Thursday is a great day to call in on Spitalfields Market, which hosts a weekly antiques and vintage market that's normally quiet and pleasant to browse. There is a wide choice of daily fruit and veg markets across the capital too – with wares sold by bellowing traders and offering great value.
Good for: food
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, lunch
London’s oldest market – dating back to the thirteenth century – is also the busiest, and the most popular for gourmet goodies. Traders satisfy the city’s insatiable appetite for artisan cheeses and ham from acorn-fed pigs. If food is your thing, then Borough, with its abundance of beautifully displayed organic fruit and veg, cakes, bread, olive oil, fish, meat and booze, is the place to go.
Good for: clothing, 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.
Good for: food, crafts
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: antiques, food
There are plenty of stalls selling bric-a-brac, second-hand clothes, ethnic ornaments, CDs, crafts and jewellery galore at Greenwich Market. Thursday is best time for unearthing unusual finds and provides a selection of stalls dealing in antique jewellery, vintage clothes, old books, music and collectibles – the Calneva Vintage stall with its cool 1950s and ’60s homewares, ceramics, lamps, handbags and compacts is just one such example.
More great shopping in London
High-end international designers sit alongside emerging labels at Sefton, one of Upper Street’s stylish boutiques. This menswear store opened in 1999 and has brimmed with reliably stylish names ever since, including APC, Comme Des Garcons and Acne. The interior is just as classy as the clothes, with stark white walls, a deep blue floor and very neat displays. Sefton is also an excellent bet for affordable accessories and their own brand offers chic basics that fans of Cos will delight in.