London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Weekends in London

26/06/2005, By Andrea Meuleners

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 21874 votes

After attending classes during the week, our group always had three or four day weekends during which we could opt to travel to other countries or stay in England. I found that some of my best memories and experiences occurred during the weekends I chose to stay behind in London. The atmosphere in London seems to change a bit during the weekend, people are not as rushed to go places.

The “City” becomes deserted except for the occasional curious tourist that wanders through the area looking for the Millennium Bridge or the Tower of London. Residents opt to wear more relaxed clothing than the usual black business suit that is seen so often during the week.

Families bring their children outside to play in the parks and the high streets become crowded with shoppers. In addition to all of the activities that one could already take advantage of in London, there seems to be even more opportunities available on the weekends. Some of my personal favourites included the weekend markets.

The Portobello Road market is located in the very diverse and eclectic neighbourhood of Notting Hill. I found that it was best to go on a Friday afternoon because the weekend crowds could be avoided yet one could still take advantage of the lower prices that the vendors offered just before they closed their stands up for the day.

This market offers a wide variety of goods including vintage jewellery, handmade clothing, worldly items, records and compact discs, and even fresh fish, meat, fruit, cheeses and vegetables. It is probably one of the best places in London to hear “cockney”, the old working class English accent. Vendors often shout out cockney phrases and lower their prices in competition while you are walking by their stands.

One can observe how diverse the neighbourhood is just by listening to the music. While one vendor’s stand may be playing classical jazz or blues, another stand may be playing hip hop or Caribbean music ten feet away. Even if you do not usually enjoy shopping, taking a stroll down Portobello Road is a worthwhile experience you will definitely not forget.

There are also two weekend markets near the Liverpool Street station in the East End of London. It is best to attend both on a Sunday morning. The Old Spitalfields market has quite a history. It has been open since the 1700s but was recently facing destruction in order to make way for new construction. Residents in the area fought for their market and were able to negotiate a plan with the contractors to keep half of the market and allow the other half to be demolished for new office buildings.

The remaining portion of the market is still located under a large canopy so that one can shop no matter what the weather is like outside. The vendors sell unique handmade crafts, clothing and artwork from around the world. There is also an extensive international and organic food market where one can sample everything from Italian bread to Indian merg tikka wraps.

Petticoat Lane is the other market and is located just outside Spitalfields. Clothes were sold at this market in the Victorian age and the tradition continues today. One can also find football (soccer) apparel, watches, purses, shoes and even electronics among the stalls. The atmosphere is a bit more crowded than the other markets.

Even though the prices are already the cheapest out of all the markets in London, there are more opportunities to bargain with the vendors. However, if you are not from the U.K. be prepared to be confused at times as the vendors often speak quickly and with heavy accents. You’ll also hear cockney spoken quite often at this market.

While you are in the East end area make sure to take a walk down Brick Lane and stop for lunch (or dinner) at one of the many Bangladeshi restaurants. There are also some great Jewish bagel shops further down the street if you want a quick snack to go. You will be able to see a lot of history just by looking at the buildings and the street names in this neighbourhood as you walk around. The East End is where immigrants to London have been settling for years. Today it is populated mostly by the Bangladeshi community but was also home to Irish, Jewish and other immigrants in the past.

Andrea Meuleners

With grateful thanks to the Portobello Antique Dealers Association for the Images.

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