One of the best ways to get a good glimpse at a culture is to go an open market. You’ll learn a lot about about a city and its people when you visit one. It’s almost impossible not to. When you go to a market you’ll encounter the various people and their cultures from all over the city in one spot. You can see this in the numerous vendors and their wares and the smell and taste of a myriad of food from all over the world. A market is a cultural convergence. A place where every piece of a city seems to meet in one spot. At least, this is the experience I had when I visited Camden Market.
The Camden Market is in Northern London’s famous Camden Town neighborhood. This area of the city is a pretty trendy place for all the 20 somethings to go shopping or have a night out at the clubs and bars. The Camden Market is a little different thought. It isn’t exclusive to the young hipsters and club dwellers. Now technically the Camden Market is not just one market. It’s actually a series of conjoining markets in Camden Town. These include the Camden Lock Market, the Stables Market, Camden Lock Village, Buck Street Market, and the Inverness Street Market. Now these markets are all relatively close together, most of them actually connect directly with each other. In fact, often times I didn’t even notice that I had entered a different market. Because of this most locals just call the entire thing the Camden Market or the Camden Lock.
One of the cool things about the Camden Market is that it’s built right around the canal that runs through Camden Town. There’s a big canal lock, hence the name Camden Lock. One of my favorite moments at the Market was when my friends and I got some food and sat down next to the canal. We were able to watch the boats pass by and see the water rise and fall in the lock. We even saw a few house boats and one or two people canoeing. It was a good spot to enjoy the view and even make some small talk with a friendly stranger or two. Plenty of people at the canal had their shoes off and dipped their toes in the water too. If you weren’t interested in the canal, there’s tons of cool sculptures and artwork to look at while you explored. We even found a bench that turned into a sculpture of a woman. Imagine eating your lunch on that!
Speaking of eating, did I mention the food? The cuisine was awesome. They had all kinds of dishes from all around the world. You could get Dutch pancakes, Mexican burritos, Japanese katsu, Indian samosas and so much more. The list goes on forever. My friend even got a kangaroo burger from an exotic meat vendor. Personally, I went for some Indian, but it was hard to decide with so many options. Not only was this food cheap, but was well made. There was so much from so many different cultures. It was a celebratory feast in honor of globalization and diversity.
Food wasn’t the only diverse thing they had at this market though. The people were probably even more diverse. You had locals from all over the city who come to have a good time and foreigners and tourists, like myself, from all around the world. There were people from a ton of different subcultures too. They’re were hipsters, goths, nerds, skinheads, rastas. You name it they were probably there. The best part is that there were places for all these people to go to as well. There were vintage clothing shops, a mod-style clothing shop, comics and collectibles, art galleries, London themed tourist vendors, and so on and so forth. We even found a piece of London’s rave and nightclub life at this gigantic store called Cyberdog. It sold tons of clothing and novelties fit for late night raves and dance parties. It was as if every culture in London was represented in this market. There were stores, food, and people that came from almost any culture you could find in the city. It was quite spectacular.
So here’s my advice to you. If you’re ever in a different country or even just a different city, go to their markets. Whether you’re in Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, on Canal Street in New York, or in Camden Markets in London or any other city market, you will see the heart and soul of that city. And if you don’t want to go for the broadening of your cultural horizons, you can still go for the great food, shopping, and fun. Either way, you’ll manage to have a good time.