BRICK LANE ULTIMATE GUIDE
For centuries Brick Lane has been known as an area with an eclectic mix of different immigrant communities; but today Brick Lane is perhaps best known for weaving together some of the most diverse artistic and cultural delights in London, ranging from street art, vintage clothing markets and even some of the best curry houses in London.
Brick Lane is essentially the heart of London’s East End, which has become known as the alternative, cultural centre of London since the 1990s. But Brick Lane was not always viewed as the highly fashionable place to visit as it as seen as today. For centuries the area was home to many immigrants, outsiders and even “dissidents,” and before that it was used as a Roman burial ground as it was located just outside of the former city walls of London.
By the 16th century Brick Lane became known for its brick and tile production thanks to the rich brick earth deposits in the area (hence the name), but even at this point the street was relatively poor and considered a slum by those who lived in the more central, richer areas of London.
It wasn’t until the 17th century when restaurants and bars started popping up around Brick Lane, with the most notable being the Black Eagle Brewery. The brewery was founded by Joseph Truman in 1683, and by the 20th century it expanded to consist of two buildings on both sides of Brick Lane. (Although the company stopped brewing during the 1980s, the buildings still remain to be a key attraction in the area, and are home to countless markets, restaurants and bars).
Also around this time, floods of immigrants like the French Huguenots as well as large Jewish and Irish communities moved to the area. In recent years, a large Bangladeshi-Sylheti community started settling down in Brick Lane as well, bringing with them new customs and food to the city that have helped coined Brick Lane with a new nickname (Banglatown), and as the “Curry Capital of the UK.”
Since the 1990s, Brick Lane has become a mecca for artists, hippies, bohemians and yuppies thanks to its countless pieces of street art, and it’s also home to some of London’s best-known nightclubs, independent boutiques, and vintage fashion markets that have attracted both locals as well as tourists from all over the world.
If you want to see Brick Lane's amazing street art but don't have time to go on a tour, the best way is to start at the bottom of the street (near Aldgate East station) and walk north.
Be aware that Brick Lane can get incredibly busy during its market days, so if you want to avoid the crowds try to visit the markets as soon as they open in the morning.
If you're on a super-strict budget, you can always take advantage of the many free samples on market days!
Brick Ln, London E1 6RL, United Kingdom (See map).
If you are travelling by tube, the nearest station is Aldgate East (which is a 11-minute walk away), or Liverpool Street (a 12-minute walk away).
If you are travelling by train, Liverpool Street station is a 12-minute walk away.
If you are travelling by overground, the nearest station is Shoreditch High Street, which is an 8-minute walk away
If you are travelling by bus, you can reach Brick Lane via routes 8, 55 and 242 (from West End), 8, 26, 48, 55, 57, 242 and 388 (from East London), 35, 47, 48, 78 and 149 (from South London), and 26, 55, 242, 243 and 388 (from the City of London).
If you are travelling by car, the nearest car parks are located at the Truman Brewery (on either Hanbury Street or Grey Eagle Street), as well as Sclater Street and Whites Row.
Recommended visiting time is around two to three hours if you’re visiting during the week. If you plan on shopping at Brick Lane’s many weekend markets, however, then be prepared to spend the majority of your day there.
There are two portaloos on Brick Lane located near the junction of Woodseer Street, as well as signed public toilets in the Old Truman Brewery at Upmarket (located upstairs). Several cafes, pubs and restaurants will let you use their toilets as well, but you will need to pay for something beforehand.
Some of the traders at Brick Lane’s markets have credit card machines, but most only accept cash. Because of this, you may want to go to a cashpoint before you visit the markets. (There is one located at 20 Brick Lane which charges a fee, and a Barclays located on Commercial Street).
Because hotels in East London tend to be much cheaper than those in west or central London, chances are you’ll be able to find great budget accommodation on Brick Lane, or at least very close to it.
There’s a Brick Lane Hotel located just above a curry house that offers free breakfast, as well as a Hub by Premier Inn Spitalfields.
There’s also a ton of great options on Osborn Street (Arbor City Hotel), Folgate Street (Batty Langley’s and Tune Hotel), Bishopgate (196 Bishopgate) and Adler Street (Qbic London City, North Bank Superior and Aldgate Apartments) which are all within walking distance to Brick Lane.
If you want to browse around Brick Lane’s many markets, be aware that each market has different operating days and hours; however, you can expect most of the activity to be happening sometime on the weekend.
To avoid missing out on any of the market action, the operating hours and days are:
If you are checking out Brick Lane you might also want to join any of the free tours that are available on offer.