East London – Cool highlights
Today’s travel reporter’s report goes to East London, more precisely to Shoreditch and Spitalfields. Her absolute favourite area is and remains East London with the multicultural range of food, the many markets, the relaxed vibe, the even more fantastic street art, the trendy shops and above all, the inconspicuous, hidden highlights in this area. The two tell you today their absolute highlights in and around East London. Continue reading on our Escort Service Website!
Off to East London
It’s about 1 p.m. on a fall or spring day. Clouds move across the sky and sometimes let a few rays of sunshine through. Luckily it’s not raining. We have just come from the airport and are on our way to visit our favourite Indian. The suits of the Financial District rush by with the obligatory coffee-to-go. We can already see the brick houses with the colourful billboards on the well-known Brick Lane – but we don’t go to one of the numerous Indian restaurants there, but to Indigo in Shoreditch, where we treat ourselves to a delicious curry after our long journey.
This is how our annual London trip usually begins, and it almost feels like coming home for us. A few years ago, we discovered our love for the English metropolis on the Thames and, as far as our work allows, we make a short trip there every year. After going through the well-known sights after a few visits, we chose East London, more specifically Spitalfields and Shoreditch, as our favourite area. With our travel report, we want to take you to this alternative district, which has blossomed from a problem district to a trendy hip district in the last few decades and introduce you to our favourite corners there.
Free walking tour
To get a good insight into a new city – no matter where in the world – we always take part in a free walking tour. For those who haven’t done time like this before, these tours are offered mainly by young locals. You do not pay in advance, only at the end of the term with a tip. So you can decide for yourself how much the tour was worth.
We think this concept is excellent and have never been disappointed. For East London, we can recommend two providers. Two years ago, we did the Jack the Ripper Night Tour with FreeToursbyFoot. It was exciting and interesting to learn more about the life of ordinary people in East London in the 19th century and to visit the scenes of the Ripper murders. Book your Jack the Rippe Tour through East London* here.
Culinary Food Tour
The second tour we did last year with Strawberry Tours – was a food tour where we made four stops at various culinary institutions in and around Brick Lane. A few of them blew our minds – but more about that in our food tips. For both tours, we had to register online beforehand and then we could come to the meeting point. Strawberry Tours also offers a street art/graffiti tour which we haven’t done yet but want to try next time we visit.
This brings us to the next point – graffiti. East London is famous for its graffiti. Even Banksy has immortalized himself there. Unfortunately, we are not very familiar with graffiti, but even as laypeople, we were impressed by the vast murals, and we couldn’t stop taking photos. Strolling the streets and looking at the works of art is great fun – it feels like you are in an open-air gallery. I recommended.
Old Spitalfields Market
Another reason we keep returning to East London is the variety of markets in the area. A permanent market is Old Spitalfields Market, one of London’s oldest markets. Here you can find clothing, accessories, jewellery, unusual curiosities, and a food court that should not be underestimated with numerous stands and food trucks, where the local suit wearers of the Financial District get their tandoori chicken or fish and chips at lunchtime.
The whole is semi-covered in a Victorian building constructed in 1887. It’s just so much fun to let yourself be carried away, to pick up a souvenir or two from the friendly stallholders and eat delicious street food in between. For us, the Old Spitalfields Market is almost a second home and not a day of our short trip goes by that we don’t stroll through the market at least once.
Brick Lane Market
Another market, which only takes place on weekends, is the vast Brick Lane market. On Saturday and Sunday, part of Brick Lane is transformed into an expansive promenade lined with stalls to the left and right, with street musicians, artists, and food trucks in between – there is simply everything you can imagine. Although many tourists frequent the market, it has managed to retain its alternative flair, and there is a very relaxed atmosphere. Also, you can’t buy the typical tourist souvenirs that are now available in all sorts of places worldwide, but you can still find unusual things.
The heart of the Brick Lane Market is a massive vintage market in the basement of a brick house. There you will find not only second-hand clothes but also every other imaginable vintage stuff, from books, and biological specimens, to postcards and vinyl records. There is something for everyone, and we often spend hours digging through everything. Also located on Brick Lane is the Brick Lane Bookshop, a small, cute bookshop that, in addition to the works that can be found in every bookshop, also has a small, fine selection of non-fiction books and novels about Brick Lane and East London.
However, our highlight of the Brick Lane Market is the food hall, where chefs worldwide offer their dishes. You can often try, and there are so many incredibly delicious things that we always plan at which stand we will eat which things and when. The smell of the many different spices alone is fantastic, and while I am writing this, I am mentally there again in this hall in front of the Moroccan stand with the vast portion of “a little bit of everything”.
