There are few places in the world better for second-hand shopping than London. Here are the top five places in London to find vintage clothes
In 2023, everyone is going second-hand shopping. Gone are the days of 2005 where people looked down on buying second hand clothes; vintage clothes are here and here to stay.
There’s nowhere better to find vintage clothes than London. With its long, countercultural history, London has many cool areas each with a range of eclectic vintage items.
The key to second-hand shopping in London is knowing where to go and understanding which shops and areas are filled with tourists and which have the real bargains. This article is going to help you find vintage items you’ll love, without breaking the bank.
1. Brick Lane
Brick Lane is perhaps one of the most famous streets in London. Credit: Gazamp
Let’s start with the one you’ve probably heard of, the world famous Brick Lane. Found in East London, a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station, Brick Lane has any vintage item you can think of. Atika, one of the biggest vintage shops in London, stretching across 6000sqft, is a great place to look, thanks to its carefully curated wares.
Despite the street’s popularity, there are, however, some hidden gems there too. In the Brick Lane Vintage Market, you can find a range of independent market stalls selling any vintage item you can dream of.
"While you’re in Brick Lane, take some time to appreciate the area’s rich history"
Iconic curry houses line the street, thanks to the area being the heart of London’s Bangledeshi community and there’s the world-famous Beigel Bake to visit too. London is a city of food, as well as fashion after all. If you look up, you can see the Truman Brewery’s Chimney, an iconic London landmark.
The area is famous for a reason. If you haven’t made it to Brick Lane yet, there’s no time like the present. Head to Liverpool Street Station or Shoreditch High Street and find the vintage item of your dreams.
2. Covent Garden/Soho
Covent Garden, particuarly in Seven Dials, is home to many great thrift shops. Credit: John Sutton
Walking between these two iconic areas is easy, but few areas of London are visited by tourists as much as them. For that reason, the shops here might set you back a bit more than some of the shops in other parts of London, but there are vintage gems to be found here regardless.
PickNWeight is a major draw for many second-hand shoppers. The shop charges you on the weight of your items, not the actual items themselves, allowing you to find the odd bargain that has slipped through the other shoppers' nets. Cow, in Seven Dials, is another chain with great vintage items and bargains.
Beyond Retro, next to Oxford Circus, is a staple in London thrifting and a place many of us can say got our start in looking for vintage clothes. Beyond Retro has a range of clothes, catering to many different vintage styles. If you’re more of a Y2K fan, you’ll find plenty of that style here but, if you’re in the mood for some 1970s cowboy boots, you can find them here too.
3. South Kensington
Kensington is a great place to find secondhand designer clothes. Credit: Onnes
Seeing Kensington on this list may be surprising. The area does have a reputation, after all, for being expensive. However, that’s why the charity shops here are amongst the best in London to visit, if you love vintage clothes.
"South Kensington’s wealth as an area can be found in the designer clothes of its thrift shops"
People with more money donate clothes worth more money after all, allowing you to find designer items for a fraction of the price. Visit enough of the charity shops here and you might find some Gucci trousers or some Prada loafers.
4. Islington and Angel
Camden passage is home to some of the quirkiest second-hand shops in London. Credit: Robert Lamb
Islington and Angel are home to some of the quirkiest vintage shops in London.
Camden Passage (which is, in fact, in Islington and not Camden) is one of the most picturesque streets of London and a great place for second-hand items, particularly antiques. The street has a market from Wednesday to Sunday (9am-6pm) and, while you might not walk away with something you went there for, you might walk away with something even better. That’s the main appeal of thrifting in Islington and Angel.
"You might walk out with a 1920s wedding dress or something for your coffee table"
Head to Angel Station on the Northern Line and expect the unexpected. There's always something strange, but unique to be found here.
5. Camden Town
Camden is perhaps one of the most famous places in London, because of its musical history. Credit: Tony Hisgett
While Camden might have changed over the years (with the addition of tourist attractions such as a Tomb Raider experience), it hasn’t lost its vintage spirit. The market is still full of the unique stalls it has been famed for and everywhere you look there is a reminder of Camden’s illustrious musical history. Acts such as Amy Winehouse, Pink Floyd and Pulp are woven into the fabric of Camden.
If you’re in the mood to buy though, the Stables Market is the best place to look. Try to be aware of which shops are aimed at tourists and which ones actually have high quality items, otherwise you might walk away with a bigger hole in your wallet than you hoped. Trying to find that bargain is, however, a part of the Camden charm.
Camden High Street has many of the vintage chains you’ll see around London and it might have an Urban Outfitters, but it has some shops with unique items too, so don’t discount it too early.
One more piece of advice
As thrilling as each of these places are, one of the best ways to find vintage items is to keep up to date with local news. Areas like Bethnal Green hold vintage kilo sales frequently and, often, you’ll find you can find clothes that are just as nice as the ones from the places above, but for a fraction of the price.
Banner Credit: London model (Jorge Elizaquibel)
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