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Camden Market: Best Street Market in London

Updated on December 5, 2016
TessSchlesinger profile image

Globetrotter, author, and thinker with interests in environment, minimalism, health, dancing, architecture, décor, politics, and science.

Camden Market in London

Towards the end of the '90s and beginning of the naughties, I spent four years living in Kentish Town, a five minute walk from Camden Market. Each weekend would find me browsing through many hundreds of stalls. Goods ranged from exotic skulls through embroidered linen, spicy foods to high fashion and vintage clothing. Furniture, lighting solutions, ancient jewelry, art, and electronics all found their way to the best and most diverse street market in the first world. It was no surprise that when I returned to London in 2014 and 2015, I made my way to my favorite shopping haven.

Approximately 100,000 people trot along each weekend, and it’s no surprise that the Camden Tube station only allows arrivals but no departures. For that you have to walk to the next tube station. But never fear, the fifteen minute walk is filled with delightful sights and awesome shopping opportunies.

Your Bucket List—Camden Market

If you're a shopholic, if you can go to only one shopping mecca in the world, then it must be Camden Market
If you're a shopholic, if you can go to only one shopping mecca in the world, then it must be Camden Market

History of Camden Market

The market began as a food outlet at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1974, arts and crafts were added. Initially the market only opened on Sundays, but by the mid-90s, it housed hundreds of stalls, most of which opened daily. In order to reach the size it is today, several markets in the area became linked, including the Stables market (originally, horses were sold here).

In 2006, a large indoor complex was added to the rear of the original street market. These contain small stalls which have a remarkable range of goods, including most items required for the household.

There are now close to a thousand different stalls, most of which are open throughout the week. If you want to shop, it's probably best during the week; if you want to buzz and shop, the weekend is best. Go early.

Photos of Camden Market

The Geography!

Camden Lock is situated on the left side of the Chalk Farm Road coming from either Camden High Street or from the Tube station. When you see the Starbucks, you cross the bridge on the canal (there are two), and that's where main entrance is. There are several entrances, though, so if you are coming from the other direction, then the market will be on your right side and the entrances are clearly marked.

Alongside Camden Market, there are restaurants as well as tourist offices where you can purchase tickets for trips on the various barges to sail down the lock. If you don't have the time or think it's too pricey, then try to talk you way into letting one of the owners of the stationary barges alongside the market to give you a guided tour. I've done both. Well worth it.

Camden Market comprises six smaller markets – Camden Lock Market, the Stables, Camden Lock Village, Buck Street Market, Electric Ballroom, and Inverness Street. These meld into each other and it’s not apparent that they are different markets.

Camden Catacombs are a series of underground passages which lead the horses from the Stables Market through to the Tube (rail) station.

When wondering through the Stables section, the newer additions include sculptures and statues of horses in humorous positions. Plus when you find yourself in passages without windows, you are in the Catacomb section.

The road which runs from Camden Tube Station through to Camden Market has as many colourful stores as the market itself has.

I believe it would take a good two or three days to see it all.

Best Starbucks Site EVER

If you want buzz, it's Saturday morning, Starbucks, Camden Market, London!
If you want buzz, it's Saturday morning, Starbucks, Camden Market, London!

Coffee at Starbucks

Incidentally, the Starbucks is one of the most awesome Starbucks buildings you can visit! When I say that, I have to tell you I have had coffee in Starbucks in forty or fifty cities in about twenty states in the US plus many cities in the UK as well as Europe. It is such a cute building. So make it a point of grabbing your latte and meandering upstairs to sip and view your surroundings.

Side shot of Starbucks overlooking Camden Lock at the market in London.
Side shot of Starbucks overlooking Camden Lock at the market in London.

Food From Every Nation

The variety is enormous. I think it’s fair to say that you could eat there every weekend for a year and not make your way through the menu. There are three distinct areas where food is served—two near the entrance, and one towards the centre of the market.

Many of the stalls serve dishes that are not obtainable elsewhere as they created them.

My favourite food area is the one alongside the loch, surrounded by buildings a few centuries old which sell all sorts of home textiles.

Clothes for Every Occasion

Clothes! Any style. Any period. Any price. You'll need a week.
Clothes! Any style. Any period. Any price. You'll need a week.

Fashion Mecca

Young designers, trendsetters, alternative stylists, anime and cosplay makers all hawk their wars here. From the simply elegant to the ultra bizarre, there will be a stall or a designer that has what you want. There is vintage, gothic, retro, designer, off the rack, cheap, expensive, old and new. It will take you a day to wonder through to all the clothing stalls, though. There are a lot.

And if you don't find something exactly to your taste at the market, there are as many stores surrounding the market. You have to find something.

Clothes at Camden Market

Cost of Entry

There is no entry fee to enter the market. However, you would probably be inhuman if you did not spend money. In order not to drain the kitty too much, budget on about £100. That will give you a nice meal, a snack or two during the day, plus one or two lovely items to take home.

On the other hand, there are some really spectacular things to buy, and if you have a credit card with an unlimited amount to spend, that would also make you a happy chappie at the end of a long day.

Of course, in you don't live in London, then you would need to fly to London first. For best prices use skyjammer.net and live in hostels.

A Shopperholic Paradise

You can buy anything at Camden market. You can also spend a fortune or few pence. Wandering through, listening to minstrels, watching the personalities, sitting alongside the lock for a picnic lunch is all free. But you'd have to have a heart as hard as stone not to relent to endless temptation!

Architecture at Camden Market

Music and Events at Camden

Each weekend brings musicians, poets, and other artists to Camden. Christmas, Easter, Halloween also bring special acts, and it is worth checking Timeout magazine for the calendar of events.

At the height of its pre-second world war peak, Camden's stable blocks, horse tunnels, tack rooms, saddler's workshops and horse hospital, serviced 700 to 800 horses working at the Camden Goods Depot. NW1 relied on the depot for unprecedented growth
At the height of its pre-second world war peak, Camden's stable blocks, horse tunnels, tack rooms, saddler's workshops and horse hospital, serviced 700 to 800 horses working at the Camden Goods Depot. NW1 relied on the depot for unprecedented growth | Source

Map of Camden Market

Starbuck is on the bottom right across the canal and the rest of the market is above the lock (waterway).
Starbuck is on the bottom right across the canal and the rest of the market is above the lock (waterway).

Getting There!

There are several buses that provide access to the area, but the best is simply to use the underground. If you look on the tube map, Camden is on the Northern line which is coloured black. Camden Station is a five minute walk (through massive crowds) to Camden Lock (the canal), and from the Lock, it’s a step across the road to the entrance of the biggest market in the world.

© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger

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