London Shopping: A Fashionista’s Thrift Travel Guide

Avatar By Dian Emery / 08 June 2015

London Shopping: A Fashionista’s Thrift Travel Guide

Avatar By Dian Emery

London is world-famous as a hot spot for high-fashion finds, but contrary to popular belief, London shopping doesn’t need to be expensive. Yes, you can max out your credit card within seconds of shopping London’s high streets, but if you’re smart you can score some seriously glam outfits on a budget. You just need to know where to look.

We’ll take you on a city tour, so you can find that perfect London fashionista look without breaking the bank.

Shopping in London’s West End

Oxford Circus is the centre of London fashion, and is a must-have experience for any style savvy shopper. The streets are stuffed to the brim with people on the hunt for the newest and coolest thing. Even here, bargains can be found without sacrificing the perfect look.

Top Shop

Top Shop’s humongous flagship store is famous for its sheer volume of fashion and customers. Don’t expect a quiet experience—the store vibrates with music, crowds and fun. Avoid the vintage section, as you can find better elsewhere in London for a cheaper price. This is the place to find the perfect jeans at a reasonable cost, cute tees and sexy London Town accessories. Our favourite spot, hands down, was the shoe section. Many hours were happily spent eyeing and buying Top Shop’s selection of surprisingly affordable and glam footwear.

Primark

Primark is where high fashion and bargain come together in London, and the place Londoners head to for retail therapy on the cheap. The quality of the clothes may not be top-notch, but they’ll probably last until the next new hot item comes along. Like Top Shop, this place is usually packed with shoppers, but the low prices and cute designs are worth braving the mad crush. Our favourite find at Primark and current obsession–crocheted everything!

Old is New Again: Marks and Spencer

Old, reliable, and now surprisingly stylish Marks and Spencer is no longer only a place to buy undies and hose—this enormous UK chain has joined the fashion party. For the first time in years, people are buying what M&S is offering, especially if it’s an autographed suede skirt worn about town by model Alexa Chung. This skirt has become so popular, Marks and Spencer created a waiting list for shoppers dying to get their hands on this summer’s hottest item. If you’re in London this summer, this UK institution is worth a visit. It won’t be the cheapest place to get clothes, but everyone needs a few quality items in their wardrobe.

East Ender: Fashionista meets East End London

One of the best ways to really experience London is by heading out for a wee bit of street market shopping. Since the Middle Ages, Londoners have been making their way to the market to shop for the tastiest tomato, the shiniest shoe or the best bustier. This passion for market fare is now shared by London’s fashion elite who head to East End streets for vintage finds, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind accessories to complete that special London look.

East End Markets

Old Spitalfields Market

Located just 5 minutes from Liverpool Station, Spitalfields is full of character and charm. This covered market has been in operation for over 350 years, and is the perfect destination for unique finds at reasonable prices. The best time to visit the market for budget fashion is on the first Saturday of each month for the “So Vintage London” event. This is where you can score some inexpensive but awesome vintage gems for your perfect retro outfit. We loved the top hats, 70’s threads, and antique Vogue magazines.

When: Saturday’s market takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: 16 Horner Square, E1 6EW

Closest Tube: Liverpool Street

Brick Lane Market

This bustling market is the place to go to get your authentic East End London fix. Home to cockney accents, junk shops, indie clothes and great vintage, Brick Lane bustles on a Sunday afternoon. Crammed full of hipsters, street musicians and Londoners out for a good curry, the market is an experience for the senses and it’s easy on the wallet. Our recommendation—wander, find some great buys, and people watch. This is the real deal, East End London to the core.

When: Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. approximately

Where: Brick Lane, E1

Closest Tube: Liverpool Street, Aldgate East

East End Stores

In and about the East End are some must-visit stores for any fashionista wanting to do some London shopping.

Blintz Vintage Department Store

If you’re not a fan of picking through bins and chaotic piles of smelly stuff for your vintage, then Blintz Vintage Department Store is the store for you. Housed in an old furniture factory, this store is so beautifully organized it’s hard to believe it’s a vintage shop. Billed as London’s first vintage department store, this place may not be the cheapest place to get your vintage, but it will probably be the prettiest. We loved the collections of designer vintage, from Biba to McQueen.

Where: 55-59 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JP, United Kingdom

Closest Tube: Liverpool Street, Aldgate East

Absolute Vintage

Around the corner from Spitalfields and Brick Lane is another of our favourite London vintage stores, Absolute Vintage. Boasting 1000 pairs of shoes and the largest selection of vintage bags in the UK, you’re spoiled for choice. Be sure to check out the cabinet full of Chanel bags: ooh la la!

Where: 15 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR, United Kingdom

Closest Tube: Liverpool Street, Aldgate East

Absolute vintage shop, London, England
Photo courtesy of Absolute Vintage

East End Thrift Store

You’ll have to do some serious digging at the East End Thrift Store, but it may be worth it when you can fill a bag for 10 pounds sterling. Tucked away in a tiny cobblestone laneway between Whitechapel and Commercial Road, getting there will be almost as much of an adventure as being there. Among the heaps of ugly sweaters and grimy jeans, treasures can be found—just take a deep breath and dive in. We loved their section of “Sparkly Things”—after all, who doesn’t want to add more sparkle into their life?

Where: Unit 1A, Assembly Passage, London E1 4UT, United Kingdom

Closest Tube: Stepney Green

Are you an Uptown Girl?

These shops and street markets are a must-see when in Northwest London.

Camden Lock Market

Gritty, edgy, quirky Camden Lock Market is a great spot to shop for alternative, goth and punk fashions. You can also find tons of handmade jewelry and crafts made by local artists. Be prepared to shed some tears when you make your way to the recently unveiled Amy Winehouse statue. During your visit, make sure to take a break from shopping, grab a crêpe from Crêpes à la Carte and sit down by Regent Canal. If you’re lucky, you might spot a couple of barges making their way down to the lock.

When: The market is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. throughout the week

Where Camden High Street, London NW1 8NH

Closest Tube: Camden Town, Chalk Farm Road

Camden Lock market shopping hall, London, England
Photo Credit: Steve Haslam underCC-BY-SA-2.0

Chaos Shop

While in Camden, stroll over to Chaos Shop for the “gotta have it” corset or retro party frock. It’s worth a visit just to take a photo of the giant black and zippered legs attached to the building. So very cool.

Where: 243 Camden High Street, London UK

Closest Tube: Camden Town

British Boot Company

The first store to sell Doc Martens in the UK, the iconic British Boot Company’s past customers include some of the top names in the punk scene, such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash. The goods are pricey but authentic; it’s definitely worth a visit, even if you decide not to empty your wallet.

Where: 5 Kentish Town Road, Camden Town, London

Closest Tube: Camden Town

London shopping is a must for anyone who loves fashion, and the best thing about this city is there are wonderful fashion finds for all budgets.

Find flight information and more great tips for travelling to London here.

Featured Image Credit: Piotr Zarobkiewicz under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Photo has been modified.

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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