Support our mission
 
A crowd gathers to listen to musical entertainers at the Covent Garden markets. The entertainment is usually first-rate, so order a cup of coffee, grab a seat and relax after shopping for items by local artists at the Apple Market.
A crowd gathers to listen to musical entertainers at the Covent Garden markets. The entertainment is usually first-rate, so order a cup of coffee, grab a seat and relax after shopping for items by local artists at the Apple Market. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
A crowd gathers to listen to musical entertainers at the Covent Garden markets. The entertainment is usually first-rate, so order a cup of coffee, grab a seat and relax after shopping for items by local artists at the Apple Market.
A crowd gathers to listen to musical entertainers at the Covent Garden markets. The entertainment is usually first-rate, so order a cup of coffee, grab a seat and relax after shopping for items by local artists at the Apple Market. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
The Jubilee Market is one of three parts to the Covent Garden market. The Jubilee Market offers a variety of T-shirts and other souvenirs as well as leather goods, signs and scarves.
The Jubilee Market is one of three parts to the Covent Garden market. The Jubilee Market offers a variety of T-shirts and other souvenirs as well as leather goods, signs and scarves. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Colorful soaps in an array of designs are among items sold by local artists at the Camden Lock High Street Market. There were also soaps that looked good enough to eat -- in the shape of cakes and cupcakes.
Colorful soaps in an array of designs are among items sold by local artists at the Camden Lock High Street Market. There were also soaps that looked good enough to eat -- in the shape of cakes and cupcakes. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Beautiful chandeliers decorate some areas of the Camden Lock market. But turn the corner, and you might find Goth fashions dominating the decor.
Beautiful chandeliers decorate some areas of the Camden Lock market. But turn the corner, and you might find Goth fashions dominating the decor. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Watch for thieves who prey on distracted tourists in packed venues, especially market settings. This sign, posted near the Camden Lock High Street Market Hall, is a good reminder.
Watch for thieves who prey on distracted tourists in packed venues, especially market settings. This sign, posted near the Camden Lock High Street Market Hall, is a good reminder. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
A dealer in antique and reproduction signs has an eye-catching display at the Portobello Road Market.
A dealer in antique and reproduction signs has an eye-catching display at the Portobello Road Market. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
A couple of shoppers inspect lacey linens and accessories at the Portobello Road Market. The blocks-long outdoor market offers an array of clothing, antiques, jewelry and other items and attracts hordes of tourists.
A couple of shoppers inspect lacey linens and accessories at the Portobello Road Market. The blocks-long outdoor market offers an array of clothing, antiques, jewelry and other items and attracts hordes of tourists. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
One Portobello Road Market vendor focuses on selling antique cameras. Clothing more to your liking? Portobello Road Market has everything from T-shirts and baseball caps to furs and hats.
One Portobello Road Market vendor focuses on selling antique cameras. Clothing more to your liking? Portobello Road Market has everything from T-shirts and baseball caps to furs and hats. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Boxing gloves and sporting shoes are among some of the odd samplings of goods for sale at the Portobello Road Market. The outdoor market is flanked on both sides by shops selling more traditional items such as jewelry and clothing as well as second-hand stores offering a mishmash of goods, such as room fans and candlesticks.
Boxing gloves and sporting shoes are among some of the odd samplings of goods for sale at the Portobello Road Market. The outdoor market is flanked on both sides by shops selling more traditional items such as jewelry and clothing as well as second-hand stores offering a mishmash of goods, such as room fans and candlesticks. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Classy chapeaus of all types for the fashion-conscious are among the clothing items sold at the Portobello Road Market. And, if you're in the market, there are even some fur wraps and coats you can buy to go with your new hat.
Classy chapeaus of all types for the fashion-conscious are among the clothing items sold at the Portobello Road Market. And, if you're in the market, there are even some fur wraps and coats you can buy to go with your new hat. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
A vendor stirs a steamy cauldron of stew at the outdoor Portobello Road Market in London's pretty Notting Hill area. Freshly prepared food as well as fresh produce are sold at the market. In addition, the blocks-long market is flanked by some cafes and restaurants.
A vendor stirs a steamy cauldron of stew at the outdoor Portobello Road Market in London's pretty Notting Hill area. Freshly prepared food as well as fresh produce are sold at the market. In addition, the blocks-long market is flanked by some cafes and restaurants. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
A one-man didgeridoo band plays for shoppers at the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill.
A one-man didgeridoo band plays for shoppers at the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Colorful, creative storefronts on Camden Town's High Street let visitors know they are in for a treat in this part of town. This is London's Goth Zone, and many shops in this area sell the latest in Goth attire and accessories.
Colorful, creative storefronts on Camden Town's High Street let visitors know they are in for a treat in this part of town. This is London's Goth Zone, and many shops in this area sell the latest in Goth attire and accessories. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
All the strangeness of Camden Town isn't reserved only for the shops on its High Street. At the Camden Lock High Street Market's food court, located along the water, vendors offer shoppers a variety of food items, from everyday Chinese dishes to this stall offering exotic burgers.
All the strangeness of Camden Town isn't reserved only for the shops on its High Street. At the Camden Lock High Street Market's food court, located along the water, vendors offer shoppers a variety of food items, from everyday Chinese dishes to this stall offering exotic burgers. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Pedestrians make their way along Camden Town's busy High Street to the Camden Lock market.
Pedestrians make their way along Camden Town's busy High Street to the Camden Lock market. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
A colorful sign for a souvenir and clothing store on Camden Town's High Street.
A colorful sign for a souvenir and clothing store on Camden Town's High Street. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Shoppers and local artists mingle at Covent Garden's Apple Market. While this Apple Market showcases local artists' handicrafts, another market at Covent Garden, the Jubilee Market, sells T-shirts and other items made mostly from other countries.
Shoppers and local artists mingle at Covent Garden's Apple Market. While this Apple Market showcases local artists' handicrafts, another market at Covent Garden, the Jubilee Market, sells T-shirts and other items made mostly from other countries. (Pary Smith/Stars and Stripes)

