The Camden Markets of London

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Travel Features >> The Camden Markets of London

The Camden Markets of London

April 04, 2011

Perhaps the most chaotic that London ever gets, barring an Arsenal/ManU match, the Camden markets are London’s answer to Asia’s bazaars. The northwestern suburb of Camden Town has not one but six open-air and enclosed markets - each specialising in a particular kind of merchandise and each with an atmosphere of its own.

The Camden Stables Market, named so because it was where the horses that used to pull the canal barges were housed (the Horse Hospital is now a part of the market), is the place to head for if you want unmentionable anatomical parts pierced, are looking for antiques, period clothing and other cool collectibles or for international cuisine. Most of the shops here are open all days of the week from 10 am to late in the evening.

The Camden Lock Market lies just south of the Stables Market. This is where you head if you’re looking for Stella McCartney’s prêt line, herbal oils, new age books, crafts, jewellery and arts. This is the oldest of the markets, and most of its 250 shops, workshops and stalls are open on all days of the week from 10 am to 6 pm.

The Canal Market, across the High Street from the Camden Lock Market, is the only one of the Camden Markets that opens only for the weekend. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, between 9:30 am and 6:30 pm, the 150 stalls and shops here offer gift items, collectibles, music records, clothing and jewellery. It’s also a good place to go if you want a takeaway meal - there are several take away counters for foods from around the globe.

Running through the length of Camden is Camden High Street, which eventually becomes the Chalk Farm Road. Lined on both sides with shops and eating places, this mile long road links all the other markets together. Get down at the Camden Town Underground station at one end of the road, take a day, make your way through London’s most interesting and vibrant ‘bazaar’, and in the evening having eaten, drunk and shopped the day away, climb into the Tube at the other end of town, from the Chalk Farm Underground station . The shops on Camden High Street are open from 10 am. Some begin to down shutters around 6 in the evening. As for the many pubs, bars and restaurants - the night is still young and the best is yet to come!

Camden Town of yore, all farmland and a few wayside inns to break the monotony was the domain of wild highwaymen. In 1791 an effort led by the then earl of Camden resulted in the development of the town. A canal was built to link it to the Grand Union Canal junction at Paddington, and as a consequence Camden had found a waterway link with the Thames. A subsequent train link meant that the boring poor cousin would be transformed into a part of the bustling metropolis of London. By the end of the 19th century Camden was already flourishing as a market town. It had attracted people fleeing the scourge of the Irish famine; in the post war era after 1945 it became the home of Greek Cypriots and later of the migrant Bangladeshi community. As happens with most localities that envelope a happy mix of many communities and cultures, the cosmopolitan nature of Camden meant that it soon became the area of choice for avant garde artists to set up studio, a hub for those who danced to a tune all of their own.

The Camden Town of the 1990s and 2000s is the home of more than a thousand shops and stalls, of pubs, bars, theatres, hotels and cinemas. In the evenings the pink neon of shop signs colours the area, during the day the activity of shoppers and casual strollers fills it. It’s difficult to find parking in Camden so we recommend that you use public transport instead. Buses, coaches and the Underground link Camden with Central London and other suburbs. The Waterbus service, which plies during spring and summer, does trips at brief intervals from Little Venice to Camden Lock.

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