When it comes to shopping in London everyone knows that for big brand behemoths you go to Oxford Street and if you want something a little more freaky you go to Camden Market. Both places are great at what they do, but if you’re looking for something a bit different, why not explore the fabulous markets and vintage clothes shops of the East End.
You’re first stop should be Old Spitalfields Market, a short walk from Liverpool Street Station on Artillery Lane. Spitalfields is an indoor market with clothes, accessories and food. Like its Camden counterpart it offers something different but it’s less touristy and a little more sophisticated. Don’t spend all your money here though, the vintage shopping experience is just beginning. Carry on heading east past Commercial street to Brick Lane where you’ll find vintage shops galore.
Brick Lane is in Whitechapel, traditionally a poor area of London home to waves of Jewish and Bangladeshi immigrants, nowadays it’s young urban hipsters who are moving in, making the area an exciting jumble of fashion shops, curry houses, bars and clubs. By day you’ll often see artists and jewellery makers setting up little stalls in the street, at night you’ll be hustled into restaurants – don’t be shy about haggling for free drinks – and offered balloons full of laughing gas.
Brick Lane itself and its side streets are full of vintage clothes shops, East End Thrift Store is especially worth checking out for it’s low prices and famous bag sales, where you buy a bag for 10 or 20 pounds and can take as many clothes as will fit in the bag. Rokit also has some bargains. A little way a way down Cheshire Street you’ll find Beyond Retro, it’s about five minutes walk from Brick lane but well worth it as it’s one of the biggest second hand shops in London.
Because everyone in a vintage shop is hunting for a bargain don’t be surprised if someone whips a top from under your nose or shy about doing it yourself – it’s every man and women for themselves. If it all gets too stressful and you need a break then the Carpenter’s Arms on Cheshire Street is a lovely quiet pub for a pint, or if you turn off Brick Lane onto Buxton Street you’ll come across one of London’s many city farms where you can feed a pig or pet a goat.
Finally no review of Brick Lane would be complete without a mention for the Beigel Shop at the north end of the street. Don’t be fooled by the rough and ready look of the place, their salt beef bagels are heaven in your mouth – worth the trip by themselves.