Things to do | Leisure & entertainment | Antiques & auction houses

Antiques & auction houses

Treasures from the past

Relax by browsing some of Britain's quaint antique shops or feel the thrill of an auction as sought-after art goes under the hammer for thousands. Read on to see where the antiques action is. You might just find a bargain...

Where to find antiques


In London there’s only one place to go for antiques – the legendary Portobello Road Market. The largest antiques market in the world, it’s crammed with antique dealers of all descriptions selling everything from Chippendale furniture to cheap and cheerful chintz. The market is buzzing every Saturday and the shops are open six days a week.

The Cotswolds

Embraced by the gentle folds of the Cotswolds, west of London, you’ll find a collection of delightful towns and villages all built from the local golden sandstone. Stroll along the main streets of places like Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, Moreton-in-Marsh, Burford and Broadway, all a stone’s throw from one another, and you’ll find enough antiques shops to keep you happy for a very long time.

East of England

Characterised by the pretty pastel shades of their higgledy-piggledy timber-framed buildings, towns such as Lavenham, Long Melford, Saffron Walden and Coggeshall are a magnet for antiques hunters. Travel on quiet roads from town to town and shop to your heart’s content.


Dotted among the gentle hills and valleys of Kent, just south east of London, you’ll come across towns and villages that are great for antiques hunters. You’ll find antiques shops in the elegant colonnaded walkway of the Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells, or in picturesque villages such as Brasted, Edenbridge, Tenterden and Westerham.

Auction houses

Some of the world’s greatest treasures, from fine art and furniture to clocks and classic cars, have fallen under the hammer at the two great British auction houses, Christie's and Sotheby’s.


Since their founding in 1766, Christie's auctions have been a major attraction on London's social agenda. Today, their salerooms continue to be a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Recent sales in London have included the Kedleston Bookcase, designed by Robert Adam in 1761 that sold for £1,464,000 and ‘Algue rouge sur fond bleu ciel’ by Henri Matisse that sold for £624,000.


On 11 March 1744, Samuel Baker, founder of Sothebys, held the first-ever sale of a book collection, which raised a few hundred pounds. Well over two centuries later, on 6 December 1983, Sotheby's sold a single book – The Gospels of Henry the Lion – for more than £8,000,000. It has only been in the last century that the original London company has expanded from book auctions to cover all areas of the fine and decorative arts.

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