MY VISIT TO LONDON CAMDEN MARKETS
I discovered London’s famous Camden Markets two years ago while visiting a Spanish friend who lives in London. I was very grateful to Susanna for inviting me to stay with her when I passed through the city en route to work elsewhere in England. (That later turned into my Bizarre Summer in Manchester.)
Catching up with Susanna was wonderful, of course. It was equally great to stay in an apartment rather than a youth hostel (ugh) or a budget hotel (read: wallet busting). How nice to have a fridge, a kitchen to cook in, friends to chat with, and even a grassy back yard for picnics.
Much to my astonishment, I spied a fox one morning in that yard! Right smack in the middle of London citY! Staying in Susanna’s apartment reminded me that any time I visit a city where I have no contacts, I should search for apartments to rent rather than hotel rooms or hostels.
But I digress.
It was Susanna who introduced me to London’s wonderful Camden Markets. She and I have the same taste in fashions, music and alternate lifestyles, so she was exactly the person to show me around London.
As soon as I arrived at the markets, I immediately felt at home. I proceeded to visit regularly during my stay in the city.
Why? Camden Markets has a ‘little SE Asia’ in London. With its rows and rows of small booths and stalls, it’s set up just like traditional Asian markets. In one huge outdoor section, all the merchandise and food on sale is imported from SE Asian countries. How ironic that when I finally stepped back into the western world I felt most at home in a mini Asia.
I spied colorful embroidered clothes and bags from Nepal, wood carvings and statues from Bali, knick-knacks from Thailand, Japanese handicrafts, dresses and pants from India, cloth lanterns from Vietnam. Practically every booth I came upon I recognized items from places I’d visited or had lived in. That was great fun for me – both soothing and satisfying.
Even better, I found intriguing goods from countries I had yet to visit: Morocco, Turkey, the Middle East. It was all more travel inspiration. I realized once again that I still have a lot of traveling to do!
Other sections of Camden Markets are set inside big historical industrial buildings. In those long corridors I found gorgeous paintings, artwork, handmade jewelry, brick-a-brac and home interiors from all over the world.
Several booths sell fabulous piercing jewelry. There are tattoo shops and shoe stores with Doc Martens, stilettos and stomping boots. Juggling and fire spinning equipment are on sale. Palm readers and astrologists offer their services.
There are trendy, creative handmade clothes from around Europe including punk, Goth, Victorian, Celtic, Bohemian, vintage, bondage gear, British street fashion, manga style and cyberspace clothes.
Young budding fashion designers display their latest designs. Many famous, well-established fashion designers visit Camden’s colorful booths and stalls. I wonder if they’re looking for inspiration or finding fun stuff to buy?
There are wonderfully outrageous hair options: dreadlocks of all colors and thicknesses, hair extensions made from an amazing array of fabrics like yarn, streamers, rubber, plastic and metallic string. Shop clerks proudly show off their most creative styles.
To sum it up, every alternative fashion and lifestyle has a home at Camden Markets.
Then there are the food stalls. Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Moroccan, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Italian. All made by cooks from those countries.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that most of the food I ate in Camden was a pale comparison to its counterpart in the home countries. I’m guessing the cooks altered them to what they perceived to be western tastes. Bad move. Original recipes are always better!
But a few incredibly delicious and popular vegan/health food cafes dot the markets as well. Their shakes, quiches, smoothies, desserts and health drinks add a holistic splash to Camden. The most famous cafes also serve as gathering points, alternative performance venues and information centers.
Finally, I have to mention the amazing trance, techno and dance music pumping through Camden Markets. I couldn’t help myself but to burst into dance right there in the streets!
The passing tourists seemed to enjoy the ‘performance’ and a few brave souls even joined me. Yeah, an impromptu dance club on the streets! Yep, I belonged at Camden Markets.
If you’re into Asian clothes, handicrafts and designs or art or alternative lifestyle and fashions, you must make a point of visiting London’s now-famous Camden Markets.
If you’re not, go take a peak. You’re bound to find people, artwork and fashions to amaze you.
Camden Markets is closest to Camden Town Underground Station. Several buses go there as well. Just Google ‘Camden Markets’ to find detailed directions and maps.
Originally a weekend market, most shops and stalls are now open 7 days/week, 10 am-6 pm.
Weekends are incredibly crowded. After all, Camden Markets are now London’s 4th most popular tourist attraction! To skip the crowds and mingle with the alternative lifestyle crowd, head over on weekdays instead.
Have you been to Camden Markets?
If so, what did you think to the place?
If not, would you like to go?