Every weekend in London hundreds of people — Londoners and tourists, alike — head out on a treasure hunt. While sometimes they'll find the treasure buried in boxes and under counters, most of the time these treasures, the antiques of bygone days, are laid out in plain sight for all to see and touch. Dealers are more than happy to send these newfound treasures as a parcel to Australia or any other place, for that matter.
Some antiques hunters head for the Saturday market on Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill section of London. Here, dealers, selling furniture, silver, ceramics, and bric-a-brac of all kinds, line the street from early morning. At one stall you may find an assortment of old canes. At another bits and pieces of silver serving and flatware. Even if you don't buy anything, the convivial atmosphere on the street will entertain you.
A larger and more varied market takes place on Sunday morning, when dealers set up on Petticoat Lane. Jostling patrons push their way to tables to find all sorts of inexpensive second-hand items for sale.
If you're a bit more serious about antiquing, then you have to go to Alfie's Antique Market, home to over 370 dealers on several floors in northwest London. This is the largest and best-stocked of all the antiques markets in the city. Originally a department store in the 1880s, the market takes its name from the father of the present owner, who sold antiques in the city's East End before World War II. If you can't find what you're looking for here, you probably won't find it anywhere.
The Antiquarius Antiques Center, housing 150 dealers on King's Road in southwest London, offers specialized items, such as porcelains, boxes, clocks, paintings and prints, silver, antique books, and small pieces of furniture.
You'll find the Chelsea Antiques Market a few blocks down from Antiquarius on King's Road. If you're a curio addict, this place offers hours of browsing. Old and rare books take up about a third of the space. But you're more than likely to find antique shaving mugs, ivory-handled razors, lace gowns, wooden tea caddies, pocket watches, silver snuffboxes, grandfather clocks, and jewelry of all kinds.
Taking a step up the antiques shopping scale will take you to Grays and Grays in West London. Two old buildings contain stalls selling exquisite estate jewelry, silver, gold, antique maps, bronzes and ivories, arms and armor, Victorian and Edwardian toys, scientific instruments, Islamic, Persian, and Chinese porcelains and miniatures. If you get tired while shopping, stop for a cup of tea in either one of two cafés, located on the premises.
For the best in antiques, head to the Mall Antiques Arcade at Camden Passage in North London. Dealers sell fine furniture, silver, and porcelains from 35 individual shops within the mall.
If you sample even some of the antiques venues above, you'll send home treasures that you'll value forever.