London: Spitalfields & Brick Lane

Today starts at Liverpool Street station, which is directly above and next to, but should not be confused with, the Liverpool Street underground station. It is the third largest station in London and connects the capital with various UK locations.

Liverpool Street just outside the station gives quite a good view of the clash between old and new buildings in ‘The City’.

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

london spitalfields brick lane

Only about a 10 minute walk from the station is the Spitalfields market. They are worth checking out once but I won’t be going there again. It’s all very tacky and touristy and you know when major chains like Starbucks start opening up in the market, that the market is catering to a very specific touristy mainstream group. There are many more interesting, authentic markets around.

Leaving the markets, it is only a short walk east to get to Brick Lane. Famous for its Indian, Pakistani and Bengali foods, there is a lot to choose from on Brick Lane. Like the Spitalfield market however, Brick Lane is to some extent a victim of its own success. As often happens with these sorts of areas, they are once great (in this case Brick Lane was famous for it textile industry), fall into disrepair and poverty, poor immigrants and artists move in, they make the area ‘cool’, everyone else sees this new cool area and wants a piece of the action, and the area becomes gentrified. It’s still a great area with something for everyone but it takes a bit of research to find the quality gems amongst the large number of standard offerings in the area.

Case in point – Rough Trade East. The new branch of Indie label Rough Trade opened up just off Brick Lane in 2007 on Dray Walk. It’s a great store and I’ve purchased a few things from there, but with its opening, come the raft of ‘cool kids’ who hang about the area because it’s the place to be seen. In any case, that doesn’t change the fact that the store is one of my favourite record stores in London (my favourite would have to be ‘Sounds of the Universe’, at 7 Broadwick Street, Soho – but photos of that can wait until another day. Back to Brick Lane!

These are some streets around Shoreditich, another trendy area where all of the ‘cool kids’ hang out that has been heavily gentrified in recent years. It is probably my favourite area to go out in London, as there is usually a pretty diverse crowd and for the most part the area is missing the vast number of heavily drunken fools that one encounters on a night out. These photos only capture a small part of the area, just off Old Street, before I head back down Old Street to the Old Street tube station. I will be coming back to this area in the future, because it is home to some of London’s best street art, which I missed seeing the first time around.

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