Hidden in the gritty streets of east London lies Brick Lane – home to killer curry houses, an abundance of street art and a market that roars to life on Sundays. It took me far too long to discover this perfect weekend activity while living in London, but once I did it became a favourite place to spend a lazy Sunday.
If you are looking for any market to visit in London, it should be this one, whether you are after food, endless browsing, bargain hunting or people to watch.
I arrived for my first visit hungry, as you should. The market sprawls for many streets dotted with food stalls and coffee trucks, along with a main food-court type area inside the Boiler House. There are more than 30 stalls selling all kinds of cuisine in the food court, leaving me wandering for far too long until my companions had essentially finished their meals by the time I decided on some sort of fried plantains.
From the hectic food hall, we meandered past market stalls selling handmade and vintage costume jewellery, new brands attempting to launch their products, vinyl record stores, piles of second-hand clothing and homewares, and more food trucks that I mentally filed away to return to next time. I picked up a coffee that was perfect company for the walk, bought a few bits and pieces, and stopped to watch buskers and lively marketeers who provided great entertainment.
While walking along one of the cobblestoned, pedestrian-only streets in the market area I suddenly spied someone I recognised – a girl I went to school with in Brisbane, Australia, on holiday in London. After many observations about the size of the world, etc, we wandered on.
It is easy to choose the best word to describe Brick Lane: eclectic, which applies in every sense. From the stalls themselves and the range of food on offer, to the very architecture and graffiti-ed streets within which the market is located – there is so much going on, so much activity and so much variety you could never find it boring, even if it isn’t your ideal dining or shopping destination.
While London is full of tourist attractions that will keep any traveller busy for days on end, it is things like Brick Lane that help form a complete idea of what the city is really like, so I highly recommend fitting in a visit to the east if you happen to be there on a Sunday.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC