One of my favourite things to do anywhere is shop (Insert jokes about women here). While I do enjoy traditional shopping in stores like Selfridges and Harrod’s, with their beautiful displays of every item you can imagine and icy cold air conditioning; my first, and truest love is bargain shopping. I go mental over thrift stores and I’ve never met a flea market that I didn’t want to spend hours at.
As in most big cities in Europe, London has a number of markets to choose from. Some, like Petticoat Market operate one day a weekend and others, like Portobello Market operate partially all week and swing into full gear on the weekends. So which should you think about going to? Both, obviously! Portobello Market is located in Notting Hill. Remember the movie of that name? The bit where Hugh Grant wanders mournfully floppy-haired through a marketplace as the weather changes around him to imply the passage of time? That’s Portobello. It operates in a two tier manner, with storefronts open all week and the street booths filling up the road on Saturdays. You can find everything from in-season vegetables, tasty ready-to-eats, vintage clothing, hand-made jewelry, someone’s grandmothers sterling tea service, questionable fashions of your long lost youth, and darling hats right on down to kitsch and bric-a-brac for miles. Literally. If you’re close enough, I’d recommend making two trips. One during the week to visit the store fronts and the other on Saturday to walk the street vendors. Because we are staying close enough to visit whenever the mood strikes, I’ve actually been twice during the week and all three Saturdays that we’ve been in London and discovered something I’ve missed every single time. That’s the beauty of street markets; they’re like living entities and change constantly.
The official web site for the market advises that they begin selling quite early (8am, I think) but experience has told me that you’d be fine to arrive closer to 10am. Yes, it is quite crowded with other shoppers, but by then all the booths are set up and the griddle for the crepes is all ready to make you a snack.
Even if you’re not in the mood for a tray full of printing press type, stop and admire the beauty of the displays. There’s an odd art to a seeming jumble of items.
The buildings in the neighborhood surrounding the market are worth a look as well, having escaped the cookie-cutter fate of Holland Park; Notting Hill has some odd gems.
But, Charming, you might be saying, I don’t WANT ten thousand more things that require dusting, I want FASHION.
You’re sort of demanding. I might reply. Also, a tad vain. But I like that about you.
You, my little clothes horse, will want to take a Sunday excursion over to Petticoat Market. It’s located a short walk from Liverpool Station and down the road from Dirty Dicks, where you can get an overpriced, underwhelming burger or a cold pint if you are feeling peckish. The market only operates 9am-3pm, but you can easily see it in a few hours. We arrived at around noon and had no problem seeing the whole thing and spending some money. How much? All the items pictured below where purchased for 45 pounds. The stripped dress alone is currently selling at M&S for 25 pounds!
That’s the best part about this market – a lot of the clothes on offer are current or just-passed seasons items from shops like Marks & Spencer, Top Shop, French Connection and other big-name retailers. It’s possible that some of it has “fallen off a truck”, but for the most part it seemed to be factory over-runs and discontinued styles.
Some tips that you’ll want to take into advisement – most vendors don’t have mirrors, so don’t hesitated to ask someone (someone you know is best, obviously, but I found most sellers more than happy to as well) snap a photo on your phone for a quick review. In addition to no mirrors, none had a proper changing room. I was feeling lazy that morning and had worn leggings and a tank top, which turned out to be perfect for this trip since I could slip anything I wanted to try on right over the top and get a pretty good idea if it was going to fit. Sellers are willing to haggle a bit, mostly if you’re buying more than one item. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to walk if you don’t get the deal you’re looking for as items are sometimes available from other vendors further down the row. It’s a GREAT place to buy souvenir tee-shirts to bring back to the kids at home with prices at around a pound a piece. Bring a bottle of water, and use the loo before you head in as you won’t find either for the most part. You may also want to bring along a reuseable tote-bag (the sort that you buy at the grocery store works fine) to haul your loot in. There are signs warning of petty crime, so mind your pockets while you’re there as well, since you’ll want to bring your budget in cash.
Other than that, have fun! Oh, and Mighty would kill me if I didn’t give the caveat that while you’re having fun at least try not to spend every dime you and/or your SO has ever earned! I don’t know what he’s talking about, money is made to be spent, but you know how he gets!
And photos from all of our trips to Portobello can be found right here.