Overview: During the past few years the Shoreditch area of East London has transformed into one of the hipper places to live and shop. Lower... more »
During the past few years the Shoreditch area of East London has transformed into one of the hipper places to live and shop. Lower... more » rents and wide-open market areas have allowed younger designers and chefs to start up their own businesses, many to great success. How long this trip takes largely depends on whether you are exploring to take in the sights or you are more interested in shopping and taking your time in the markets.
The cafes, restaurants and small food stands make this one of the better culinary tours. You can try foods that are familiar and others you have never seen before.
Please note that there are some Sunday-only locations included in this trip. The tour can be completed any day of the week to great success, but the district really comes alive on Sundays.
Most of the points of interest in this guide are closed on Monday, so it is not recommended that you try this trip that day. less «
While both the Liverpool Street and Old Street tube stations are nearby, you may want to consider taking a taxi. This is especially... more » true at the end of the day as you may not want to walk all the way back.
Wear good shoes (or buy them on your way) and bring a good-sized bag for the items you are likely to pick up in the many market stalls and great shops. There are plenty of places to stop and grab a bite to eat or something to drink, so you do not need to worry about bringing food with you.
It can get crowded on weekends, so if you have young children consider doing this tour in the middle of the week and consider reversing the tour to start at the farm. less «
Begin your journey at the Liverpool Street tube station accessible from the Central (red), Circle (yellow), Metropolitan (purple), and Hammersmith and City (pink) lines.
As you walk through the station keep an eye out for film crews, flash mobs and guerrilla advertising campaigns. Liverpool Street Station is a frequented site for these events... More and they happen fairly regularly (http://youtu.be/VQ3d3KigPQM).
It can be a bit challenging finding one's way through the station bcause it is one of the main transport hubs for regional trains to and from the greater United Kingdom. Look for signs or ask one of the station attendants for the Bishopsgate exit. Should you exit onto another street, do not worry. The station is just one big building that you can walk around until you find Bishopsgate Street. If you have GPS on your phone it should overlap with the pinpoint on this guide.
Once you reach the street, stand with your back to the station and head left until you reach Brushfield Street, which will be on the other side of the road. There is a Pizza Express on the corner serving as a landmark but don't eat here as there is much better food to come.Less
True to its name, this market started outdoors in 1638, held in what was then simply known as Spital Field. While the city has changed greatly since then and the site is now enclosed by the historic Horner Building, the market is still very much alive.
One can buy pretty much any and everything here from records to books to pastries to handmade ... Morecrafts.
There are quite a few stalls that sell the ubiquitous tourist T-shirts and cheaply made goods you can find in most every city. While it is worth a walk through, you can find better and more interesting items only a short stop away.
There are many delicious and innovative food stops all around (and noted in this guide), so it's recommended you skip the chain restaurants lining the market.
Market stall hours
Note: indoor shops are open most days of the week with varying hours of operation
The Old Truman Brewery, right off Brick Lane, is fast becoming one of the most interesting and fun locations in London, both day and night. You can enter off Brick Lane itself, but the less crowded way in is off on Hanbury Street right where Wilkes Street dead ends.
The 10 acres of land that used to house the Truman Brewery now holds galleries, ... Morerestaurants, independent shops and the Sunday Up Market. Pretty much everything here is worth a look. It is also a good spot to pause and grab a snack (or lunch) and use the bathroom before continuing on.
Old Truman Brewery venues and hours
The Vintage Market sells items from the 1920s onward and there are some great finds if you have the patience to rummage through piles of less interesting stuff.
Backyard Market is full of younger vendors selling all sorts of arts and crafts. The items are funky and the creators are there and always willing to talk about their works.
Inside the Boiler House Food Hall you can find more than 30 stalls selling foods from all over the world. Whether you are craving a specialty from back home or want to try something new, this is the place for you. The setting is also pretty fantastic with vaulted ceilings reaching up to the old brewery's chimney.
The warehouse space of the old brewery often holds art shows and other exhibition, so be sure to check the website to see what's on.Less
The Sunday Up Market is perhaps the best confluence of small retailers, bakers and artists in the city. Set up to connect designers directly to clients, the market avoids typical tourist fare. Prices are reasonable for incredibly high-quality items. To find the market, keep an eye out for the signs with brightly colored arrows.
