Spitalfields is a neighbourhood in London’s East End situated between the high-powered City of London to the west and trendy Shoreditch to the north. It’s a multicultural hub that’s been home to generations of London’s immigrants, from the French Huguenots in the 17th century to Bengalis in the 1970s.
In recent years, Spitalfields has undergone significant gentrification, attracting more visitors from across London and the world. Today, the high street of Spitalfields, Brick Lane, is lined with international grocery stores, tattoo shops, vintage stores, curry places and hipster cafes.
There are tourist traps, but there is a lot of authentic goodness too. Bob W, being the prolific traveller he is, knows all the best spots in Spitalfields. So, we’ve pulled together his top recommendations so you can save time and skip right to the good stuff.
See this guide's recommendations in our interactive Google Map.
This art gallery features several floors of changing exhibits including film, painting, multi-media art and even a hands-on studio where you can make art, too. Entrance to the museum is free, but donations are welcome. On the ground floor, there’s a small restaurant and cafe, Townsend, where you have a meal, snacks or coffee.
The neighbourhood is also known for its vibrant street art scene, thanks in part to its lack of CCTV and police presence compared to neighbouring City of London. You’ll find the works of international legends like Banksy, Thierry Noir and Rowa alongside murals by local favourites like Stik, tiny sculptures by Jonesy and all kinds of pieces by emerging artists and random tagging.
Some really good corners are Quaker Street and Buxton Street, Bacon Street, the courtyard at the Truman Brewery (here you can see Banksy’s pink car), and Princelet Street. You can also check out street art adjacent galleries StolenSpace and The Brick Lane Gallery, both on Brick Lane.
Cafes and Breakfast
Potter & Reid
We all love a good neighbourhood coffee joint with heart. Not only does Potter & Reid offer single-origin craft roasts, but also freshly baked pastries and lunches from local and seasonal ingredients. Guests of Bob W can add discounted Breakfast Passes to Potter & Reid to their stay.
Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery
There are two bagel shops on Brick Lane right next to each other with very similar names. Locals will enthusiastically tell you, “You must go to the one with the white sign”. That one is Beigel Bake. It is open 24/7 and often has a snaking line, but the takeaway service is swift and you won’t be waiting long. Try a bagel with salted beef with spicy mustard and dill gherkins or smoked salmon and cream cheese.
You’ll be met with a delicious concoction of aromas when you enter Upmarket. This indoor street food market on Brick Lane pops up in a parking garage on weekends. Here, you’ll find food from all corners of the world, from Lithuanian to Ethiopian. There are plenty of vegan options as well as baked goods. It’s a nice lunch stop when shopping at Brick Lane on the weekends.
Brick Lane is lined with Indian and Bengali curry houses, each with a promoter at the door enticing you inside with different offers and claims of awards. One salesperson may offer you an attractive set price for drinks, an appetizer and main dish.
The guy next door may you a percentage off the entire menu. One thing’s for sure: the competition is fierce. Choosing one is up to you, and you can try haggling if you dare, but you’re in for a pretty affordable and filling sit-down meal wherever you end up.
Poppie's Fish & Chips
Poppie's, a family-run business, claims to be the oldest fish and chips shop in East London having opened in 1952. Poppie's serves up massive portions at affordable prices (best to split an order between two people if you’re not a competitive eater) along with warm service. They specialise in fresh fish and other seafood, too. The interior is has a nostalgic 1950s vibe with oldies music playing and lots of British memorabilia collected over the years.
Bubala is an eclectic love letter to the dishes of the Middle East. Their small plates focus on vegetables, with lots of vegan options. Grab a weekday lunch in their petite restaurant or go all-in with their “Bubala Knows Best” set menu in the evenings.
Gear up for some old-school Thai food in this trendy former fabric warehouse. Choose from a range of small plates or set menus to share with two people or more. Their extensive wine and cocktail list is specially curated to complement Thai cuisine and take advantage of Thai ingredients at arms reach in their kitchen.
The neighbourhood's central market is located on the border of Whitechapel and City of London and is owned by the City. It used to be a covered fruit and veg market for the less-than-well-off residents of the East End in the 1700s. It has since been renovated and now features rotating food, clothing, accessories and art stalls along with permanent restaurants and shops by upscale international brands.
Brick Lane Market
On the weekends, Brick Lane is lined with outdoor stalls selling everything from snacks and art to antique knick knacks and hand painted pottery. Brick Lane is a colourful sight to behold even on a weekday. On the weekend, the market kicks it up a notch turning the street into a kaleidoscope of patterns, textures and aesthetics.
There are several side events that coincide with the street market on weekends, including the Backyard Market, which features indoor booths mainly offering vintage and independent clothing and home decor, and the aforementioned Upmarket food stalls. Spend Saturday or Sunday eating and shopping your way down Brick Lane.
The Brick Lane Vintage Market
Besides the market on the weekends, Brick Lane has a selection of art and vintage fashion shops open throughout the week. The Brick Lane Vintage Market may sound like an event, but it’s actually the UK’s largest collection of independent vintage shops in a sprawling basement on Brick Lane, and it’s open daily.
Dozens of stalls have something for every fashion sense, including retro styles from the 1920s onward, modern and vintage jewelry, leather jackets, Burberry trenches, upcycled pieces, and more.
Bars and nightlife
Pride of Spitalfields
Travel back in time to 1970s London at this popular neighbourhood pub where very little has changed in decades. Though it looks like a hole-in-the-wall from the outside, this place tends to be packed even on weeknights. Inside, you’ll find old family photos on the wood paneled walls, a football game playing on the projector, and a warm cloud of pleasant conversation.
The Ten Bells
This landmark pub is located across the street from Spitalfields Market. It’s maintained a lot of its historic charm with modern touches. Sip a freshly poured Truman’s ale, a company whose original brewery is situated around the corner near Brick Lane.
Apples & Pears Cocktail Bar
If ale isn’t what you’re after, grab a cocktail here. The name doesn’t come from some fruity drinks they serve, but instead from the Cockney rhyming slang term “apples and pears” which means “stairs”. The interior is artistic and they have open mic nights where you can catch live music.
Discount Suit Company
Don’t let the name fool you. This is not a clothing store. Discount Suit Company is a speakeasy located in the basement below a suit shop. Make your way down the narrow staircase into a cosy, low-ceilinged bar serving up craft cocktails.
Sports, wellness and recreation
Spitalfields City Farm
A peaceful, kid-friendly oasis just a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of Brick Lane. You can peek in greenhouses full of vegetables and meet friendly pigs, goats, sheep and donkeys. Entrance is free, though donations are welcome and you can donate by card. There is also an outdoor cafe and farm shop where you can buy fresh produce.
PureGym London Aldgate
Get in a workout at PureGym’s London Aldgate location. When you stay at Bob W Commercial House in Spitalfields, you get complimentary access to PureGym so you can keep up your fitness routine.
Bob W Commercial House
Whether you’re coming to Spitalfields for a night or a month, stay like a local in one of Bob W’s Commercial House apartments, right on Commercial Street. Get complimentary access to PureGym and fixed-price Breakfast Passes to Potter and Reed for deliciously lazy mornings. For the best rates and perks you won’t get elsewhere, book directly on bobw.co.