London’s markets are an inspired source for wallet-friendly gifts
New York City may be famous for its over-the-top take on the Christmasseason, but London brings a quirky exuberance to the holidays that’sall its own.
New York City may be famous for its over-the-top take on the Christmas season, but London brings a quirky exuberance to the holidays that’s all its own.
Fortunately, this works very well for budget shoppers: just ducking into a high street chain such as Paperchase, paperchase.co.uk will net you delightfully creative cards and ornaments of an ilk that no one at home has likely seen before.
But the city’s abundance of street markets also makes London a great place to find fabulous bits and bobs to fill up the stockings. Whether vintage, organic or eclectic, you’re sure to find a gift that will make someone merry.
Nestled between Dalston and Hackney and facing leafy London Fields is London’s best kept secret; Broadway Market. The market is eco-aware, so no plastic bags are exchanged between buyers and sellers — bring your own tote — and goods are fair trade or organic.
From edible presents to quirky crafts, Broadway offers all kinds of rich and random treats. You’ll also find treasures such as ceramics, lace headbands and secondhand books; assess your bargains over a coffee and cupcake at one of the cozy cafes on the sidewalk. See broadwaymarket.co.uk.
Don’t let the tattoo-clad locals and rock bars put you off London’s most fascinating street market, which runs along Regent’s Canal. Sure, it’s all a little chaotic, but at its heart you’ll find an inexhaustible supply of gifts. There are vintage Vivienne Westwood dresses and jewelry sourced from all corners of the world.
Indulge in a cup of green tea and moist carrot cake at Yumchaa, a rare oasis of piece and quiet overlooking the market place. See www.camdenlockmarket.com.
Situated on the bank of the Thames, the village of Greenwich — a UNESCO World Heritage site — is London... but not quite.
Located outside the central zone makes it the perfect day trip away from the hordes of shoppers. Come the festive period, the stalls are perfect for picking up original gifts that won’t break the bank. Richard Crafts’ handcrafted metal designs come in all kinds of shapes and sizes: The wired wonders include dancing fairies, Christmas trees and shooting stars. Make a cultural stop at Maritime Greenwich to visit the Cutty Sark, cuttysark.org.uk. the world’s last remaining tea clipper ship. The local shop sells all sorts of kitschy memorabilia from Christmas cards to collector coins. See www.greenwichmarket.net.
Spitalfields and Sunday Up Market
Recently revamped Spitalfields is great for those wanting to experience the market vibe while shielded from rain and freezing winds; thankfully, the entire space is covered with a glass ceiling.
You’ll find everything from oysters and chocolate brownies to Peruvian ponchos and vintage accessories. Cross the road over to Brick Lane for the grittier yet equally glamorous treasure trove that is the Sunday Up Market. See spitalfields.co.uk and sundayupmarket.co.uk.
Seasonal shopping events
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park: This seasonal fair has grown into a 20-acre mélange of rides, holiday-themed stage shows and eateries. It also contains a German Christmas Market, with more than 50 decorated chalets selling gifts and refreshments, providing an “atmospheric alternative to the High Street.”
• Open Nov. 21 to Jan. 3, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., closed Christmas Day.
Cockpit Arts Open Studios: Creativity, particularly with regards to visual design, seems to bloom in London, so a trip to see a group of the city’s best artisans is always worthwhile. Cockpit Arts, a creative-business incubator, has Open Studios days at which you can meet the 165 resident designers and browse their wares. This year’s pre-holiday dates at Cockpit Arts Holborn are Fri., Nov. 27 to Sun., Nov. 29. See www.cockpitarts.com for details.