Your Go-To Guide to Summer Antiquing in London

Bermondsey Square market. Photo courtesy of Bermondsey Square Antiques Market

Each year, British summertime sees the worlds of fine art and antiques descend upon London and neighboring counties. Dedicated collectors, keen amateurs, and passing lucky chancers gather in tents filled with premium art, flea markets, and covered antiques markets, all while looking for shelter during the frequently rainy summer days.

If you’re one of the lucky visitors to the English South East over this period, here are our picks for best collectors’ fairs and markets.

Permanent & Covered Markets

Sambotaro at Alfies. Photo courtesy of Alfies Antiques Market

Alfie’s Antiques Market

As “London’s Largest Indoor Market for Antiques, Vintage Fashion & 20th Century Design,” Alfie’s Antiques Market celebrates its 40th birthday in 2016. Off the conventionally beaten track, but still within easy reach of visitors to the city, few collectors will be disappointed by the incredible quality and variety on offer, or the expertise of the dealers. Alfie’s has a charmingly rough and ready appeal. Rumor among dealers has it that Alfie’s was frequented by the late Michael Jackson and Prince.

Closest Station: Marylebone
Good For: All antique/collectible categories
In the Area: For contemporary art lovers, Lisson Gallery, one of London’s most influential commercial galleries, is less than five minutes away by foot.

Kensington Church Street

Over 60 high-quality antiques dealers, in one of the most affluent areas of London, offering antiques from the Tang Dynasty to the Art Deco movement. You can prepare for your trip in advance by visiting their website and looking at the dealers and specialities on offer.

Closest Station: High Street Kensington
Good For: All antique/collectible categories
In the Area: Once in the area, art fans won’t be far from the Victoria & Albert Museum for decorative art or the Serpentine Gallery for groundbreaking contemporary art. For keen shoppers, Harrods Harrods and Harvey Nichols are also within safe walking distance.

Exterior of Grays Antiques Centre. Photo courtesy of Grays Antiques Centre

Grays Antiques Centre

Set across two labyrinthine old London buildings off New Bond Street in Mayfair, Grays has over 200 dealers dealing in huge range of specialisms. Downstairs, the building is also home to an underground tributary of the lost River Tyburn. While the river provided water to the city, the name Tyburn has ghostly connotations thanks to the eponymous “tree” erected near Marble Arch in 1571, upon which many notable criminals were hanged.

Closest Station: Bond Street
Good For: All antique/collectible categories
In the Area: If you plan to explore the area a little further, Mayfair is traditionally home to London’s leading commercial art galleries, including Halcyon, Victoria Miro, Marlbrough, and Gagosian.

London Silver Vaults

Home to “the largest retail collection of fine antique silver in the world,” silver collectors will likely already be aware of the London Silver Vaults, which house approximately 30 silver dealers and their shops.

Closest station: Chancery Lane
Good For: Silverware
In the Area: Anyone visiting the Chancery Lane area of London would be foolish to miss a visit to Sir John Soane’s Museum, the extraordinary home of the eccentric neo-classical architect of the Bank of England. Look out for “A Rake’s Progress,” one of Hogarth’s best-known satirical series.

Furniture and Arts Building (formerly Furniture Cave)

Painted a prominent green, you couldn’t miss the Furniture and Arts Building at the north end of Lots Road, home to some of Chelsea’s best art, where it meets the Kings Road. Each of the nine dealers operating from the building specialize in the decorative arts, including the stone specialist, Lapicida, Chelsea Gallery, and Heritage & Heritage.

Closest Station: Fulham Broadway or Imperial Wharf
Good For: Decorative Arts
In the Area: Heatherley’s Art School of Fine Art on Lots Road, Lots Road Auction House, and unusual and eclectic boutiques on Kings Road including Vivienne Westwood’s famous World’s End shop, which still stands on its original location.

Top London Markets By Day

Clock display at Jubilee Market. Photo courtesy of Jubilee Market

Mondays: Jubilee Market Covent Garden

While treasures from Georgian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco decorative movements can be found in Covent Garden’s markets, the tourist-central popular area can make it hard to find what you’re looking for. Be dedicated, and know what you want to ask. Jubilee Market has something on offer every day of the week, but Mondays are the day for antiques and collectibles.

Closest Station: Covent Garden
Good For: All antique/collectible categories

Silverware display at Piccadilly Market. Photo courtesy of Piccadilly Market

Tuesdays: Piccadilly Market at St. James Church

Despite its central location, stumbling upon this small market always feels like a discovering a hidden gem. Generally good for numismatics and philately. Once you’re there, you won’t be far from Burlington Arcade, famous for its antique jewelry, and you can even stop into the Royal Academy for lunch.

Closest Station: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park
Good For: Numismatics

Wednesdays & Saturdays: Camden Passage

With fewer crowds to compete with, and easy access to Upper Street’s charming cafes, the dealers of Camden Passage offer a range of antiques and collectibles that tends towards vintage clothes and silverware.

Closest Station: Angel
Good For: Vintage clothes

Thursdays & Fridays: Greenwich Royal Charter Market

“Comprehensive, unusual and unique” is how Greenwich Market describes itself. Thursdays and Fridays offer a mix of antiques with arts and crafts. If you’re a visitor to London, Greenwich is rich with history, so combine a trip to Greenwich with a visit to the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum, and a beer at the Meantime Brewery.

Closest Station: Greenwich or Maze Hill
Good For: Collectibles

Bermondsey Square market. Photo courtesy of Bermondsey Square Antiques Market

Fridays: Bermondsey Square

A market for dedicated collectors, Bermondsey Square market takes place on a Friday morning when you fair-weather rivals are still behind their desks. If you start at 6am, you can compete with eager beavers and still be home in time for lunch.

Closest Station: London Bridge
Good For: All antique/collectible categories

Fridays & Saturdays: Portobello Road

One of London’s best-known markets, Portobello Road comes alive on sunny Saturdays in the summertime. With over 1,000 sellers, selling everything from rare collectibles to tourist maps, the keen collector should aim to go early on a Friday to beat the crowds. Take no prisoners.

Closest Station: Notting Hill Gate
Good For: All antique/collectible categories

Upcoming Fairs

Alexandra Palace Antiques & Collectors Fair, September 4

Organized by the IACF (International Antiques & Collectors Fairs), the magisterial Alexandra Palace is home to over 300 dealers during the fair. ‘Ally Pally’ is a collector’s dream.

Closest Station: Alexandra Palace or Wood Green

LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair, September 13-18

Since the fair started in 2009, LAPADA has cultivated an international reputation. Over 100 dealers offer everything from antique jewelry to tapestries and contemporary artwork. A specialist committee vets everything on site, so buyers at LAPADA can be comfortable in the authenticity of their purchases.

Closest Station: Green Park or Bond Street

Can’t make it to London? Check out upcoming British sales including Lyon & Turnbull’s Scottish Silver & Applied Arts (August 17), Vectis Auctions’ Model Train Sale (August 18), Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Day 1: Paintings, Prints, Ceramics & Clocks (August 23) and Day 2: Furniture, Rugs, WOA & Garden Ornaments (August 24).