Whether you’re in the mood for shopping or searching for a meaningful memento, try thrifting while abroad! In nearly every city we traveled on our Baylor Theatre Abroad trip, I found a thrift shop or market to attend. Thrifting offers a way to find a city’s found treasures by supporting its community of finders. It’s a way of giving back both to the culture you’re visiting as well as the planet.
Here’s your inside guide on where to thrift in London specifically!
For a classic, all-encompassing thrift, try Portobello Road Market.
If you’ve seen the film Paddington, you may be familiar with the red-painted shop exterior of Alice’s Antique Shop. Our furry friend entered the shop to find information about the explorer who gave his family a love for marmalade sandwiches and taught them proper English manners, and you can find an antique teacup while you start a London thrift visit. This storefront marks the beginning of Portobello Road Market, home to the world’s largest antique market with over 1,000 shops along the roadside. Open on Saturdays from about 9am until dark, Portobello Road Market in North Kensington is your stop for anything you can dream of. Teacups, jewelry, antique prints, clothes, figurines, and more are available from its plethora of vendors, if you’re willing to take the walk and explore. I happened to find a few vintage theatre programs while strolling these streets, a niche and happy find! Others purchased rings, embroidered pillowcases, dollhouse furniture, and even a leather jacket. I’d advise getting there before it gets crowded; between 10 and 11 is an ideal time.
For the trendy and the artistic, head over to Camden Market.
Ever since 1974, Camden Market has kept shop beside Regent’s Canal as a home to creative artisans, independent stores, and street food. Centered in historic Central London, both food and shopping make this a one-stop-for-all. Unlike Portobello Road Market, Camden is open every day of the week, meaning you can visit if you trip is short or long! From tea to leather good, Kathmandu to London, vibrant cultures and crafts meet here in these artistic shops. A few unique offerings: street signs at Siren Fire Signs, headweat at Mad Hatters, and baby pilot hats at My Little Duckling.
If you’re feeling famished, Borough Market is the place to be!
With roots as far back as 1756, Borough Market has grown to be a celebration of food and drink for locals and visitors alike. Historically set beneath old train tracks, these permanent and pop-up vendors offer food from Britain and beyond. Grab a snack, a meal, or items for later here. Their offerings range from the classic fish and chips to cheese artisans to Northern Indian loose leaf tea and even chocolate! You can have a seat at some of the booths or take it to go. I opted for a pot pie from Pieminister, a lavender lemonade from a pop-up stand, and a lemon curd donut baked by the culinary students at Bread Ahead Bakery & School. There’s so much to try, you simply have to go!
If you’re interested in thrifting anywhere, check out some local charity shops!
London hosts a shock of charity shops, where their bargain sales directly benefit a local charity. Here’s just a few to keep an eye out for! Oxfam is one of the largest charities in London, and the proceeds from their shops go to relief funds for natural disasters and feeding poverty-stricken families. You can see their neon green storefronts from around the block! The British Red Cross is another great option, which provides valuable assistance to people requiring medical attention worldwide. I found myself in the FARA Charity Shop on New Kings Road, and they had a little bit of everything! I got a blue shirt to go with a skirt I’d thrifted earlier on the trip in Amsterdam, and my purchase went toward vulnerable and disadvantaged youth in Romania.
I encourage you to see if you can find gifts for yourself or loved ones from these heartfelt people and places.