Walk on the Wild Art Side
Ok, so you’ve never been to Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Convent Garden, Westminster, Soho or the West End of London. Fine. Then you absolutely owe it to yourself to experience these classic places during your first visit to the British capital.
However, if you’ve already crossed them off your “bucket list”, head over to East London for a walk on the wild art side of town!
East London is made up of six boroughs and part of a seventh, Hackney, where I recently spent a couple of days exploring the neighborhoods of Shoreditch, Spatelfields and Brick Lane.
Though currently undergoing a seemingly out-of-control gentrification process, there’s still time to experience the genuine, gritty vibe along the same streets and narrow alleys walked by William Shakespeare and stalked by the notorious Jack the Ripper. Up until a decade or so ago, this area was infamous for being rough and tough. Today, most of East London – at least during daytime – is a family friendly destination.
Start from the Aldgate Underground Station and stroll along Commercial Street towards the somewhat posh but visit-worthy Spitalfields Market with origins from 1682. At the statuesque Christ Church, turn down on either Fashion Strett or Fournier Street to reach the colorful, shabby-chic Brick Lane where a profusion of vintage shops, curry houses, cafés (including the famous Cereal Killer Café) and the Truman Brewery with its galleries, shops and eateries await you.
Brick Lane and adjacent side streets and alleys will keep you immersed for at least a few hours and eventually, when you reach Bethnal Green Road, you can hang a left and head through a few blocks of Shoreditch and wind up back on Commercial Street.
The street art scene around this part of the East London is nothing less than astonishing. You can literally spend days trying cover it al. Though some of the area’s graffiti scene seems to have been commissioned, there’s also an abundance of more anarchistic, religious, tribal and politically poised wall decorations and poetic prose to absorb.
Where to eat
Commercial Street has a plethora of restaurants to choose from. We tried the gorgeously funky Yuu Kitchen with its tattoo art inspired decor. Their menu is packed with a selection of treats from all over the world – including bite size concoctions from Asia, South America and Mexico. For its location, Yuu Kitchen is surprisingly affordable, too. We spent less than £65 for five different really tasty dishes, two rounds of a local draught beer and a single shot of smooth Japanese whisky (Nikka). Service was relaxed yet attentive and I highly recommend sitting by the open kitchen to get the fullest experience here.
Where to grab coffee
On the corner of Gun Street and Brushfield Street is the ultimate cozy pitstop; Verde & Co, a tiny café with a great selection of coffee, chocolate, tea and luscious confectionery.