with mouth-watering sights and smells at every turn. If you taste just one thing (unlikely, what with all the free samples on offer) make it this: a sublime sandwich from one of the city’s best tapas restaurants. You’ll have to wait a bit at lunchtime, but the queue moves quickly and the anticipation just serves to make that first mouthful of succulent sausage even more memorable.
Having been forced out of the premises where it spent the best part of a century by Crossrail, London’s biggest independent bookshop moved into a shiny new home in June 2014. The 107 Charing Cross Road site boasts eight levels of bookshelves, an events space, art gallery, café and a nifty interactive search tool that makes tracking down books an absolute doddle. It’s also an incredibly beautiful shop just to stroll around. Take that, internet!