Imagine every market you’ve ever been to… all at once, and you’ll be coming close to what Camden is like, but first, getting there.

The busiest days are on the weekend with most of the shops open, because of this and the influx of around 100,000 people every weekend (and the dire need of an upgrade to the station) Camden Town station is “exit only” for most of it. Check the posted signs or London Underground website before hand for in and out times so you don’t end up trying to push your way against the current and REALLY look like a tourist 😉

Rest assured, not all is lost if you cant make it out on a weekend, a fair percentage of the fixed stores are open during the week and will be much more suitable for those that aren’t fond of crowds.

Exiting the station on to Camden High St. you get a plethora of sneakers with JD Sports, Footlocker and Offspring. These are all decent sized stores with plenty of stock, variety and sales. If you’re going to buy up big straight out the gate, consider asking the store to hold your purchases to collect later otherwise you will quickly lose patience and strength trying to get a couple armfuls through the bustling crowd.

Heading north, take your selection of Converse and Dr. Martin stores along with kitsch punk, rockabilly, vintage clothing (Punkyfish, Rokit Vintage), leather goods and a secondhand music and video store.

The Camden markets themselves start just after the river crossing with Camden Lock and The Stables traditionally being THE markets but there are smaller groups of stalls in surrounding lanes and streets. In general its a mixture of fixed stores, large warehouse style areas and temporary pop up stalls that cover all manner of arts, crafts, fashion, food, brick a brac, novelties and souvenirs. There’s really no good place to start or any kind of system to get you round the place with so many things to see (and taste), its more a matter of taking your time and going with the flow (literally most of the time). If things get a little too hectic for you, there’s plenty of nice spots along the water-way to take a breather.

Stand outs were the smaller designer stalls with unique tees (these are the ones that don’t have the same designs as the last 10 stalls you just walked past!) and the cute vintage style dresses. There is a couple places stocking a few toys but the only place worth a mention is a small stall in the Stables hosted by some old dude. Pretty much all vintage items, most rather worn or in boxes that have seen better days. A few Star Wars and He-man items but you will have to get your fingers dirty to really find something amongst the cluttered shelves.

Finally, no visit to the Camden markets would be complete with out visiting Cyberdog. Quite possibly your worse nightmare if your kid brings you here and you have very little knowledge or experience with the dance music scene but for everyone else its pretty much like being at a rave. From the entrance with the giant “people of the future” statues you are bombarded with strobe lights and a barrage of hard style and hard trance. Its very dimly lit apart from neon lights and all manner of glow in the dark and flashing novelties like coloured contacts and light up face “neurons”. The rest covers everything you’ll need for a night of laser reaching with the staples of phat pants and light up tees to full space suits and girls outfits which shakily stumble the line of “cute raver chick” and Fortitude Valley hooker. There is also a good selection of DJ gear (CDJ’s, mixers, headphones etc).

The biggest set back is the pricing, which goes from “whoa!” to “ok, lets get outta here”. Also keep your camera holstered, the staff may look like they’re “best night eva”-ing but be aware of the ones that are already on to their “Terrible Tuesday” (plus there’s “no photo” signs at the entrance and around the store).

From my research there is also supposed to be a “good” sneaker store right near Cyberdog but with very little recent online presence I’d dare say it has since closed as it was no where to be seen.

Since the Camden Town station was exit only, we took a short walk to Chalk Farm Station which was stark quiet in contrast and an easy boarding to head out to our next stop, Shoreditch.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

Size?

Soho part #2

On the way to Covent Garden we decided to make a quick stop back at Carnaby, this time when the shops were actually open! Little did we know, it was the day of a monthly moped/scooter meet up, right in the middle of it. There was literally over a 100 “bikers” all revving their engines filling the small alleyways with leaded fumes and the sound of a bunch of angry mosquitoes, quite the spectacle for all the senses. We took refuge in Size? but the damage was already done, this and several other store along the way were already full of exhaust fumes, yummy. Size? did have a good selection of sneakers, some I didn’t see making the rounds online till a month or 2 later. They also had a few items on sale, always a good sign. Some clothing downstairs, most unworthy of the exuberant price tags but again there was a welcomed clearance rack of hoodies and tees.

Down to the southern bordering lane of Carnaby, Brewer st., resides the New Era flagship store which surprisingly stocked a wide range of Yankees caps in just about every colour possible but disappointingly few other teams or colours over their two levels. Couple doors down is easily one of my favourite toy stores in London, Playlounge. These guys have been going at it for years and their wide selection shows this. Like my other fave stores, they don’t just stock only the obvious stuff like Kidrobot, there’s plenty of obscure stuff and local pieces like The Bubblegum Adventures of Periwinkle series. However, saddened once again with not being able to make the big (in size) purchases I dragged my feet out to Covent Garden, stopping at Sports Direct along the way. Oh, there’s also the Vintage Magazine store, which wouldn’t be out of place in West Hollywood with a lot of movie and TV memorabilia, celebrity related stuff, cool vintage posters and of course magazines.