If you are hungry,... More consider picking and choosing from the many food stalls rather than sitting at one of the restaurants in the Old Truman Brewery area. The Ethiopian coffee is delicious and strong, and the African-inspired street food is exceptional. There's also cuisine from Japan, India, Korea, Spain, South America and pretty much everywhere else. Do save room for the baked goods.
It is better to get there earlier in the day as it can get crowded in the afternoon.
There really is nothing better than a shop dedicated wholly to ukuleles. It sells everything from inexpensive beginner ukuleles to costly ones for the expert player, to styled and painted ones that make great gifts for kids.
Be sure to ask if there are any good ukulele concerts coming up and keep a special eye out for the Ukulele Orchestra of... More Great Britain. It is also worth noting that as of 2009, London held the world record for the most ukulele players playing one song together.
As you leave the Old Truman Brewery, head north on the famous Brick Lane. A bit to the south are dozens of Indian, Pakistani and Bengali restaurants that you might want to think about returning to for dinner another night. For now though, keep walking north.
On the weekend, Brick Lane gets really crowded as half of the street is usually taken up... More by vendors of all sorts who do not have stalls in any of the nearby markets. There is also a joke that if you have ever had something nicked (stolen) from your bag, you might be able to find it here and buy it back. For some reason the road, already crowded with pedestrians, is still open to traffic, though it does not move fast. Keep an eye out for stressed drivers trying to make their way through.
You will eventually cross under an elevated railway track before the next stop, Bethnal Green Road. The cross streets often have interesting little shops, though they change frequently.Less
Once a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, this end of Brick Lane still sports two bagel (spelled "beigel") shops with a fierce rivalry. Both Britain's First and Best Beigel Shop at 155 and Brick Lane Beigel at 159 are worth a try. The lines may seem long but they move quickly and you will likely be amazed at the low prices. The salt beef at Brick ... MoreLane Beigel has a huge and devoted following, and best of all, the shop is open 24 hours. It is not uncommon to see cabs waiting in the early hours of the morning as customers dash down the street to grab a hot sandwich.
After grabbing one or a few dozen bagels keep heading up the street and cross Bethnal Green Road. Brick Lane will eventually dead end at a small parking lot that you should continue through to Chambord Street. Take a right on Chambord and it will curve to the left out onto Columbia Road. If you are at all confused just look for the people carrying armfuls of flowers and walk in the direction from which they are coming.
Britain's First and Best Beigel Shop
155 Brick Lane
Brick Lane Beigel
159 Brick Lane
Daily 24 hoursLess
Note: This stop is specific to Sunday only. It is well worth planning your trip around a visit to the Columbia Road Flower Market or returning on a Sunday as a visit will not soon be forgotten.
The Columbia Road Flower Market is London like you might expect Oliver Twist may have found it. Every Sunday the otherwise quiet Columbia Road comes alive... More with more than 100 flower vendors hawking their wares. They take their hawking seriously and before you even see your first flower you will likely hear them shouting their goods and prices to all who pass by. If you can keep track though all the noise, listen for prices to shift as the day goes on because when one vendor lowers the price, it quickly reverberates down the street.
You can find anything from a bouquet of peonies to potted herbs to willow switches to 10-foot or taller trees. The prices are great, especially at the end of the day when the sellers are trying to get rid of their stock.
It is best to walk down the middle of the flower market first before checking out the many amazing shops that line the road.
Toward the end of the flower market you will find the cobbled Ezra Street. Head off from the hustle and bustle of the market to find a lovely little square. On Sundays, bands (from country to klezmer to vintage rock) set up here and play for change.
At the north end is Jones Dairy Cafe where you can find local British food products. The shop... More focuses on supporting small farmers and ensuring the freshest quality possible. If you arrive early enough you can often find a farmer unloading fresh cheese.
Once inside consider buying a loaf of bread with which to sample the dozens of available cheeses. Head back outside and eat in the sun while listening to the live music.
