Get down to a good day's shopping at London's Saturday markets, which can provide you with everything from locally sourced vegan meals to vintage fur jackets. If you need a little respite from the trials of Oxford Street, Cabbages and Frocks is a delightfully serene affair, and if you're more interested in being seen than buying stuff, head east and spend a few hours floating around Broadway Market and Netil Market.
Venue says: “Don't miss our first Art, Antiques & Design Flea Market on Church Street, September 24.”
Good for: furniture, antiques
Alfie’s is packed to the rafters with handsome twentieth-century home decor, hosting more than 100 dealers in vintage furniture and fashion, art, accessories, books, maps and more. Dodo Posters do 1920s and ’30s ads.
Good for: food, lunch
London’s oldest market – dating back to the 13th century – is also the busiest, and most popular for gourmet goodies. Here, traders satisfy the city’s insatiable appetite for beautifully displayed organic fruit and veg, cakes, bread, olive oil, fish, meat and booze.
Good for: food, cafés
Compared to the culinary homogeneity of Borough market et al, Brixton is a sensory fiesta. The air is thick with the sizzle of jerk chicken stalls, tinny reggae riddims and yam-based price disputes while the multi-coloured hues of exotic fish displays glimmer like a whiffy rainbow.
Good for: food
If it’s Saturday, then it must be Hackney’s Broadway Market, at least as far as east London’s fashionably attired food-lovers are concerned. Many of the congregate on the market, picking up well-priced fresh fruit and veg, artisan cheeses, rare-breed meat, luscious cakes and indulging in top-notch snacking options from an array of hot food stalls.
Good for: clothes, accessories, souvenirs
Camden’s sprawling collection of markets offers a real smörgåsbord of street culture. Wander past loitering goths and punks to join the throng of tourists, locals and random celebs fighting it out at the vast and varied selection of shops and stalls. Saturdays are not for the faint-hearted – crowds craving lava lamps, skull rings, fashion, interiors, music and vintage swarm about.
Good for: antiques, gifts
Although something of a London institution, Covent Garden Market is too commercial and generally too crowded to provide a particularly characterful retail experience. However, the colonnaded 19th-century building is impressive, and occasionally some of the performers and entertainers can even be worth watching.
Good for: fruit and veg
If the bellowing, clattering traders selling a good mix of fruit, veg and tat aren’t Albert Square enough for you, then the frequent presence of a real life ‘EastEnders’ actor on the street might be – it’s not unusual to see locals Martin Fowler or Cindy Beale here picking their way through the apples and pears (“TWO PAND A PAAAAND”). Chapel Market has no airs and graces despite the Islington area that surrounds it having shot up in desirability over the past decade.
Good for: food, vintage
Most of Deptford Market is your standard south/east London fare: three-pack pants, timber wolf fleeces, Duracells and lighters. Halfway down its length, though, is a distended gut of impacted crap, presided over by two tennis umpires up stepladders who take money, dispense change and guard against pilfering.
Mad World Fancy Dress and Costume Hire
This vast dungeon (well, it's in a basement) of a fancy dress store offers a stellar personal service. Staff will help you navigate some 35,000 costumes, from a sleek ant to a fuzzy Orvill duck, and then assist in piecing together a unique outfit for sale or hire. Mad World is a great stop for period costumes, character fancy dress (they have everyone from Ron Burgandy to Rainbow's Bungle) and seasonal events such as halloween. Their get-ups are so on point that TV and movie production companies use them, too. They also stock balloons and costume accessories, such as wigs, swords and more, and there's another Mad World store in Charing Cross.
Venue says: “Mad World is your very own dressing-up box! We have more than 35,000 costumes for hire across our two central London stores.”