As I often do on my travels anymore, I went to London having done very little research. I like to let my trips happen organically and to leave myself open to suggestions by friends or locals.
When Camden Market was given to me as a suggestion for how to spend the day, I didn’t think twice–nor did I check it out on the interwebs before arriving. Instead, I simply hopped on a bus with camera in hand, more or less oblivious to what I was about to find.
I do love a good surprise, and Camden Market wasn’t just a good one, it was amazing.
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I exited the bus at Camden High Street near the Camden Town underground. This was the perfect introduction to what was arguably my favorite day out in London.
The shops on Camden High Street are a sight to behold in their own right. The storefronts are either brightly painted or elaborately decorated with sculptures representing the goods they sell; the crowd hanging around seemed a bit on the young side, so I felt right at home (har, har).
I wandered past pubs, kitschy tourist shops, and fruit juice stands. I was already experiencing serious sensory overload, and little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Making my way further north, I eventually encountered Camden Lock, the gateway to the elaborate labyrinth of shops that compose Camden Market. I still hadn’t made any purchases but my belly was starting to rumble, so I wandered in hoping to stumble upon the food court.
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I had purposely waited to eat lunch because street food was the one thing I knew for certain I’d find at Camden Market that day. It didn’t take long for the scents of a million different delicacies to hit my nose. I bobbed and weaved through a few beautiful market halls, trusting my schnoz to lead me to paradise.
The food court at Camden Market turned out to be one of my favorite places I ate that week; my only regret was not having a hollow leg or two so I could’ve tried more, more, more! Peruvian, Malaysian, Korean, French, Venezuelan, Turkish–the appropriately named Global Kitchen had just about every corner of the globe represented. There were healthy options and plenty of vegetarian and vegan choices, too. There was something for everyone, and for bargain prices (around £5 for most dishes, £1 for a soda or water).
There were plenty of tables (covered, in case it rains, I imagine) so I nabbed a seat beside some friendly strangers and snarfed down my chosen fare, a Turkish wrap filled with chicken and veggies. On my way out, I couldn’t help bellying up to another vendor, this time a stall selling Brazilian sweets known as brigadeiros. They’re truffle-like confections made of little more than butter, condensed milk and sugar, and I just couldn’t resist. I did manage not to go overboard, though, and walked away with a very respectable single brigadeiro of the dark chocolate persuasion.
I still had a lot of walking to do and was grateful for the extra energy. Next, I was off to explore the rest of the market, divided into sections like North Yard, Middle Yard, and Stables Market.
Stables Market and adjoining Horse Tunnels Market were probably my favorites of them all. It feels almost as if you’re wandering through a secret underground tunnel system; as the names suggest, this part of Camden is the former home of an historic stable and horse hospital. It once housed a sizeable herd that was used to transport goods along the Camden canal.
The shops contained within are varied and wacky, with plenty of shiny things vying for your attention and a new surprise hiding around every corner.
Rising from the narrow passages of Stables Market brought me out into North Yard, the final stop on my self-guided market tour. I imagined this area being a fantastic spot in the warmer months to gather with friends for a few beers.
When I make it back to London for another visit, I plan to head straight back to Camden Market. Even if I never plan to buy anything (other than food, of course) there is so much to see, not to mention some top-notch people watching.
The melting pot that is London left me captivated, to say the least, and it has Camden Market in large part to thank for that.
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What’s your favorite way to spend a day in London?