Often you choose a bowl size (small or giant) and can then fill it with different things. The basis is usually rice, noodles, couscous, etc. The food is fantastic, and for those who like to eat ethnic cuisine and try new things, this market is heaven on earth.
East London landmarks
Spitalfields City Farm
If you have eaten enough and want to escape the hustle and bustle of Brick Lane for a short time, it is worth visiting the nearby Spitalfields City Farm. We discovered this little oasis two years ago and were enthusiastic about the urban gardening principle. The farm is a charity project; locals can volunteer here and plant vegetables, fruits and flowers, take care of the animals, etc.
Tourists can visit the farm, chat with the volunteers, admire the flower beds and vegetable gardens, and pet the animals. There are workshops, various events, and a small farm shop. On certain days you can also buy the fruit and vegetables grown there.
Museum of London
One of our favourite museums is the Museum of London. Located close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, this museum is easily accessible from the East London underground (Barbican station). It offers a very detailed overview of the city’s history and the living conditions of the people of London from Roman times to the present day.
Like many other museums in London, this museum is entirely free. Our highlights are the Great Fire exhibition and the faithful replica of a Victorian street with shops, pubs and other buildings. In addition, the numerous historical garments and accessories are very impressive.
As the name suggests, this is a garden above the roofs of London. It is located on the 35th floor of a skyscraper in the financial district (20 Fenchurch Street) and was a few minutes walk from our accommodation. Alternatively, you can take the subway to the Monument station. If you want to visit Skygarden, you need a free ticket, which you must print out online in advance.
TIP: Get the London City Pass* and free entry to over 80 attractions and a day ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus.
You have to decide on a period. Since the Skygarden is a relatively new attraction, tickets sell out quickly, and you should book well in advance. Although entry is free, the Skygarden was not overcrowded when we were there. After a security check, you immediately take an elevator to the top in the middle of the Skygarden. This area extends over several floors with lots of exotic plants and several bars.
From there, you also have an outstanding 360° view of London over the most important sights such as the Tower, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the skyscrapers of the Financial District. The Skygarden is covered and looks like a large greenhouse. If the weather permits, you can admire the view from an outdoor terrace. Order a beer or a glass of wine, sit on one of the fur-covered armchairs and enjoy the view. It was relaxing after a day in the city.
Dennis Severs House
Directly opposite the Point, A Hotel on Folgate Street is a nondescript door. At first, I wondered what was behind it because the windows were always dark and barricaded. After a bit of research, we found out that there is an extraordinary museum behind it. To our regret, we have never made it in, as the tours offered were always untimely for us. Yes, you can only enter this museum as part of a tour.
Unfortunately, as already mentioned, these tours do not occur daily. This house is definitely on our to-do list, though! Inside, ten rooms await you that have fallen out of time. The atmosphere should be great. Immerse yourself in a furnished house from the 18th century with all your senses – including music, smells and noises. Since only a limited number of visitors are allowed to participate in the tour, you can certainly soak up the atmosphere.
Tower Bridge and Tower of London
Everyone knows these two sights, Tower Bridge* and the Tower of London*, and there is already a large amount of information and reports about them, which is why we don’t want to waste a lot of words. These attractions, also located in East London, are easy to reach by tube (station: Tower Hill) and are not only worth seeing because of the crown jewels. Yes, both attractions are very touristy and have no more extended insider tips, but they are still worth a visit, in our opinion.
More highlights & sights
There are, of course, many other highlights and sights that are not in East London but are still worth a detour. We want to present a few of these highlights in more detail.
A half-covered, half-open air market where you can buy food, spices, wine, oil and other goodies. The prices are a bit higher, but the quality is top. We shop there every time at Spicemountain, a spice shop that sells every imaginable spice. A few food trucks on the market also offer hot and cold dishes and pastries.
The best-known market in London is probably located a bit outside the city in the north. Here you can also find clothes shops, food stands, vintage stuff, etc., but the market is now too touristy for us. The Camden area is exciting – alternative pubs and clubs can also be found there.
Covent Garden is a large square with a kind of mini shopping centre that extends over several floors in an architecturally imposing hall. Some of the shops are pretty unusual. Unfortunately, the prices are a bit inflated, but we still go there every time for a specific reason: the Whittard tea shop. We are two absolute tea lovers, and you will find everything a tea heart desires in the said shop.