Like every big city, London is made up of many distinct districts, each with their own personality. Clapham, for example, is up-and-coming, trendy and young. Kensington is luxe and posh. Camden is independent, quirky and, for me, magical. Every time I’m in the capital, I find myself being drawn almost magnetically to Camden Town; it’s the place I feel most at home in all of London, but on a first visit, it can be rather overwhelming.
When you emerge from the tube station onto Camden’s streets, it is an assault on the senses. You have to have your wits about you to avoid being crushed by the hordes of other people – tourists and locals – who swarm the pavements. Cars beep their horns as they lurch forward in the slow traffic and multilingual chatter surrounds you. On a summer’s day, the air is hot and dusty; there is something a bit gritty and grimy about Camden – a vintage feel that imbues the atmosphere as well as the markets. The tiny shops that line the High Street offer everything from goth to hippie fashions and boldly advertise their wares with surreal, artistic shop-fronts. Many members of the public also seem to be promoting the fashions, with their bold clothing choices and eye-catching hairstyles.
Up ahead, the Camden Lock Market takes the souk-like feeling even further; here in the warren of cobbled streets overlooking the canal, little cabins and market stalls sell everything from arty gifts to vintage clothing. Each stall has its own speciality, whether it’s leather sandals, baseball caps or blown glass.
On the lower levels, food stalls offer every cuisine imaginable, from Vegetarian Turkish food to Brazilian fare. It’s hippie foodie heaven. In one area, stools in the shape of motorbikes form open-air seating, right on the canal’s edge. Smoke, piquant aromas and the sizzle of cooking fills the air, while music pumping out from the nearest boom-box completes the festival feeling.
Camden is a heady cocktail, buzzing and alive. It is not the place to come for a quiet Sunday stroll (Sunday is one of the busiest days!) but to be caught up in the energy of a fast-paced, creative, hedonistic community, you can’t beat it. I don’t know what it says about me that Camden is my spiritual home, but there is just something about it which makes my pulse quicken and my heart sing.
- Be prepared for crowds and chaos
- Don’t be afraid to barter – lots of stalls have similar items and the traders are always ready for a bit of banter
- Allow more time than you think to explore Camden – the streets and tardis-like shops are jam-packed with delights and the hours just slip by in a shopping daze!
- Come hungry – and eat your way around the world at the various food stalls.
- Lose your inhibitions (well, some of them, anyway!) and just enjoy the atmosphere.