Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
Beyond the familiar axis of Oxford and Regent Streets, London plays host to a huge variety of shops, one-of-a kind boutiques and street markets.
Brixton Village has become one of the city’s most exciting and diverse places to eat. It’s home to some 20 eateries, selling food from Pakistani thalis and Chinese dumplings to Neopolitan pizzas and British charcuterie. Many sell homemade produce to take away (off Coldharbour Ln; 8am–7pm; cheeses from £4).
London loves its railway arches, and one of the best conversions lies between Maltby Street and Druid Street in Bermondsey, where artisan food seekers come to pick up oven-hot loaves, preserves, free-range meats and wines from small-scale producers. There’s an offshoot of the market further east where the tracks cross Spa Road (Saturdays 9am–2pm; Barnsley chops from £22 per kg).
Tucked away in a car park behind Notting Hill Gate tube station and frequented mostly by locals, The Notting Hill’s Famers’ Market is a fine place to sample and buy fresh pies, meat, fish, veg, cheeses, fruit, eggs and juices (don’t miss the Chegworth Valley farm-pressed apple juice) – all the while cutting out the middlemen and supporting sustainable farming (Kensington Church Street; Saturdays 9am-1pm; 1 litre of Chegworth Valley apple juice £2.50).
Vintage and antiques
Full of noise, colour and life, Brick Lane and its side streets are a fantastic destination for vintage clothes and quirky pieces for the home. Try the Backyard Market opposite Dray Walk for early 20th-century homeware and furniture, and the huge Beyond Retro on Cheshire Street for fashion one-offs (Tower Hamlets; vintage leather jackets from £30).
The shops located in the secure subterranean vaults on the eastern fringes of Holborn together make up the largest collection of silver under one roof in the world. The London silver vaults tend to specialise in different types of silverware – from cutlery sets to Edwardian picture frames and jewellery (53–64 Chancery Ln; silver napkin rings around £65, antique toast racks from around £240).
Alfies antique market, in northwest London, is an ex-department store in an Art Deco building, now dedicated to 20th-century furniture and rare ’20s to ’70s pieces. Lose an afternoon rambling through its four floors of sculptural lighting, vintage posters and evocative furniture. Take a breather in the fine rooftop café (13–25 Church St; closed Sun & Mon; 1950s advertising posters from around £30).
Boutiques and luxury
Showcasing Comme des Garçons, Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan, among other designers, the Dover Street Market is the place to find high-end fashion. Four floors of clothing are artfully displayed around surprising architectural features such as a Portaloo-style dressing room (17–18 Dover St; printed T-shirts from £45).
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another era at Liberty, a mock- Tudor department store in Soho, established in 1875 and rebuilt in the ’20s. It’s best known for its printed fabrics, homewares and exotic rugs, but it also sells some of the best fashion and accessories in the world. A truly British sense of the eccentric reigns at this London icon (Regent St; Liberty art fabrics £21 per metre).
All number of suppliers can be found beneath the three glass domes of Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Around 95 showrooms specialise in carpets, accessories, lighting and hardware. Shops include Original BTC, Besselink & Jones, Vaughan and Porta Romana. There’s also a café in the north dome (411 The North Chambers; Mon–Fri; Original BTC table lamps from £119).
Where to stay
The industrial design of Paddington’s Stylotel, incorporates two converted, 19th-century townhouses, with scored aluminium, opaque green glass and stainless steel throughout. Self-conscious name aside, it’s a real joy to find a contemporary boutique hotel at an affordable price in London (160-162 Sussex Gdns; from £95).
The B+B Belgravia is a chic place to make like a southwest Londoner. Its interiors are thoroughly modern, from the black and white lounge to the colourful minimalism of its guestrooms (64–66 Ebury St; from £135).
The Zetter in Clerkenwell is a special place. Its rooms are small but big on personality. Its restaurant, Bistrot Bruno Loubet, and Atrium Bar, with alfresco drinking, are superb (86–88 Clerkenwell Rd; rooftop studios from £300).
Among the main London train stations, Euston mainly serves the northwest of the country (Manchester from £36), King’s Cross the northeast, Paddington the west and southwest (Bristol from £22), Waterloo and Victoria the south coast, and Liverpool Street serves East Anglia. In London, Underground and Overground trains, and buses, are the easiest way to get around (one-day travelcards £8.40).