One of the nicest aspects of living in a thoroughly metropolitan place like London is the market scene and we’ve recently discovered two back-to-back and quite wonderful areas. The neighbourhoods are gritty and funky and full of a mix of old shops, new shops, converted warehouses, and vast spaces that formerly housed manufacturing of some kind and which are now partitioned into market stalls where up-and-coming fashion designers ply their wares. Art galleries, performance spaces, and the vintage clothing and goods scene are all quite well accommodated in this part of London, too.
The markets at Spitalfields and Brick Lane are both a short walk from the Liverpool Street Station which serves both the London Underground and the regional above ground trains.
Just getting there is an interesting walk past a mix of old multi-story buildings with shops or restaurants on the ground floor and apartments above juxtaposed with glossy, glass, and oh-so-contemporary skyscrapers such as the London landmark amusingly nicknamed ‘The Gherkin’ and more correctly named 30 St. Mary Axe.
London landmark skyscraper nicknamed 'The Gherkin' looming over older buildings.
The walk that leads to the Old Spitalfields Market has the beautiful Christ Church, Spitalfields at the end of the street. Shops, pubs, and galleries flank both sides of this lovely street.
Christ Church Spitalfields at the end of Brushfield Street.
We entered the vast glass-covered area filled with market stalls and stumbled upon an in-progress beauty pageant featuring four-legged contestants — the Paw Pageant.
Spectators and participants at the Paw Pageant in Old Spitalfields Market.
The Paw Pageant in the Old Spitalfields Market.
Leaving the market and turning right onto Hanbury Street, we popped into a vintage store, Absolute Vintage, that was lined from top to bottom with purses, dresses, shoes, and more. In case you were wondering, that perfectly posed female is not a mannequin in the picture below — it’s a shopper frozen in the moment of deciding what purse to take off of one of the many overflowing displays.
We walked a few blocks further and arrived at the cafe-lined Brick Lane. I can honestly say that I have never seen such a concentration of Indian restaurants in one place!
Brick Lane in London's East End is lined with a vast variety of Indian restaurants.
More markets are held within the old Truman Brewery buildings — the smokestack of which is seen in the photo below. Everything from one-off sales to designer samples in sparsely furnished warehouses line Brick Lane so it is a slice of shopping heaven for the hip and trendy.
Smokestack of the old Truman Brewery off Brick Lane in London.
The funny, funky streetlamps on funny, funky Brick Lane in London.
One last note — in spite of the occasional crowds in various restaurants (and that is to be expected on any weekend!), this entire area felt less like a ‘tourist market’ and more like a local market with quality products that are aimed at London residents. In a previous post that discussed a visit to the Camden Markets, I aired my aggravation with the throngs of pushy people, the overlapping food smells, the sheer tattiness of most of the goods on offer, and the distinct sensation that it was being touted as a ‘must do’ thing for tourists in London.
Camden Market was such a jolting disappointment that we were thrilled to visit the Spitalfields and Brick Lane area after a recommendation from our friend Claire. This is the happy, upbeat, relatively uncrowded, and genuine market experience for the kinds of quality items that we were looking for in London.
Try it for yourself and see!
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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