New Era

Playlounge

Vintage Magazines

Covent Garden

We stopped in at Foot Patrol, kind of London’s answer to Undftd. The name gets around thanks to some of their collabo’s but in general their range of sneakers and clothing is pretty small with a strong leaning towards “dressier” styles and higher end items. It would of course be the place to be if there was a quickstrike drop or a new limited release.

Foot Patrol

Foot Patrol

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet megastore popped up a few blocks later and a megastore it was. Very much like Melbourne’s Minotaur, it’s a geek haven for all things comics, anime, collectibles, pop culture, cult tv and associated merch. What it lacks in quirkiness and uniqueness against Playlounge it makes up for in sheer bulk. Prices were average RRP, some a little higher compared to the States not at all helped by the exchange rate but there was a good selection of sale items.

In the same area you have the London Kidrobot store one or two London exclusives, namely the printed tees. Couple doors down is Adidas Originals and Volcom, there’s also the “West” G Shock store, nothing you cant get online (and for cheaper) but it was cool to see rows of the watches all lined up.

Neal Street is the main drag of Covent Garden and is home to a string of shoe and clothing stores. Sole, Offspring, Size? and Focus are just some of them, all have varying degrees of stock, pricing and variety. All are small to average sized stores so it wont take long to pop your head in to all of them. Round the corner in Neal’s Yard is Slam City Skates, one of London’s oldest and most prolific skate stores. They have a good selection of skate related products at regular prices, just don’t tell the kids off for loitering round the entrance, more than likely they work there 😉

G-Shock West

G-Shock West

Next, we go market crazy at Camden and Shoreditch.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

Hammersmith is not really a common stop for London tourists, in fact the locals will probably tell you to stay away from it! Possibly in part its because it feels like it’s the old shopping center that went downhill when the new mega shopping mall came to town. BUT, the reason I decided to head out this way again was because of a recommendation and subsequent successful trip out the last time I was in London, the two main draw cards being, TK Maxx and Primark.

TK Maxx is very similar to the big brand items clearance items at shopping centres like DFO or Harbourtown but all in one store. Womenswear takes a fair chunk and the whole lower level, handily arranged by clothing type on racks. Upstairs there’s menswear, footwear and household items. Brands vary but it all depends on when you go, this time there seemed to be a fresh shipment of Britian’s popular activewear, Bench. Sneakers were sadly lacking this time, unlike my last visit where Adidas Muppet or Mr Men collabs were being thrown away for ~50BP, a year later appearing on sneaker sites for $200+AU! They do however have a good range of hiking shoes, boots and technical runners which go well with a large selection of out of season jackets, parkas, windbreakers etc.

Primark is probably just as avoidable for Londanites as Lowes or Valleygirl is to most Aussies but their range and prices are unmistakably good value. If you’re looking for general business/office basics then this is definitely the place to go. Plain colours, simple, clean designs with a modern touch and best of all original enough to still look just a little bit different back home in Australia.

While both these spots were disappointing this time, a third reason has appeared in the last few years one tube stop away at the newly built Wood Lane or upgraded Shephard’s Bush stations, Westfield London.

Westfield London

I know what you’re thinking, ANOTHER Westfiled, but this thing is something else. It’s the only one in London and being only a few years old, the place looks super modern and is huge with 300+ stores and an open air feel thanks to the high glass ceilings. The centre boasts 319 stores, (search the whole list here) some of the staples are Onitsuka, Vans, Adidas, Puma and Nike, which are all on par for their respective names. Nike had a second story but again all regular fare. For variety in sneakers and clothing and sale items Sole, Foot Asylum, JD Sports and Sports Direct were worthy stop-ins.

Lego Deathstar

Lego Tower Bridge

One other must see is the Lego store, the (fully operational) Death Star or detailed model of the London Tower bridge will draw you in but the wall of coloured bricks sold by the soda cupful will make you want to stay! Only the basic bricks were available in this manner but they were in every colour ever made. In hindsight even one kg of bricks could’ve easily fit sprinkled through out my luggage. There are also stations to test build your own creations or customise your own Lego man. They of course, also have a good range of Lego merchandise.

Wall o' Lego

Lastly if you’re looking for the Wetzels Pretzels stand, sadly it is no longer there. Those poms don’t know what they’re missing!

Covent Garden and Soho are next on the shopping list.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here