Brick Lane: Coffee and Bagels on London’s Street Art Paradise

Many Londoners, myself included, would rate Brick Lane as one of the best areas in London to show travelers visiting the city for the first time. It has it all – art galleries, vintage boutiques, street art and trendy cocktail bars – attracting a mixed clientele of art students, tourists and locals alike. The area’s charm lies in its eclecticism, and it has come a long way since the boarded up ghost town it once was, before the Shoreditch Revival made East London the coolest place to be.

Brick Lane is typically known as the Curry Capital of London, and it’s true that the southern end boasts a staggering number of high quality Indian restaurants. But the area has much more to offer besides that. This post explores my top recommendations for alternative things to do while you’re there.

Listen good at Rough Trade East

London

Dray Walk, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL

The gargantuan Rough Trade East record shop is a mecca for fans of independent music. The shop carries a wide range of new titles including alt rock, shoegaze, avant metal and indie pop, which are available on CD, vinyl and even cassette format. Listening posts are located throughout the store, enabling you to try new releases before you buy and discover some new sounds. The Rough Trade shop also comprises a tranquil cafe pouring Monmouth Coffee, where you can get some respite from the constant London buzz, and a custom-built stage which hosts in-store concerts. This is your chance to see big-name acts in an intimate setting for nothing.

Get stuffed at Beigel Bake

bakery

159 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

This long-running Jewish bakery has been serving salt beef bagels, Eccles cakes and other delicious house-baked delights to adoring local punters since 1977. It is open 24 hours a day, the baked goods are fresh and yummy, and miraculously the prices have stayed the same since Brick Lane was considered the middle of nowhere. For example, a classic smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel will set you back £1.50 and will fill the gap for a light lunch. If you are still hungry, I recommend their New York cheesecake for dessert. I love the fact that places like this still exist in London!

Peruse Brick Lane Market

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Every Sunday, Brick Lane and the surrounding side streets transform into a colourful market, as London’s traders descend on the area to hawk their secondhand wares from tables and rugs on the floor. You will find stalls selling everything from vintage leather jackets and vinyl records to kitchen utensils and old VHS cassettes. Many of these traders have been coming here for years, and as you wander out from the centre of the market, you will discover an increasingly eclectic range of trash and treasures. If I had to name one highlight? It would be the indoor food market in the Old Truman Brewery, where freshly-prepared global dishes, such as Jamaican jerk pork with rice or Japanese octopus fritters, can be yours for around £5 a time.

Shop Blitz Vintage

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55-59 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JP

Beating Soho and Dalston for retro clothing, Brick Lane is the vintage heart of London, with more secondhand shops and boutiques than anywhere else in the city. If I had to choose one to visit, it would be Blitz on Hanbury Street. This gargantuan ‘vintage department store’ is located in an old furniture factory and specialises in clothing from the 60s to the 90s. Spread across two vast floors, the stock encompasses figure-hugging Levi’s 501s, denim jackets, military-issue shoes and rucksacks and much more. Blitz is also the place to find unique homewares and furnishings for less than the price they would cost on the high street – and you know you’re getting a one-off as well.

Take in Brick Lane street art

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When world-class street artists come to London, they invariably create something on Brick Lane. There is something about the area’s crumbling brick facades, urban decay and patchwork of different architectural styles that lends itself to being the ultimate outdoor canvas. The best way to see it is on a walking tour with Street Art London, where you will learn plenty of facts about the artists and their techniques. The tour operates three times per week and takes in the urban landscape of Shoreditch and Hackney, which changes week to week (a few years ago, Transport for London infamously painted over an iconic Banksy painting on Old Street). Some pieces currently visible around Brick Lane include a sacred crane by Roa on Hanbury Street, a giant mosaic by Invader in the Old Truman Brewery and two Stiks holding hands on Princelet Street.

 

Accommodation: The RE Hotel, Dictionary Hostel and Hoxton Hotel are all located a short walk from Brick Lane. Each will give you a good feel for the Shoreditch area, while being relatively cheap, by London’s standards (see HotelClub for more details).

Nearest Tube: Aldgate East station is 4 minutes south west of Brick Lane by foot.

About the author: 

Words by Matt Lindley. Follow him on Twitter: @MattELindley

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