Theatre, shopping and sightseeing are among the most popular reasons for popping from Bristol to London. Before you join the swarms sucked into Oxford street and end up in an unreasonably long Primark queue, consider alternative shopping. Upcycled, recycled and vintage clothing have taken on new meaning in the last 5 years. The number of people searching online for Dr Martens and Fila has doubled in the last two years. The brands we all wore in the 90s are returning to the forefront of fashion and frankly we can’t wait until Tamagotchis make their comeback.
Here’s a recommended route collected from our Snap team who live locally, customers we’ve chatted with and the popularity of reviews. St Pancras Station is a great drop off point as it seamlessly connects you with the east end where so many of London’s vintage and alternative shopping exists.
East London Shopping Trip
- Start by heading from London St Pancras to Liverpool St by tube, or the 205 bus will take you directly to the market. West of the station you’ll find Spitalfields market, dating back to 1876 it was originally a hospital and priory.
Spitalfields is iconic, still with the same strong community vibe thanks to independent food stalls, arts traders and jewellers showing off their latest creations. Saturday is the art market day so well worth choosing a Saturday morning coach. If you come on Saturday this is also a great place to get your lunch. Some of London’s best burgers and weirdest doughnuts exist here.
- Coming out the other side of Spitalfields there’s the bright, airy and well stocked Absolute Vintage. Their selection runs from the 50s through to the 90s and there are bargains to be found. The owners even try to piece together photos and letters they find in the vintage they buy to get an idea of who originally owned the piece.
- Venture on further to Brick Lane, one of London’s iconic narrow streets. On Sundays it’s got a fantastic food market with diverse cuisine like poutine and more permanent authentic Jewish bagel shops. On the corner of Hanbury Street and Brick Lane an upmarket opens every Sunday with unique pieces you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. You’ll be right next door to another vintage market which opens every day and surrounded by vibrant street art worthy of Instagram snaps.
- Keep adventuring to the top of Brick Lane to Cheshire Street where there’s a scattering of ‘House of Vintage’, ‘Vintage Store’ and ‘Vintage Basement’ in that order. Some of these shops have clothing going back as far as the 20s and can have a slightly higher price tag. What you pay for is their 25 years experience; think less about trawling through piles and more rack selections.
- Your final stop on this little tour is just a short walk down Cheshire Street to Beyond Retro. One of the best stocked shops around and you need only glance at their website to get a feel for the place. They’ve been in the game a long time, trawl through literal mountains of clothes and carefully select one piece out of every thousand to make it to the shelves.
Can we compare London with Bristol?
London is lucky enough to play host to many international traders who want to make their mark in the UK but that doesn’t mean it’s got the market cornered. Next, we head to Bristol.
Each Saturday Bristol’s St Nicholas market turns into a flea market. It’s been operating for 3 years and covers antiques and furnishings as well as retro clothing. During the rest of the week this large indoor market has the largest collection of independent shops in the city and was voted Britain’s best indoor market back in 2016. Nope, that’s not a category we knew existed either but it’s certainly nice to know.
The street worth flocking to for vintage deals seems to be Park Street, on the west side of the city. Working bottom to top it’s Sobey’s you’ll visit first. Great staff are happy to help you find your style and they have a small cult following of folk who seem to travel great distances to find new pieces.
A little further up the strip you’ll find Uncle Sam’s vintage clothing shop. No prizes for guessing it’s an American focussed boutique dishing out biker jackets, bandannas and a whole lot of denim. It’s a beautiful place to visit and we hear the prices aren’t bad either.
Moving away from Park Street and further back towards Bristol city centre you should head to Loot Vintage and Beyond Retro. On the way there consider stopping off at Kimono Kimono, a Japanese specialist and stockist of a wide range of original garments. Yes, now’s the time to introduce a kimono to your life. Treat yourself and wear it proudly.
Alternative shopping is about finding the hidden gems that really suit you. So it’s worth checking both of these historic cities out and filling out your wardrobe. Grabbing a Snap Coach at around a fiver each way allows you to spend more of your savings on treasures and less on transport.