‘Tis the Season for shopping, and while London may be the retail capital of the UK, it’s not all about Oxford Street, Westfield and Harrods. If you’re a discriminating gift giver in search of a little inspiration, sometimes stepping off the High Street can be a smart move. If you’re off for a last minute dash here are five alternative shopping destinations in London:
Old Spitalfields Antique Market
If you’re looking for something one of a kind and don’t mind investing a bit of time treasure hunting, a trip to Old Spitalfields Market on a Thursday for their weekly antique market could be just the ticket. Persistent pickers are sure to find a diamond in the rough as dealers from around the country descend on Spitalfields. If you’re after costume jewelry, vintage fashion, art or oddities, you’ve certainly come to the right place.
The Vintage Shops of Shoreditch
Whether or not browsing the bric-a-brac in Spitalfields proved fruitful, it’s definitely worth taking a peek in Shoreditch’s most popular vintage boutiques while you’re in the area. Home of the ultra hip, you’ll soon discover where all the fashionable guys and gals of east London pick up their style. Hunky Dory Vintage on Brick Lane is always a favourite, with two floors of carefully selected vintage clothing and accessories.
If you’re seeking out gifts with a bit of edge, take a trip up north to Camden. This vast expanse of crafts, clothing and food stalls has something for everyone, while retaining the punk edge that’s unique to Camden. Saturdays can be a bit chaotic so try to hit the market mid-week to dodge the crowds. If a weekend trip is inescapable, take advantage of the opportunity to pop into the Electric Ballroom. By day, this venue becomes an indoor market featuring for some unique and unusual items from jewelry to art to vinyl.
If you find yourself south of the river, a smaller and quieter alternative to the oft-times touristy Camden can be found in Brixton. Visit the market on a Friday for a selection of fabulous hot street food, along with eclectic crafts, retro goodies and knick-knacks. Saturday also sees the market come alive with a different theme each week, drawing in antique dealers and talented craftsmen alike.
Covent Garden’s Seven Dials
If you’re hoping to stay more central and still avoid the chaos of Oxford Street, the boutiques of Covent Garden are a perfect without being too far off the beaten path. Each of the roads branching off the famous Seven Dials intersection is a treasure trove for gift ideas. Have an organic enthusiast on your gift list? Try Neal’s Yard Remedies for some all-natural beauty products.
Where to Stay
Although London can be expensive you can find a huge variety of accommodation in the city. If you’re on a budget try backpackers hostels such as the YHA and for mid range try hotels like the Holiday Inn (which offer good rates if you book far enough in advance). If you have a bigger budget then they are plenty of excellent luxury and unique hotels in London.