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London’s Brick Lane is where you go for a vibrant mix of food markets, street performers, vintage shops, curry restaurants, trendy cafes, incredible street art, independent bookshops and rainbow bagels…
If the description above sounds a bit eclectic, that’s because it is. It’s a very mixed part of London. It is colourful, lively, exciting and quirky 🙂
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How to get to Brick Lane
Brick Lane is in East London, but pretty close to the centre and easy to reach.
You can take an Overground train to Shoreditch High Street station or get off at Aldgate underground station or Liverpool Street station (both train and underground). It’s a short walk from each of those stations.
Brick Lane map
When to visit Brick Lane
Brick Lane is one of the most popular spots to visit on a Sunday, but you can visit any day of the week.
The street is especially lively at weekends. There are plenty of people, street musicians, the big market on Sunday, plus several other markets that are open throughout the weekend, selling food, and vintage and design items.
The Brick Lane Sunday market opening hours are 10am – 5pm. It does get busy and even packed sometimes, so bear that in mind.
It’s also a short walk or bus ride from Columbia Road Flower Market, also taking place every Sunday (and also quite packed…), so you can visit both on the same day.
During weekdays, it’s still a great place to visit, especially if you don’t like crowds.
All the shops, cafes, restaurants and bars are open and you can enjoy the brilliant street art and unique atmosphere any day.
Brick Lane markets – food, design and vintage
There are many markets on Brick Lane every weekend.
The Sunday market is a bustling outdoor market with stalls along the street selling food, drinks, vintage (some really eccentric collections sometimes), art, furniture and lots of other interesting things, mostly second-hand. Even if you’re not shopping for bargains, you’ll appreciate the atmosphere.
The Sunday Upmarket at the Old Truman Brewery (which is no longer a brewery), is open every Sunday from 10am to 5pm. It’s an eclectic market, selling food from around the world, fashion, vintage items, accessories, arts & crafts and more. The food stalls have vegan and vegetarian options.
The Vintage Market inside the Old Truman Brewery, takes place every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and is simply huge. It’s fun to get lost between the stalls and try on garments from the 1930s…
Backyard Market is a much loved designer market, open on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s a great place to go shopping for unique gifts, from clothing and jewellery to posters and prints.
Right before you enter the Backyard Market, go into the Tea Rooms for another dose of assorted vintage and retro collections.
The Boiler House Food Hall is the place to go for international cuisine, with food stalls from around the world. It’s open on both Saturday and Sunday. You can buy your food at the food hall and then step outside to have it on the picnic tables in the yard, if the weather is nice. It always has vegan and vegetarian options.
The Old Spitalfields Market is not actually in Brick Lane, but only about a 5 minute walk away from the Old Truman Brewery. You may want to check it out as well while you’re in the area. It has a different feel to the Brick Lanes markets. It’s a covered market with food stalls and restaurants plus beautiful arts and crafts stalls. It’s open 7 days a week.
Vintage shops in Brick Lane
If you’re a vintage fan, then you can spend an entire afternoon browsing items on Brick Lane and its side streets.
You’ll find a vintage fashion shops sprinkled all around, from the cosy Hunky Dory to Rokit with its large selection.
At the corner of Brick Lane and Cheshire Street you’ll see a colourful vintage shop called Brick Lane Vintage. When you walk down that small side street you’ll find, amongst the beautiful street art, quite a few other vintage shops, like Search & Destroy, Porcelain & Red and Vintage Basement.
Atika on Hanbury Street off Brick Lane is a massive concept store selling curated vintage fashion. When I say massive, I mean take your time – they have over 20,000 items for sale!
Typical Brick Lane foods – Curry houses and bagels
While there’s food from every corner of the world at the Brick Lane food markets, the street is most famous for its curry house galore.
Bengali restaurants dominate the part of the street close to Aldgate East station and the area is sometimes nicknamed “Bangaltown”. Even the street signs are in both English and Bengali.
You will see more and more of those as you walk down Brick Lane past Hanbury Street, each proclaiming to be “The best curry house in London” 😉
Brick Lane is not just known for its curry restaurants, but also for the bagel shops at the other end of the street.
Beigel Shop and Beigel Bake, one with a white sign and the other with a yellow sign, are right next to one another, selling Eastern European Jewish style bagels 24 hours a day.
You’ll notice the spelling is “beigel” rather than “bagel” on the signs. This comes from Yiddish. There used to be a large Jewish community around Brick Lane, starting from the 19th century. They have since moved to other parts of London, but the bagel bakeries remained.
The bagel shops are iconic Brick Lane institutions and there’s even a short documentary about them:
5. Beigels Already from Insight Films on Vimeo.
Brick Lane street art
Brick Lane is also famous for its street art. Generally speaking, there’s a lot of excellent street art in Shoreditch: From large murals that are stunning and hard to miss, to small pieces of art that you can only find if you know where to look.
I’ve written about London’s street art in the past, but it’s an ever-changing scene, naturally, and there’s always something new to discover.
You will see street are all around Brick Lane. Don’t forget to wander into the side streets and even small alleys to discover more pieces.
If you walk down Dray Walk, right next to the Old Truman Brewery, all the way to the end, you’ll get to see some brilliant street art, including a Banksy piece.
Walk down Hanbury Street to see some excellent street art, including the famous Crane by Belgian street artists ROA.
Walk all the way till the first street corner of Hanbury Street to find a huge mural that changes from time to time as the artists repaint the wall.
Guided street art tours around Brick Lane
Street art tours are very popular and I highly recommend taking one.
They are often led by street artists who know the scene well and can give you a wealth of information.
I took a tour with a street artist (who wouldn’t tell us his artist name, for obvious reasons) and gained a deeper understanding of how the artists work, why they do what they do and the internal rules of this subculture.
Here are some street art tours with good reviews. Some are paid and other are free, i.e. you pay what you like at the end of the tour.
It’s best to book in advance, as these tours have become a bucket list item for London tourists.
Street Art Walking Tour and Workshop in London
London East End and Shoreditch Street Art Walking Tour
… more suggestions from Viator
Brick Lane cafes
There are some trendy coffee shops in and around Brick Lane, and as you might expect from the area, some of them have a unique concept.
Canvas Cafe on Hanbury street just off Brick Lane is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a cafe with a fully vegan menu, but also is a creative space. It runs all sorts of workshops, lectures, exhibitions and events. They also have a “pay it forward” board, where you can pay for somebody’s food or drink.
Yumchaa is a tea house offering over 40 blends of tea, plus coffee, matcha and chai.
Kahaila Cafe looks small from outside, but when you enter you’ll see there’s a lot of space inside. I was surprised to learn that it’s not just a cafe, but a church running community events and charitable projects for women.
Pretty Cuppa is a nice little coffee shop offering matcha tea, fresh juices and pastries.
Cereal Killer is the place to go if you feel like eating cornflakes 😉 It sounds weird, but they have over 100 different types of cereals from around the world (with a separate vegan menu) and the decor should give you a nostalgic feeling.
Café 1001 next to the Old Truman Brewery is a cafe as well as a club with live bands and DJs, plus other cultural events.
Caravanserail is a bookshop and gallery on Cheshire Street. It’s a French and English bookshop with cute red sofas by the window that also serves coffee.
Brick Lane is well worth a visit, even if you’re coming to London just for a short time. I hope that after reading this guide you’ll add it to your itinerary 🙂
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