An assorted selection of antique finds at Sunbury Market © Sunbury Market

"Just a few miles past Twickenham and Richmond, Sunbury Antiques Market is one of the London area’s best-kept secrets for top-notch antiques shopping," Tremayne from London city guide HG2 tells me. Read on to find out what you might find there, and what treasures are hidden nearby.

"Held twice monthly at the Kempton Park Race Course, the market hosts over 1,000 different traders between its indoor halls and drive-in area outside. Zipcar members who expect that their browsing will yield irresistible treasures should plan on heading out in one of our vans for that all-important boot storage.

Held in Kempton since 1979, the Sunbury Antiques Market has over 30 years of experience in bringing together some of Europe’s top antiques sellers. With a selection of specialty traders selling everything from silverware, cameras, and kitchenware to vintage fashion and furnishings, the market’s size virtually guarantees that shoppers will stumble upon special finds. Many of Sunbury’s stallholders travel across from Europe, including specialists in Belgian chandeliers and French farmhouse furniture. If you can’t find the piece you’re looking for here, it may not be out there at all. And don’t worry if what you’ve set your eye on is a continental sideboard: Zipcar makes it simple to transport even bulky pieces home.

Petersham Nurseries is home to the renowned Petersham Nurseries Café, famous for seasonal British fare © geishaboy500

Seasoned bargain hunters know that the best deals are often snapped up early in the morning. After a few hours of impassioned haggling, a restorative meal is certainly in order. A 15-minute drive to Petersham Nurseries Café (Church Lane, Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 7AG, 020 8940 5230, www.petershamnurseries.com) reveals a lush restaurant in an old greenhouse that serves lunch only. Its blend of high-quality English ingredients prepared with a Mediterranean flair (try the wild halibut with capers, marjoram, courgettes, and corno peppers) has earned the café Michelin recognition.

The pretty streets of the village of Sunbury © Maxwell Hamilton

Those wanting to stay local to Sunbury for a second round of browsing can venture to The Magpie (64 Thames Street, Sunbury-on-Thames, TW16 6AF, 01932 782024) for a smart but relaxed pub lunch. The menu ranges from skilled takes on pub classics (a ploughman’s or a cheddar and smoked bacon burger) to more individual plates (pan-fried mushrooms with herbed truffle oil, pea and broad bean risotto). On a sunny day diners can also take in the view from the pub’s terrace garden, which overlooks the river.

The famed Upper Lodge Water Gardens at Bushy Park © stusmith_uk

When the shopping begins to wind down, take your time getting back to London by driving to some of the local sights. Once the hunting ground of kings, Bushy Park (Hampton Court Road, Hampton, Middlesex, TW12 2EJ, 0300 061 2250, www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/bushy-park) now stands as the second largest of the Royal Parks in the greater London area. Landmarks within the park include its famous Diana Fountain, bearing a glittering gilt statue of the Roman goddess, as well as the Upper Lodge Water Gardens, designed in the Baroque style and featuring a canal, pools, and cascades. Best of all, Bushy Park is only a 10-minute drive from Sunbury in your Zipcar.

The gleaming white façade of Strawberry Hill House © amandabhslater

One final stop worth making on your journey home is Strawberry Hill House (Strawberry Hill, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, TW1 4ST, 020 8744 1241 www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk). The flamboyant, eccentric Gothic castle is a showstopper in bright white – walking in is a bit like entering a wedding cake. Built by Horace Walpole, the house was designed as a fantastical “plaything,” adorned with turrets and spires and outfitted with decadent furnishings. Whether you’re on the hunt for a teak dining room set or an elegant chandelier, a day trip to Sunbury Antiques Market is a perfect Zipcar outing."
 
Over to you - have you ever been to Sunbury market? What's the most amazing find you've come across at an antiques market?  
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