Hackney City Farm is a wonderful example of the urban agriculture movement allowing children and adults to participate in a number of activities or simply tour the grounds. Tours are available all day should you want to structure your trip a bit more. The animals are all approachable and for the most part friendly. If you feel so inclined, you can... More even adopt one of the animals to help fund the farm's work (I adopted Gregory the goose). Feeding time is around 4pm daily.
If you are staying somewhere with access to kitchen facilities this is a perfect place to stock up for an amazing meal. The eggs (chicken, bantum, duck and goose) are much cheaper and have more flavor than anything you can get at a grocery store. The honey (if available) is also delicious and makes a wonderful gift.
020 7729 6381
Frizzante Cafe is conveniently situated on the grounds of the Hackney City Farm, lending it a wonderful atmosphere that seems far away from the bustle of London. It is hard to find fresher food as they source much directly from the farm surrounding your table. The food has a Mediterranean focus that varies with the season and focuses on... More highlighting the flavors of the produce rather than creating a show. It is kid friendly and the staff is quite helpful.
020 7739 2266
Labour and Wait is one of the loveliest shops in London. It carries goods primarily for the home and garden from designers around the world with a focus on simple vintage-inspired designs. From apple peelers, to pruning knives to thick blocks of handmade soap, you will likely want to buy one of everything.
The apron-clad staff care about the... More items they sell and are super helpful. They also ship almost anywhere so you need not worry about carrying home everything you are likely to buy.
Look for the green tiled building at the corner of Redchurch Street.
85 Redchurch St.
Tuesday to Sunday 11am-6pmLess
The Royal Oak is your typical British pub where you can find a good cheap pint should you so desire.
On Sundays, the pub adds a cafe out back off Ezra Street. It serves spectacular bagel sandwiches (if you get there early enough) and coffee drinks to order. It is also a good spot to use the bathroom if needed.
Mini or "fairy" cupcakes will greet you from the window, beckoning you into this throwback to the urban British teahouse. Inside your nose will fill with the scent of freshly baked cupcakes, which you can often get still warm from the oven. They also sell vintage-inspired kitchen wares, but it is perhaps best to focus on the cupcakes.
... More Sunday 9am-3pmLess
The Story Deli, also known as "the Story Deli at the Scooter Shop," is understandably on most people's list for "best pizza in London." The crusts are delicately thin and crispy and the toppings are generous and fresh. The decor is funky and the atmosphere intimate. There are no bathrooms and it is bring your own booze, making it less of a place... More to sit for hours and more of a quick stop as you explore the neighborhood.
Playfully taking its name from the iconic Route Master double-decker buses found around London, the Root Master is a vegan restaurant actually built inside an old bus. The kitchen is on the ground floor and seating is on the second level.
After ascending the narrow stairway you are met by a wonderfully cozy space with a great pillowed booth in... More the back. Lest one be put off by the concept of vegan cuisine, know that everything is so delicious you probably won't notice all the veggies. They source their food locally and it comes through in the taste.
While there is also outside seating, it is worth calling ahead to ensure a seat on the second level, especially around dinner time.
079 1238 9314
Marking the start of the flower market proper is the small purple-walled shop Supernice. It highlights U.K. designers and innovative wares for the house, including wall decals. One can also find some of the best cards and postcards inside to keep or send home to show your friends and family how cool you are.
Verde & Co. Ltd. is serious about sourcing top-quality foods and this can be seen in some of the prices. You can get a good and reasonably priced cup of coffee and the sandwiches are delicious. Also, be sure to check out (and treat yourself) to one of its many chocolates.
You will likely notice Spitalfields Market on the other side of the... More street. It is often filled with stalls of vendors selling everything from old records to the usual tourist T-shirts. Now that the journey is almost over, go ahead and take a look.Less
While there is not a huge amount to do around the Old Street Station itself, it is an easily accessible end point for the day's trip. There are many entrances surrounding the roundabout, but do watch for traffic as it can get pretty busy.
The station is on the Bank branch of the Northern (Black) Line. If you use the station as your starting... More point be sure to double check you are on the correct branch of the Northern line as it can be a bit confusing. If you are coming from other parts of the city your best bet is to transfer to this branch of the Northern Line at Kings Cross Street Pancras Station as many tube lines intersect there.Less