Before Justin’s and my most recent trip to London, I’d never heard the Brick Lane Sunday Market mentioned as a must-do for visitors. (Which tells you how long ago my last visit to London took place!) Thankfully, some new friends we met at a travel blogger meet-up in the city pointed us in the direction of Brick Lane.
And the rest, as they say, is history. We fell hard for the Brick Lane Sunday Market and we’re pretty sure you will too. Still not convinced? Well then, let’s take a stroll together, and we’ll point out our top five fabulous things to enjoy at the Brick Lane Sunday Market.
Fabulous Thing #1: The History
Call me nerdy, but there’s just something unbelievably interesting about places whose identity keeps getting a make-over as the decades (or, as is the case with Brick Lane, the centuries) pass by.
The area where the Brick Lane Sunday Market stands today has acted as a Roman cemetery, played host to returning Crusaders (in the 1100’s), been the go-to locale for brick-making (hence its name), provided dark corners for Jack the Ripper’s bloody deeds, and welcomed new influxes of immigrants — Irishmen and Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries, and, more recently, Bangladeshis.
And yes, from time to time, Brick Lane even served as a market area. The Sunday market received its first official license in the 1800’s — and even then, it was unique: because the population was mostly Jewish, rather than Christian, the market got “special dispensation” to run on Sunday rather than Saturday (the Jewish sabbath). Today, you can still enjoy some classic Jewish fare at the Brick Lane Sunday Market: keep your eyes peeled for the salt beef bagels at Beigel Bake. (More on the food scene in a little bit…)
Fabulous Thing #2: Vintage, Vintage, Vintage!
The Brick Lane Sunday Market offers the most varied collection of vintage items we’ve ever seen. From the typical collections of cool clothes, accessories, and records…
to the more unusual antique furniture and homeware, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac (and all that)…
…you could easily spend hours browsing the many shops and stalls, and spend several paychecks without breaking a sweat.
In addition to the spots on the main drag, you can often find neat vintage items at the different markets housed inside the historic Truman Brewery.
The best bets for iconic vintage finds include the Tea Rooms (open Sat. 11-6pm and Sun. 10-5pm) — where you can also, incidentally, get a cuppa — The Vintage Emporium (located under the cafe), the UpMarket (which mixes old and new).
You can also find items at the Sclater Street Flea Market.
Fabulous Thing #3: Local Crafts and Other Artisanal Wares
In addition to vintage goodness, the Brick Lane Sunday Market is also one of the best places to discover local crafts and artisanal wares.
The Backyard Market and UpMarket in particular showcase an impressive array of handmade clothing, jewelry, accessories, and home goods. If you’re looking for a truly special gift or souvenir to bring home with you (seriously, no one needs that Big Ben keychain) you’ll definitely find one (or 100) here.
Fabulous Thing #4: Oh, the Food You Can Find
Ok, we need to take a minute to talk to our fellow foodies here: guy, this is the place. It’s THE place. Welcome to nirvana.
Ahem. Anyway. Starting from around Cheshire St., you’ll start seeing food stalls lining Brick Lane.
The offerings are pretty spectacular (you’ll find options from the world over), but this is just the tip of iceberg. Inside the Old Truman Brewery you’ll find much, much more.
And there’s also the food trucks at Ely’s Yard. And the famous fish-and-chips spot, Poppie’s, where Justin and I enjoyed 2nd lunch.
Whatever you choose, it’s a great opportunity to try some unique dishes at a fraction of the cost of your typical London restaurant.
Fabulous Thing #5: Street Art Awesomeness
In addition to the food, the shopping, the music, and the people-watching galore, the Brick Lane Sunday Market is also blessed with some fantastic street art.
The art on Brick Lane does change (popular walls get repainted with fair regularity) but that’s all the more reason to keep coming back to check out the latest, often mind-melding creative works.
Have you been to the Brick Lane Sunday Market? What’s your favorite part of the experience?