The Cool Places guide to Spitalfields, one of London's most eclectic and interesting neighbourhoods

London - Spitalfields

London’s East End edges the City at buzzing Brick Lane and in the back streets of nearby Spitalfields, where you can see the city’s immigration story for real. The area pulsates with life and history, and has always been one of the most fast-changing districts of the capital. Famous for its graceful French Huguenot mansions, once facing dereliction but now lovingly restored, Spitalfields’ synagogues, street markets and beigel joints bear witness to the arrival of Jews from Eastern Europe in the 19th century, while Brick Lane’s umpteen bustling curry houses were established by a later wave of Bangladeshi immigration. But the area is defined by the present, not the past, with an edgy youth culture and some great music venues and clubs layered on top of it all to produce one of the most eclectic and interesting areas in the capital.

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Eat and Drink

As a long-established landing place for new immigrants to the capital, it’s no surprise that Bethnal Green & Spitalfields is a great place to eat and drink, with a range of options that reflects all the different communities of the area. There are long-running Jewish takeaways, traditional Italian joints, and lots of food from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. You’ll also find teashops and traditional old pubs serving decent food, as well as fancier restaurants that reflect the upwardly mobile demographic that now lives in this area. And, of course, the district’s DJ-spinning bars and clubs draw young drinkers and clubbers from all over the capital.

Shop

Brick Lane and the surrounding streets are lined with excellent vintage stores, as well as low-cost and funky fashion boutiques, and there’s more cut-price fashion at Spitalfields Market, alongside glossier clothing, interior and accessory stores, while on Sundays Colombia Road hosts its famous long-running flower market.

Things to Do

Start sightseeing in Bethnal Green & Spitalfields with a walk down loud, brash Brick Lane, with its curry joints, clubs, bars, vintage shops and market – a great contrast to a couple of attractions that evoke 18th-century Spitalfields, like Christ Church and the Dennis Severs House. There are a couple of major museums in the area: the attractive Geffrye Museum devoted to domestic interiors, and the V&A’s excellent Museum of Childhood. And kids will also love to visit the donkey, sheep and goats at Spitalfields City Farm.