Many travelers love shopping at local markets wherever they go. For them, markets aren’t just places to buy food. They’re windows to the local populace and culture. Shopping local markets can make travelers feel less like tourists and more like a part of the place they’re visiting.

And whether they’re offering fresh vegetables and cheeses or antiques and cheesy souvenirs, local markets provide a good alternative to everyday sightseeing and playing tourist.

Three of London’s numerous and colorful markets are among my favorites. They give me the best of both worlds: They allow me to do one of my favorite things — meet and mingle with local artists while also doing a very touristy thing by shopping for souvenirs and gifts. All three markets are easily accessible by London’s subway system, the Tube, and are an easy walk from the Tube stations. Inside and outside the stations, there are signs directing shoppers to the markets.

Here are my three favorite London markets. As in all cases when traveling, and especially when venturing into these crowded market venues, take precautions against pickpockets and purse snatchers.

Camden Lock As soon as you leave the Camden Town Tube station, you’ll know you’re not in Kansas (or Kensington) anymore. You’ve now entered London’s goth zone, where storefronts on the Camden High Street are decorated with wild artwork, and shops offer the latest goth fashions, body piercings and tattoos. I walked out of the Tube station during my visit in late October and immediately saw a trio of young people dressed dramatically in black and red. I thought, “Wow, what great Halloween costumes,” then realized they were among the goths that populate this part of the city.

The Camden Lock High Street Market Hall, a favorite of Londoners as well as tourists, is a colorful market set in former horse stables. Once outside the Tube station, turn right and head toward the market hall, about a five-minute walk. You’ll pass by another, much smaller market, the High Street Market, before arriving at the former horse stables on the opposite side of the street. (Recommendation: Hit the market in the former horse stables before spending any time at the High Street Market, which offers nothing out of the ordinary and has visible signs warning of pickpockets). The Camden Lock High Street Market Hall is a vast, indoor/outdoor maze that has the largest array of goods for sale I’ve seen at any market anywhere. Parts of it continue the goth theme with shops offering a wide range of goth apparel, jewelry and other accessories. In other areas, you’ll find hand-painted tiles in psychedelic patterns, colorful soaps that look like cupcakes, body jewelry, scarves, shoes, trendy clothing, decoupage-decorated suitcases, vintage signs, antiques and collectibles. All are in a maze of passageways, cubbyholes and rooms of various sizes. A friend compared it to shopping at a Middle Eastern souk. Be prepared to get lost — or at least disoriented — amid the market’s narrow “alleyways.” Here, too, you’ll find a wide selection of food, with countless concessions and a couple of sit-down restaurants. Check out the variety of food options in the market’s courtyard on the waterfront. Giraffe burgers anyone? West African specialties, kebabs and wraps, dim sum, baked potatoes, cakes, crepes and more are all on the menu at the numerous food stands huddled in the courtyard amid even more stalls selling hammocks, toys and other items. My advice for something different: Take a 40-minute boat ride to/from the Camden Lock market. The boat pulls right up into the market’s courtyard. The return trip is a great way to relax after hours of shopping and people-watching at the market. • Times: Stalls open at about 10 a.m. and close at about 6 p.m. seven days a week. • Tube: Northern Line to Camden Town station. • Buses: Nos. 24, 27, 29, 31, 46, 88, 134, 168, 214, 253, 274, C2. Several nighttime buses stop in Camden Lock also. • Boat: It’s about a 50-minute boat ride through Regent’s Canal to Camden Lock from the Little Venice area of London, near Paddington Station. No need to reserve a seat, just show up and pay as you board the boat. Until April, the boats run every two hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends only. There are a few boat companies that offer boat rides. Prices, in general, for one way are 6.90 pounds (about $11.25) for adults and 5.70 for children ages 3 to 15; for a round trip, 9.50 for adults and 7.90 for children. In April, boats will run hourly and daily. Prices are scheduled to go up slightly, according to a spokeswoman for one of the boat companies. • Web: camdenlockmarket.com/index.php • In the area: Jewish Museum at 129-131 Albert St.

Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill This blocks-long market in the heart of a lovely, tree-lined neighborhood has it all — both new and used items as well as fresh produce. Be prepared for huge crowds that can make it difficult to belly up to vendors’ tables to look at the goods for sale. Old cameras and gas masks, along with binoculars, china and clothing, are among the thousands of items you’ll find for sale. The lively market is punctuated with street musicians and calls from vendors encouraging passers-by to step up to their tables. The stalls are flanked by eateries and small indoor shops offering shoes, jewelry and souvenirs, but they offer little respite from the market crowds because they, too, are full of shoppers. In an effort to make a brief escape from the jumbled hordes, I wandered onto one of the quiet side streets and came across a small basement tearoom. Soon after I arrived, a couple appearing shell shocked from their market experience stumbled in and also seemed grateful for the sanctuary the tea room provided. There’s a romantic aspect to this market, too. Notting Hill captured the hearts of many Americans with the release of the 1999 romantic comedy film by the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. So not only does the Portobello Road Market attract shoppers, it attracts film buffs as well.

• Times: Opening hours vary depending on weather and the season, but generally they are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays. Closed Sundays. • Tube: Central, District and Circle lines all stop at Notting Hill Gate station. • Buses: Nos. 7, 12, 23, 27, 28, 31, 52, 70, 328. • Web: notting-hill.org/ entertainment/portobello-road-market.html • In the area: The area is all about shopping and eating, but it’s also within walking distance of Kensington Gardens.

Covent Garden While lively and tourist-crowded, Covent Garden’s markets are much smaller than the ones in Camden Lock and Portobello Road, allowing for more organized and leisurely shopping. There are three parts to this market. The Jubilee Market has vendors selling a full array of clothing, from cheap T-shirts to formal wear, plus souvenirs, scarves, jewelry and other items. The second, the Apple Market, is my favorite because it showcases local artists and vendors, some of whom are present for only one day a week. On the day I was there, a woman who makes jewelry from antique lace was among the artists selling their creations. The third includes small, permanent shops offering a variety of upscale items, including toys, beauty products and jewelry, in addition to restaurants and cafes. What makes Covent Garden special for me is the opportunity to sit outdoors and enjoy a cup of coffee while watching free live performances by vocalists singing opera and string quartets playing classical music, all amid a busy market. The entertainment is first-rate, the coffee is comforting and the shopping offers the opportunity to buy one-of-a-kind scarves, soaps, jewelry and other items made by U.K. artists.

Times: Open from about 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. • Tube: Piccadilly Line, Covent Garden stop. • Buses: More than 30 buses go to Covent Garden, so ask your hotel or local tourist office which lines are best for you. • Web: coventgardenlondonuk.com/markets/page/1 • In the area: Covent Garden is in the thick of what’s happening in London’s West End. It’s just a few blocks from London’s theaters and within walking distance of Leicester Square, known for its movie theaters. Look into seeing a play or film matinee after a morning of shopping. A fabulous travel bookstore, Stanfords, is also within walking distance at 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden. If you’re a globetrotter, this is the place for you. It offers everything from guidebooks, maps and globes of various sizesto handytravel gadgets, games and posters.

smithp@estripes.osd.mil

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up