London is a celebration of culture; a mash-up of crisp, sharp businessmen and creative, laid-back artists. Perfectly embodying this diversity is the area of Spitalfields, which marks the point where the boundaries of edgy East London begin to merge with the glassy banking district.
A neighbourhood teeming with locals from all walks of life, Spitalfields is the perfect gateway into understanding how it feels to be a ‘true Londoner’. Squat, brick buildings line the narrow streets of Brick Lane; yet as you keep walking, skyscrapers seem to appear from the inevitable grey clouds, the new looming protectively above the old.
The East End of London is renowned as the starting point for British streetwear: independently-run clothing stores line the streets, their clients each radiating their own individual style. From its modern markets to its contrasting cuisines, this 24-hour guide will help you explore Spitalfields like a local.
Start Your Day At The Breakfast Club
A well-loved London-based chain, The Breakfast Club is – arguably – home to the city’s best brunch. This cosy, quirky restaurant attracts huge numbers of visitors, and for good reason. Not only is its menu large, delicious, and relatively affordable, but it carries an air of exclusivity, too.
Stepping inside the inconspicuous yellow door on Artillery Lane, you’re greeted by a wall covered in Polaroids, hastily-scrawled notes, and currency from all over the world. Expect lots of neon, dripping stacks of pancakes, and friendly staff. Oh, and expect to queue at weekends.
Explore The Market
Once a place for vendors to sell flesh, meat and vegetables during the 1600s, Spitalfields Market has since undergone quite a major makeover. Although it is still housed in the traditional red-brick building of 350 years ago, the market today is a splash of gunmetal grey, sleek glass panels, and strings of bulbous fairy lights.
This covered market is home to a huge number of stalls, many selling handmade and craft pieces. If second-hand and vintage clothing is your style, then you’re in luck: there are stalls for that, too.
Although there are a number of chain restaurants within the market, there is also a range of independent food stands, boasting international dishes such as filled naan bread and sweet treats. The market is open 7 days a week until 11 pm.
Pick Up Some Trinkets At Inspitalfields
Tucked quietly aside in the bustling market building is the unique InSpitalfields gift store. Lovers of coffee table books and scented candles will adore Inspitalfields; whether you’re just browsing, or looking for a friend’s birthday present, you won’t be disappointed by the range of products here. Admire their sophisticated yet unusual home décor range and flick through the glossy pages of their photography books.
Browse The Shops On Commercial Street
In contrast that is almost amusing, Commercial Street seems to mark the border between East London and The City. One side of the road is home to a number of graffiti-clad streetwear haunts, whilst the other houses a neat row of upper-end high street stores, such as & Other Stories and Diptyque.
Browsing through both sets of stores will give you an impression of the two stereotypical types of ‘Londoner’ – and will have you walking away with a slightly emptier bank account, too.
Try Some Fish And Chips At Poppie’s
While the classic British dish of Fish and Chips traditionally hails from the UK’s seaside towns, London-based Poppie’s is a worthy competitor. A small, nautically-designed 1950s-style restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, Poppie’s is the perfect place to stop for lunch as you venture towards East London.
If you choose to take away your fish and chips, it’ll be served to you wrapped in a newspaper: a tradition which was beloved by the restaurant’s founder almost 70 years ago! Poppie’s also boasts a professional fishmonger on-site, guaranteeing some of the freshest fish London has to offer.
Admire The Street Art & The Street Fashion
East London is often admired – among many things – for its creative, colourful range of street art.
As you wander east towards Brick Lane, make sure to stop and absorb the works of talented street artists, depicting various elements of London life. Brick Lane itself is home to a number of such pieces: especially if you stray from the path and into some of the smaller side streets.
Being the home of London’s streetwear scene, it’s little wonder that this neighbourhood is often flooded with some of the city’s most savvily-dressed locals. Expect wild hair colours and cutting-edge sportswear. Take some time to get lost in this area, and you may stumble across new, unseen art and fashion statements.
Enjoy The Music At Rough Trade
An iconic company for London’s music history, Rough Trade began life in 1978 as a record label and vinyl store, which represented artists such as The Smiths and The Libertines.
