The highlight of each London visit for me is definitely the colourful and eclectic Camden! Camden Town, often shortened to Camden is in northwest London, and the best place to spend a day shopping, people gazing or just chilling with friends and soaking up the atmosphere.
Camden is very well known for its markets, some of which actually date from the 1970s or later. The main market is Camden Lock market which was started in a former timber-yard in 1973, and is now surrounded by five more markets: Buck Street market, Stables market, Camden Lock village, and an indoor market in the Electric Ballroom. These markets are definitely a huge tourist attraction at weekends, selling goods of all types including fashion, lifestyle, books, food, junk/antiques and some very bizarre items. These markets are definitely the ideal place to find something out of the norm or “alternative”. For half a century Camden Town has been the centre of alternative culture in London, be it punk, Goth, hippie or emo. This is a place that promotes uniqueness, where normal meets weird in harmony. It is definitely my kind of place!
I have spent countless hours browsing through the small and odd shops of Camden and admit that every time I found something interesting to buy. The markets in CamdenTown are why most people come to Camden. I love that the clothes sold here are not found in the shops on the high street and always have something funky about them.
Every time I had friends visiting me in London I would take them on a “hunt for treasures” in Camden’s markets. We would start our shopping extravaganza with a stroll by Regent’s Canal, the ideal place to gaze at the beautiful and colourful buildings that fill Camden. The shops are all built on top of each other and most are small and narrow, each painted a different colour.
The labyrinthine open-air markets and myriad retail outlets of Camden will keep the keenest shoppers busy, with everything from vintage to futuristic designs on offer. Several markets are packed into the area between CamdenTown and Chalk Farm tube stations, and in the weekend it can be difficult to distinguish one from another. I have also gotten lost in this “shop-labyrinth” a couple of times now and learned that its very difficult to find a particular shop you enjoyed on your last visit.
Sadly, with increased tourism, the markets have become more commercial and less unique than they once were. In the past 7 years since my first visit the atmosphere of Camden has changed and it has definitely turned into a tourist haven with lots of “tourist shops”. However it is still possible to find some great things to buy – clothes, art, books, records, shoes – simply by persisting through the most commercial bits and going on through to the more interesting parts deeper inside the markets. Here I have found some great hand-made leather bags and hand-made jewellery that are definitely worth a browse through. Remember to take cash with you on your Camden adventure as lots of the shops are small and don’t accept credit cards and finding an ATM without a long line of people is quite difficult.
On my first visit to Camden in 2005 there were actually “magic mushroom” stalls in the small alleyways, all of which are now closed and turned into “tourist shops”. I had just arrived in London and this was something that “myths” were made of, that you can actually buy these drugs in shops! Even though they don’t sell “magic mushrooms” anymore there are still a couple that sell cannabis lollipops.
I love strolling around Camden during weekends, believe me the sheer number of people makes walking quickly impossible so I try and get there early before the main weekend crowd arrives. But I usually end up staying the whole day, enjoying the friendly and up-beat atmosphere of Camden.
After browsing countless shops I love to sample the tasty cuisine from around the world that you can find all over the market. You can find anything from sushi to tacos, from Chinese to pizza or even barbeque burgers. The centre of the market is filled with countless food and drink shops that make choosing quite difficult as everything smells so good. My favourite dish is definitely a feta and spinach filled pastry that my friend Adel introduced me to. On cold winters afternoons it is the best place to warm up with a glass of warm mulled wine.
Weekend nights we would listen to live music and soak up the vibrant and diverse atmosphere at one of the countless little bars along Camden canal. Camden has always been a hub for London’s live music scene, with legendary venues that have launched many big names. There are also often comedy shows hosted here as well which usually feature an array of comedians from different countries. So you will definitely find something to your taste.
A visit to London is definitely incomplete if you don’t visit Camden. CamdenTown is definitely what London is all about!! Where else do you get shopping, entertainment and good food all in one unique place.