In this charming and unpretentious market, only a few minutes walk from Liverpool st. station, you’ll find the true spirit of East End. Among all of the markets of this side of London, this one stands out not only for the quality of shops and merchandise on sale, but also because it keeps getting better,more organised and multifarious as years go by. Another big advantage that draws crowds who are in the know and seek to find London’s original aspects, is that the surrounding area itself has retained its genuine character since the times of the Huguenot refuges and other workers and weavers of the silk, who lived and worked there. So a visit to Spitalfields can really become a complete experience.
Sundays are for brunch and merchandise browsing
The best day to visit Spitalfields is normally on a Sunday, when it will show you it’s most vivid face. And the best way to get there is by the tube, Circle line – Liverpool st station, as simple as that. Choose to be there early enough to get your breakfast at one of many cafes around the market. The most popular of them, as you’ll realise by the queue outside, being The Breakfast Club, which you’ll find just across Bishopsgate st, opposite the station and tucked away on Artillery lane. If you don’t mind waiting, you’ll be rewarded by a delicious pile of pancakes, either sweet ones with berries, salted caramel, banana or chocolate or savory ones, with bacon of course, eggs and many more extras. Loaded sandwiches and burgers are also available, so there’s no chance you’ll leave hungry.
Full of energy, you can now head towards the market, just follow the next street to the east and you’ll be there in no time. Inside the market you’ll come across a mixture of casual restaurants and cafes that surround the arts and crafts stalls, as well as some elegant shops – many of them selling unique and unusual home decoratives. Among the counters you’ll find merchants selling clothes from T-shirts to knitwear, leather goods from handbags to wallets, jewelry, gift ideas and some delicious food and sweets, like the tasty and fresh cupcakes I keep going back to Spitalfields for. All together, it’s a well organized mixture of stalls, restaurants and shops, set in a relaxed atmosphere. You can really lose track of time looking around both at the counters and the shops that surround the market.
The picturesque streets tell the story of the East End
The east side of the market leads to Commercial street and from there you can explore the narrow, picturesque streets that surround the market. Fournier st and Princelet st are the most characteristic roads, which will give you a vivid image of what the area looked like in the 18th century. The identical Georgian, brick town houses with large white windows were built according to higher standards than the residencies in the surrounding streets and therefore were occupied by the richest of silk merchants who had settled in the area. Notice how the windows on top floors are even larger, in order to enable the craftsmen of the looms to work in the light. Fournier st leads straight to another eastern, lively market, the famous Brick Lane, which you can also visit on the same day, as it’s also on its highest peak on Sundays.
If you decide to visit Brick Lane another day, head back and on the corner of Commercial and Fournier st you will see two interesting sights. The first one, the Ten Bells pub, is associated to the notorious story of Jack the Ripper, as it was near here that two of his murders took place. If you choose to have a beer inside, you may even recognize it from the film “From Hell”,that recounts his story. Don’t be discouraged by legends, or you’ll lose the chance to see a carefully restored, real Victorian gem. Behind its historic doors you can have a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the busy markets that surround the pub and admire the 17th century original tiles that cover the walls around the bar.
Just opposite the pub, you’ll see one of London’s finest baroque buildings, Christ Church, built by Nicholas Hawksmoor, sir Christopher Wren’s most famous pupil. The slim and elegant design adorned by a high, sharp bell tower will immediately catch your eye sight. The bright, elaborate interior with wooden panels houses the original organ, which used to be the biggest in England and that after a careful restoration still operates today. All these and many more will be explained to you if you book a guided tour of this magnificent church.
One of London’s finest baroque buildings, Christ Church, stands right opposite the market.
Lunchtime at Spitalfields market
Lunch time should find you back to the market, where you’ll be spoiled with choice. Cuisines of every corner of the world will tempt you with dishes prepared right in front of your hungry eyes and the best way to enjoy your preferred lunch is by sitting at the long, shared tables and mix with the crowd. Otherwise, there are many more delicious options from the restaurants that surround the stalls. Indian, Taiwanese, Italian, Chinese, Greek, American or even Jamaican flavours are being cooked on spot. And for your dessert you can choose among donuts, crepes, brownies, cupcakes and fudge slices. One thing is for sure, the intoxicating smells will not let you leave unfed!
Close your visit with a treat to yourself
As you’ll be leaving the market and heading towards Liverpool st station again, make a stop to a very special shop. Outside it looks like it belongs to a past era, with its wooden paneled windows and old fashioned sign. It’s Montezuma’s and there’s nothing old fashioned about their top quality, very forward, organic chocolates and truffles. Wrapped in gorgeous packages, their chocolate bars come in imaginative combinations, such as Orange and butterscotch, Lime and sea salt, Pistachio and cherry, Lemon and coconut , to name a few favourite of mine. Their handmade truffles are amazing too, so don’t miss the chance of a sweet treat to yourself.
if you’re looking for a special way to end your day in the east side of the city, then next to the station you’ll find one of London’s most unique hotels, Andaz Liverpool Street. Among its gorgeous and welcoming spaces you can visit Rake’s, an all day coffee and cocktail bar, perfect for a drink before dinner, as well as Lady Abercorn’s Pub, if your prefer a bottled or tapped beer. Both settings are so elegant and relaxing at the same time, that you’ll probably stay longer that you’d thought, so you might as well stay to dine as there’s an all day food menu available in both.
That should wrap up in the best way your visit to Spitalfields market, a great place to spend not only a Sunday morning, when it is in full swing, but a whole carefree and fun day. After all, that’s what Sundays are for!