East End Chic: a London walk from Brick Lane to Bethnal Green

We thought we'd bring you a free walk this week.  Let us know what you think if you try it out.

Adventure Walks in London

Get to grips with London’s cutting edge street scene in the East End with this easy to follow walk through the heart of one London’s most happening places.  Find out where to hang, what’s hip and happening and why Shoreditch is dripping with cool. Scroll down to The Knowledge with our hot tips, best offs and must dos in the area.

The Bare Essentials

Start the walk at Aldgate East Tube station (Hammersmith and City Line, District Line)
End the walk at Bethnal Green Tube station (Central Line)

The Walk

Leave the tube station via Exit 3 Northside and pop out onto the Whitechapel Road, bang next door to the recently revamped Whitechapel Art Gallery. Nip in to for a quick blast of modern masters and contemporary art, all free. Grab a good cup of coffee in their Dining Room on the way out.

Turn left out of the gallery and then first left onto Brick Lane and Banglatown, the scene of Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane. This is less trendy end of Brick Lane is packed with tempting Indian sweet and cake shops, shimmering sari shops, Bangladeshi signs boasting best curry in London, all to the strains of Asian music and the smells of spicy roast chickens.

Up ahead is the shining silver minaret of the Jamme Masjid mosque. This mosque captures the history of Spitalfields: the building began life in 1742 as La Neuve Eglise a Hugeunot chapel by 1809 it was known as the Jews Chapel, to promote Christianity to Jews, by 1898 it had become a synagogue and finally 1976 it became the mosque it is today.

For a short detour off Brick Lane to see some of the best preserved Huguenot houses in London, turn left at the mosque into Fournier Street. The elegant Georgian houses with their distinctive painted wooden shutters belonged to the Protestant weavers who fled religious persecution in France. The large attic spaces were used for their looms for silk weaving. Turn right into Wilkes Street and then right again into Princelet Street to rejoin Brick Lane.

Turn left.  The cheap curry houses are now cheek by jowl with vintage clothes shops, artisan galleries and cutting edge architectural practices. As you cross over Hanbury Street look down to the right to see a stunning 20ft high bird graffited on to a bare wall in marker pen by Belgian graffiti artist called Roa. He has daubed lots of squirrels, rats and the like all round London’s streets.

Keep going and you will pass the old Truman Brewery building with its iconic brick chimney. Back in 1683 a brewer called Joseph Truman drew water from the wells here to make Londoner’s Black Eagle Beer. Come at the weekend (Saturday and Sunday 11-6pm) if you want to catch the Backyard Market and the Sunday Up Market, teeming with edgy urban design, street food fashion and jewellery.

Pass All Star Bowling Lanes, a retro American style bowling alley, karaoke and burger bar, vintage clothes stores and the Brick Lane Bookshop, one of London’s great new style independent bookstores. At weekends this stretch is choc a bloc with market stalls and flea market tat.

Walk under the railway bridge and take the first right onto the Cheshire Street lined with the best of the independent shops that inhabit this area this draw the independent thinking shopper to the East End. Lots of these shops are only open at the weekends. Our favourites include Handmade Interiors with its simple patterned textiles, fabrics and cushions, A-non great T-shirt shop for teenagers, Tools stuffed with vintage French bric a brac and the Duke of Uke London’s best ukulele and banjo shop.  Just beyond the shops is a great deli and café the Tramezzino Store where you can pick up a sandwich or a coffee.

Keep going past the Beyond Retro vintage clothing warehouse, the old Repton Boxing Club and the Bath House to traffic lights by the railway line. Turn left up Vallance Road towards. Cross at the zebra and walk straight on alongside the park down Chester Street.  Turn left on Kelsey Street and into the park ahead, Weavers Fields by the old Victorian school. Follow the path to the right, past the swings towards the sculpture. Keep going straight ahead towards Weavers Field Woodland Walk a nice diversion for anyone with children and a good spot for a picnic. Walk out of the park, passing the adventure playground on the left. Turn left onto Wilmot Street and turn right on the high street, Bethnal Green Road, a short walk from Bethnal Green tube station and the Museum of Childhood on Heath Road. 

Turn left at the traffic lights and walk through Paradise Gardens to the pedestrian lights just opposite the museum. It is completely free to wander round and is busy with family events and activities. It is a wonderful cornucopia of childhood nostalgia packed with huge glass cases of mechanical toys, exquisite dolls houses, wooden rocking horses and good old fashioned games. Eat at the great child and adult friendly Benugo café and spend your pocket money at the museum shop.  Take the tube home from Bethnal Green.

The Knowledge
Here are some places nearby worth coming back for….

Cool East End streets to shop in

Best places to Eat
Pizza East Shoreditch High Street
St John’s Bread and Wine Commercial Street
Rochelle School Arnold Circus
Rivington Grill Rivington Street
Mangal Arcola Street (Turkish)
A Gold Brushfield Street
Beigel Bake Brick Lane (Jewish)
Tayyabs Fieldgate Street (Pakistani)

Something for the weekend
Experience 18th century life at Dennis Severs House Folgate Street 
Take your sketch book to The Prince's Drawing School, Charlotte Road
Hone your juggling skills at Circus Space, Coronet Street
See a screening at the art house Aubin Cinema Redchurch Street
Experience cutting edge theatre at the Arcola Theatre Ashwin Street
Shop at London’s most beautiful hardware store Labour and Wait Redchurch Street
Oggle the best YBA’s work at the White Cube Gallery, Hoxton Square
Roll your sleeves up at kids Saturday workshop at the Geffrye Museum Kingsland Road
Get mud on your boots at the Spitalfields City Farm Buxton Street
Fill your store cupboard with Indian and Bangladeshi lata, danga, pulses, grains and spices at the Taj Stores, Brick Lane.

On the Trail

This morning we walked under the stunning 3 storey high Timber Wave at the Cromwell Road entrance to the V&A.  Snaked our way through the galleries to the London Design Festival hub and picked up our map.  Rolled around on the Textile Field in the Raphael gallery, then did a speed walk round the rest spotting the LDF exhibits along the way.  It was a bit like hunt the thimble looking out for the LDF exhibits nestled in between the usual fare of the museum.  Loved designing our own wallpaper on the ipad in the Beyond the Valley gallery (2nd floor of the British Galleries).  Touch the screen and add glorious images and illustrations to a background scene, a bit like high-tech fuzzy felt.  Uploaded our creations.  Loved the David Mach's giant silver gorilla. 

Top Tips for the V&A:  
Start at the Exhibition Road entrance to get information, free bag, free directory and map etc.
Exit via Cromwell Road and the Power of Making exhibition, V&A and Crafts Council joint effort.  

We got a bit lost.  Highly recommend asking the very helpful gallery guides who know just how to get about the museum.  
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