When I visited London, I had to make the most of my limited time. I couldn’t waste a precious moment in long queues at tourist traps – I needed to get to the good stuff, fast. Read on for my offbeat travel tips and get to the epicenter of London’s quirky heart – markets, shops, street art and galleries (not a palace or a clock in sight!).
Camden needs no introduction, as one of the most famous markets in London and the epicenter of all things offbeat, quirky, dark and illegal. Get there super-early on Saturday, around 8.30-9.30am for first dibs on the bargains; you can bargain the sellers pretty hard as it’s good luck for them to have a successful first sale.
Proud Camden Gallery
Situated in the old Camden Stables Horse Hospital, an interesting gallery space has been created. At the time I was there they were having a rock photography exhibition (right up my alley!) featuring photos of Jim Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Blondie.
Camden Stables Market. Tube: Camden Town. web
Highgate CemeteryA beautiful run-down Victorian cemetery, generally regarded as the best of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London. Many famous Victorians are buried here, this is not the attraction… After being abandoned in the 1950s the trees became overgrown, ivy creeps over the monuments, so atmospheric. I highly recommend the West-wing tour on the Saturday, the tour guide was a highly knowledgeable gentlemen. An entrance fee applies to both wings which goes towards the preservation of the cemetery.
Highgate Cemetery, Swains La, London N66PJ. web
Notting HillThis beautiful part of London is no secret, especially after the Julia Roberts & Hugh Grant motion picture. But don’t forget to look around the side streets for interesting second hand shops, cafes and souvenirs, because there’s so much more to Notting Hill than the famous market. Pictures on the right is Alice’s, a fun antique shop on Portobello Road.
Retro Woman is a cross between a designer vintage emporium. Stocking fashion from labels such as Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Marni, Celine – prices reflect the labels.
20 Pembridge Rd, Notting Hill. Tube: Notting Hill Gate. web
Music & Video Exchange
A treasure trove of CDs and vinyl from the 50s to today. They also have a healthy dose of contemporary pop releases, which a lot of elitist second-hand dealers don’t usually stock. There are 3 levels, the basement features the bargains and the top has a concise but worthwhile selection of vinyl. I must have spent over two hours in there, loved it!
38 Notting Hill Gate, W11. Tube: Notting Hill Gate. web
Portobello Road Market
The most famous market in the world for fashionistas and antique collectors alike. Not a widely known fact is that Friday is the day to go for fashion – the stalls put out their new stock and the crowds are much thinner before the weekend stampede. While some of the clothes are fairly pricey, same rule as Camden applies – bargain!
Tube: Notting Hill Gate. web
Museum of Brands, Ads & Packaging
Large collection showcasing the history of commodity packaging. Everything is displayed in chronological order, and then again by product type. Very interesting to see the evolution of Cadbury packaging or how Johnston & Johnston has remained consistent over the years. I wonder if the original chocolates are still inside?
Open weekdays. 2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AR. Tube: Notting Hill Gate. web
Liberty of London“The chosen resort for the artistic shopper” according to Oscar Wilde. Check out the unique store fit-out and Merci import section. I found this a much wiser choice to visit than Harrod’s as its proximity is close to the affordable shopping on Oxford St and Carnaby St, and somewhat more classy. Avoid the cafe though, the quality did not befit Liberty’s reputation.
Regent Street, London W1B 5AH. Tube: Oxford Circus. web
LomographySituated around the corner from Carnaby St, the Lomography Store is packed with toy camera replicas, film and accessories. Worth checking out for the travel photography wall, you’ll leave inspired.
3 Newburgh Street, Soho W1F 7RE. web
For even more London travel inspiration, check out my Flickr gallery! (Updated 07/06/13)
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