Camden Town has long been famous for its markets and past association with punk culture. Now things are a lot tamer but the market still has a lot to offer in the way of clothes, gifts, trendy bars and cafes and places of cultural interest. What many people won’t know is that the area that comes under Camden Council isn’t just limited to Camden Town and can take a couple of days or more to cover.
The council has produced a very helpful website and leaflet to get shoppers on their way, which includes maps of each neighbourhood. To the north is the upmarket village of Hampstead where designer boutiques and quaint cafes are nestled into narrow sidestreets. To the south is Bloomsbury where tourists can take in the market stalls at Covent Garden and browse gift shops at the British Library and British Museum. Whatever the occasion, interesting and unusual gifts can be found all over Camden.
Vintage and Fashion Clothes Shops at Camden Market and Hampstead High Street
As one of London’s biggest tourist attractions, Camden Market draws huge crowds every week. Originally a weekend-only market, most stalls and high street shops are now open seven days a week, although Saturday and Sunday are still the busiest trading days. The market is something of a labyrinth, extending from the Camden Lock market to the Stables and Inverness Street Market.
Most clothes shops are geared towards younger and alternative dressers. Sadly, chain stores such as All Saints, Gap and H&M have weaseled their way in but for the most part, Camden is home to independent retailers. Almost all types of shoes, bags, jewelry, furniture, kitsch and vintage pieces and even neon knickers can be purchased at Camden.
Hampstead is a little more refined than its rough and raucous neighbour. Here shops sell dusty second-hand books, traditional kitchenware, health food and designer threads. Not surprisingly, bargains are a little less forthcoming than at the Camden market but there are some vintage shops that sell second-hand designer clothes and shoes at a fraction of the original price. Flask Walk, close to the tube station is a pretty side street well worth exploring for designer seconds. Those inspired by Hampstead’s literary history can pop into J.M. Pennifeather (also on Flask Walk) and pick up a designer fountain pen. If the stunning Sheaffer Limited Edition for £590 is a little out of reach there are some cheaper models for sale.
The Brunswick Centre and Gift Shops at the British Museum and British library
Opposite Russell Square tube station is The Brunswick Centre. Once a rundown concrete wasteland, recent extensive renovations have transformed it into a bright, modern shopping area now definitely worthy of a shopping visit. Shops at Brunswick include chains such as Hobbs, Benetton and French Connection but along Marchmont Street visitors can find some independent retailers such as gay and lesbian literature bookshop Gay’s the Word and The School of Life, a curious enterprise which offers ‘good ideas for everyday living’. Besides selling books they also run courses, dinners and psychotherapy consultations!
Unique gifts and stocking fillers can be found at most museums and the British Library and British Museum are no exceptions. The British Library shop stocks a wonderful array of tiny treasures. Brooches, mugs, notebooks, mouse mats and magnets are available for online and in-store purchases and they also stock a number of gifts for kids, including stuffed toys, word games and spoken word audio CDs and DVDs, pen drives, hard discs and many more.
The choice is even greater down the road at the British Museum. Being close to the Brunswick Centre means that visitors can combine the two in one trip. The museum shop has some great ideas for stocking fillers. Pick up a white chocolate mummy or miniature replica artifacts such as a blue scarab, Greek owl or beautiful metal Egyptian cat. Online they have some great suggestions for Christmas gifts for him, her and for children. In the ‘gifts for him’ section, shoppers will find ties and cufflinks with Persian, Egyptian and Rosetta Stone designs. In the ‘for her’ section, exquisite jewelry, journals and perfumes can be found although many of these items come with a high price tag.
Fortunately, they are running some special offers. Among the discounted items are men’s ties, books and ornaments. For real fans, why not consider purchasing an annual membership. This entitles the holder to free entry to exhibitions, issues of the museum magazine and invitations to special open evenings.