Brick Lane: Exploring East End London
September 22 2015
London is a major capital and global city, full of art and culture. It’s been declared “over” by plenty of critics, but the beauty of London is the fact that there is just so much to see, do, eat, and explore in the city.
One of the reasons I love the British capital isn’t the free museums (yes, yes, I know about the fact you’re supposed to leave donations) or even the West End musicals. In fact, it’s just a street: Brick Lane.
Brick Lane is a mixture of what I love about cities: trendy shops, cheap places to eat, Indian restaurants, history, diversity, crowded sidewalks. Every Sunday, the street comes alive with a market unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere around the world.
It’s easy to get lost in the smells of food — from Mexico, Japan, Germany — everywhere. The neighborhood bursts with the sounds of a hundred different languages and accents.
Even without the market, Brick Lane looks and feels like another place. Graffiti covers the walls and most of the storefronts. On any given day, you may even spot street artists putting up new works in broad daylight.
The graffiti themes vary — everything from “art for art’s sake” to political statements. Both local and foreign street artists come to London’s East End, and to Brick Lane especially, to leave a mark. The environment is regularly changing, though it has kept its urbanity.
While Brick Lane has held onto a lot of its independent spirit, there are also a lot of tours that help tourists discover the neighborhood. Eating London takes small groups from Old Spitalfields Market through Brick Lane, with a chance to taste some of the street’s best foods (a salt beef bagel from the Beigel Bake and a real Indian curry).
Graffiti tours often pass through Brick Lane and the surrounding streets. Plus, you’ll even find tours dedicated to the East End’s historical past, retracing the footsteps of figures like Jack the Ripper, who once roamed these same streets.
There’s no secret that London has always been a place of inspiration for many artists, writers, and other bohemian creatives. The East End and Shoreditch area, with its long history of diversity, has always had its own unique personality, and today the area around Brick Lane is home to many tech startups and artists.
The neighborhood is close enough to the more modern parts of the city, but also close to London’s more ancient history. Walk around East London at night and you’ll feel the mystical past, the silhouettes lurking in the dark.
From Turkish barber shops that give you tea while waiting, to modern and luxurious hotels and trendy restaurants, the East End is an area that represents the best of urban London. While many like to talk about Shoreditch and its genuine problem with gentrification, just take a look at Soho and Oxford Street in central London, and you’ll realize East London is still very authentic, very raw, and very cool.
Local shops sell vintage memorabilia and alternative products, and many of the businesses — even those curry houses along Brick Lane — are still independently owned. Support the local artists, the local community, and be sure to visit Brick Lane.
Have you ever visited Brick Lane or the East End? What’d you think about it? Let us know your thoughts down below!