Although the two entities separated only 4 years later, the shop still stands today, with 3 different locations in London and one in New York. Whilst Rough Trade is primarily a record and CD store, whose shelves burrow deep into the long, narrow building, it also acts as a music venue for up-and-coming artists.
The store’s decidedly punk-rock identity is still evident now, with musicians and music enthusiasts from all across the city meeting there at any time of day. Rough Trade also boasts a coffee bar at the front of its Brick Lane store.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth At Dark Sugars
The sugary waft of Dark Sugars’ chocolate will reach you before the store is even in sight. Nestled into the heart of Brick Lane, this chocolate shop and café is almost dangerous for any chocoholics.
Its handcrafted wooden tables are lined with endless squares of chocolate in all shades and sizes; their flavours are unique but delicious, with names such as ‘Irish Kiss’ and ‘Pistachio Pipette’.
What makes Dark Sugars even more dangerous is their ‘serve yourself’ system: you simply pick up a bag and a pair of tongs and stuff in as much as humanly possible. At only £7.50 per 100g, the value is pretty incredible, too. Alternatively, grab one of their rich, creamy hot chocolate to-go.
Have A Curry On Brick Lane
Home to London’s Bangladeshi community, Brick Lane is famous mostly for its endless rows of authentic curry houses and Indian restaurants. If you’re a little overwhelmed by the choice of restaurant, then don’t fret: all the curries on Brick Lane are guaranteed to be fresh, delicious, and loaded with spice.
This humble street, with its colourful walls and youthful population, is a favourite local hangout in the evenings and at weekends. Once you’ve finished your curry, there are a number of traditional pubs to choose from if your night isn’t yet over.
Sample Some Street Food
If you’re still feeling a little peckish, then head back towards Old Spitalfields Market, where the pedestrianised road linking Lamb Street with Spital Square is dotted with street food stands. Each tiny, repurposed van offers a different cuisine or food type.
For DIY pasta, try Lovely Pasta; if you’re feeling adventurous, then sample Beijummy’s Amazonian flatbreads. Meat lovers should make a beeline for The Duck Truck, which sells customisable fresh crispy duck wraps, and also a ‘pulled duck’ brioche burger.
Where To Stay In & Near Spitalfields
Budget: St Christopher’s Inn Liverpool Street
Backpackers will love this conveniently-located hostel, which sits just minutes from London Liverpool Street train station. The newest of this company’s London-based hostels, St Christopher’s Inn is perched right above a traditional British pub – which guests are encouraged to make use of!
The clean, modern hostel welcomes people from all walks of life, whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or you prefer a slow travel approach to adventure. St Christopher’s Inn offers a range of private rooms and relatively small dorms, where prices start at around £25 per night.
Mid-range: House of Sebastiao Maria
A cosy-yet-modern guesthouse, House of Sebastiao Maria is located just a short walk from Spitalfields Market and prides itself on its uniqueness. With three different ‘houses’ along the same street – The Townhouse, The Rooms, and The Yard – each location offers something for every guest.
The rooms each have their own distinct character, managing to make their guests feel right at home in such a huge city. The guesthouse is perfect for families, couples, or groups of friends looking to explore London’s East End in style. Rooms start from roughly £110 per night.
Luxury: Ace Hotel Shoreditch
Just a short walk north of Brick Lane lies East London’s most sought-after place to stay: The Ace Hotel Shoreditch. Its contemporary, semi-industrial décor is reminiscent of a New York loft apartment, appealing to East London’s fashion-conscious, streetwise population.
The hotel offers a range of suites and room styles, including a Junior Suite with a rooftop terrace, and an Ace Suite, which also boasts a separate living area. The hotel’s swanky, spacious common areas also serve as events venues, with live jazz concerts and rooftop sundown sessions. Room rates start from around £200 per night.
Spitalfields Wrap Up
Spitalfields is one of the most interesting and unique areas in London. From admiring the creative street art, to eating delicious international food, to shopping til you drop, you can find plenty to do for a full day in Spitalfields. Make sure to spend a day or 2 in the area next time you are in East London!
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Spitalfields, London. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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