Good markets bring people out in droves, but none are quite as over-the-top as London’s Camden Market. Open daily until about sundown, the markets are bursting with people eating, drinking and shopping, especially on the weekend.
What is Camden Market exactly?
To call this a “market,” simply doesn’t do it justice. In actuality, the area of Camden Market also known as Camden Lock or Camden Lock Market is made up of several adjoining markets, which include a mix of permanent establishments and pop-up food truck-style joints. The biggest appeal of Camden Market is the ability to get an incredible variety of international foods, snacks, and drinks all in one extremely laid back atmosphere.
Though you get the sense that it’s a little on the hipster side, with a gourmet butcher named Roadkill and Vegan cake stands, the market has been around in some way or another since the 70s before hipsters were even a thing. Camden Market began as a series of weekend craft markets that became more and more popular, leading to the creation of semi-permanent and eventually permanent installations that are open all week long.
Now Camden Market is a massive complex of local crafts, clothes, food, and bars. At the Stables Market, which was a horse stable yard once upon a time, you’ll find a statue of Amy Winehouse – the perfect patron saint of Camden Market, a beautiful, inspiring mess. The statue is among stalls and horse tunnels full of hand crafts, clothes, and other wares. And I’m not just talking about regular scarves and handbags. This is a place where you can find antique furniture and where cybergoths can come to buy rubber neon clothes.
Shopping in Camden Market
If you arrive in the area via the Camden Town tube station, you’ll be in Camden High Street, which is a huge shopping center in and of itself. The storefronts all have insane designs, giving you a glimpse of what you can find inside, ranging from custom footwear to New Age knick knacks for your home. Here you’ll also find the Iverness Street Market. The area has a bit of a flea market feel with knock off brand names and a healthy bit of souvenir trash and tasteless joke tees. It’s definitely the kind of street where someone would offer to sell you drugs, which may be a plus or a minus depending on how you look at it.
As you make your way over the canal, you’ll get into the more unique shops. Inside you’ll find stores and stalls that sell legitimately fascinating products like bags made of cork and vintage cameras. If you’re in the market for a nice gift to take home for someone, this would be a great place to shop. You can find tea sets, punk patches and accessories, and classy beard grooming products. Or a rubber Tron catsuit, I guess. There’s really something for everyone.
Eating and drinking in Camden Market
Perhaps the best reason to come to Camden Market is to eat. It’s one of the best street food markets you’ll ever come across, serving up gourmet food of all kinds. Camden Market has so many options, in fact, that there is more than one eatery dedicated to Venezuelan arepas alone. You’ll also find street food favorites like kebabs, burgers, falafel, and craft mac and cheese bowls.
There are plenty of unique foodie establishments include Cereal Killers, where you can indulge in your favorite international cereal with a bowl of milk or an elaborate hot chocolate or milkshake. You might find yourself having afternoon tea in the Basement Tea Room at the market. There is even a small batch gin distillery called Half Hitch, where you can sample the product in the same place where it’s made.
It’s definitely the kind of place to come to more than once, mostly because it’s impossible to try everything you want and still have room left over for edible cookie dough from Naked Dough.
Drinking at Camden Market is contained to the bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, so you can’t walk around with you beer outside of places like Fest and Lockside. Aside from craft cocktails, most of these establishments are restaurants, so you can order food with your drinks. However, no one is really going to tell you anything if you bring other food from one of the market stalls.
When to visit?
The majority of Camden Market comes alive during the day between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm, or 7 pm on weekends. This is when all the shops and food stalls will be open. However, some establishments in the market like Fest are open until late, especially on the weekend. You can even play glow-in-the-dark golf at Plonk until 11 pm most days of the week. So there will be something to do in the area late in the evening, but if you want to get the full Camden Market experience you should come during the day.
The weekend is peak time at Camden Market, and it’s absolutely packed. If you can, I recommend visiting during the week to avoid the heavy crowds. There was an actual mob of people trying to get back into the Camden Town tube station late in the afternoon on a Saturday. If you’re stuck in this predicament, it’s worth it to just walk to Mornington Crescent station or take a bus. Or maybe by the time you head home, you’ll have had a few drinks and you won’t care so much about the crowds.