A first-timer’s guide to shopping at Camden Town markets
After you’ve done the basic London sites like the Tower, Eye, and so on, you’re probably looking for an activity a little more off-the-beaten-path. Kill two birds with one stone, and check out Camden Market (also known as Camden Lock) for sightseeing and souvenir shopping.
Camden Market is the fourth most visited place in London, with a quarter million visitors every week and over 1,000 places to shop. Surprisingly, the markets cover a big enough space that it doesn’t usually feel overly crowded, unlike many other tourist sites.
History of the market
The market has humble roots since the beginning of the 1900s, originally starting as a local outdoor food market. Starting in the 1970s, small crafts vendors began opening up temporary stalls every Sunday. Over time, some stalls became permanent, more opened up shop, and the times and days were extended throughout the week.
Camden Town (the neighborhood where you can find the markets) also has a long history as a gin hub.
These days the market is primarily visited by punks, teenagers, and tourists.
Camden Market Sections
“Camden Market” is actually a collection of different groups of shopping streets and stall groups. Here are the main six:
- Camden Lock Market – this is the original “market” that put Camden on the map. Located at the end of Camden High Street, this 3 story building includes crafts, bric-a-brac (my favorite British slang term), high quality vintage clothing, and a huge variety of amazing street foods.
- Stables Market – this group of markets is located on Chalk Farm Road, and sprawls inside among a giant old horse hospital building. More of the market is located underneath the old railway aqueduct.
- Camden Lock Village (closed for redevelopment into Hawley Wharf)
- Buck Street Market – this is the first market you see after coming off the tube at the corner of Buck and Camden High Street (labeled Camden Market), and the one most full of tourist items such as selfie sticks, Union Jack gear, cheap tee shirts, etc)
- Electric Ballroom – a hybrid rock/punk music venue and indoor market space.
- Inverness Street Market – a small market with fruits, vegetables, and a number of stalls
Street Food Stalls
The markets are famous for their street stalls. Here are a few local favorites where you can refuel between shops.
- KERBCamden is a group of over 30 street food vendors where you will almost certainly find something you like
- Halloumi fries at Oli Baba’s
- Mac & cheese at Mac Factory
- Indian kathi rolls from Kolkata
- Loaded hot dogs from Oh My Dog!
- Bhangra burgers from Baba G’s
Cafes & Tea Shops
There are also plenty of local cafes and pubs in the area if you need a place to sit.
- Arancini Brothers says it all in the name… a cute place for Italian rice balls and sweets
- Yumchaa Camden Parkway is a Cantonese style tea shop with sweets and tea service
- Tower 47 offers coffee and New York style bagels (always a favorite of mine)
Music Venues and Pubs
- Jazz Cafe is a famous jazz venue in London, with the main floor being a standing big band dance floor. You can also reserve a table up top if you want to sit while listening.
- The World’s End is a vintage style British pub with live music (usually punk, ska, or another genre of rock).
- Lock Tavern is a another large beer garden with burgers and gigs
The two main Underground stops near the markets are Camden Town and Chalk Farm Road, both on the Northern Line.
Traffic around Camden Town is pretty bad, so I would recommend taking the Underground or a bus over driving.
Camden Market is open every day from 10am–6pm, but you will tend to find the largest variety of stalls (and the most visitors) on the weekends.
Good to know
Camden Town is actually a fairly affordable place to stay in London, so consider looking at hotels and Airbnbs in the area before your next trip.
There are often pickpockets, so keep a close eye on your belongings while shopping.
Afterwards, take a look at Portobello Road Market for further London souvenir shopping!