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London is the place to be for the latest trends and fashion, but the city also specialises in buying and selling antiques. No other European city has quite as many antique markets as London. The first auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s were established in the 18th century. They made their money by auctioning off the entire contents of houses and estates, and quickly transformed London into the antique capital of Europe.
Open any travel guide to London and you will find reference after reference to antique markets. They are not only a mecca for antique dealers but are also a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the day collecting unusual items or rummaging around for hours. A setting of painted wooden façades, Victorian houses and old warehouses only adds to the atmosphere. Even more history and nostalgia is provided by the 19th-century Brompton Cemetery. This graveyard, with its combination of marble angels, elegant Virgin Mary statues and Roman columns, looks more like a theatre set and is London’s most beautiful cemetery.
One of the most popular markets is on Portobello Road. This antique market is located in the well-known district of Notting Hill, where stately Victorian houses with decorated pillars and balustrades set the tone for the street. Be sure to come early if you prefer a quiet browse as it becomes quite crowded later in the day.
At an old railway yard in the north of the city you’ll find Camden Market. The northern section, where a horse market used to be held, is now full of specialist shops selling antiques and eccentric furniture. The former horse hospital also contains two floors of antiques and curiosa.
“Camden Market: open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Portobello Road Antique Market: Saturdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. ”
At Bermondsey Antique Market, the day begins at 4:00 am in this hunting ground for professional dealers and collectors. From cut-throat razors and candle extinguishers to telescopes and old globes – you have to rummage around but there are bargains to be found. The market may not be picturesque but it is less busy than most others. Many antique shops with furniture and accessories are also located in old warehouses along Bermondsey Street and Tower Bridge Road. The market is held on Fridays only until 1:00 pm.
Chic antiques and art can also be found in the southern section of the Kings Road. The dealers here are highly specialised and love to talk about their trade. They travel the whole world in search of the most unusual items – from richly decorated Imari porcelain to world-famous Biedermeier furniture.
The suburb of Islington is a paradise for antique lovers with its beautiful, old shopping arcades. Camden Passage, York Arcade, the old Victorian Mall Antiques Arcade – each is more impressive than the previous one. They specialise in silver items, art nouveau, art deco and Eastern art, while the Pierrepont Arcade has stacks of old English crockery.