Stepping out in London: Brick Lane Market

This funky market is pumping on Sunday afternoons.

I have a habit of taking things for granted.  For nearly two years now, I’ve lived a three minute walk from one of the hippest places to be on a Sunday afternoon, the Brick Lane Market. I go and gawk regularly but never thought to blog about it until now.

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I’ve written about Brick Lane itself a couple of times; nestled in East London’s Bangladeshi community, the strip is home to many South Asian restaurants and a certain famous bagel shop that I hold dear to my heart (carbs are even more heavenly in bagel form).  But on Sundays many more vendors and hawkers take up residence along the lane and in the big empty warehouses scattered between the ramshackle storefronts. They sell clothing, random wares, and food from too many countries to name.

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The area completely changes its face. All of a sudden, throngs of people flood the lane and music from invisible speakers assault your ears.  It is awesomeness squared — cubed when the sun blazes strongly like yesterday.  London is in the midst of a heat wave and the good weather brought even more good vibes.

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This market is not like Notting Hill’s market.  It’s not cute or quaint or pretty.  It is decidedly rougher, grungier, and seemingly a haven for hipsters and trendsetters, whose interesting handle on fashion makes people-watching a must.  The folks who come out are so meticulously and artfully styled it would be criminal not to spectate. I also like it because it is diverse: people of all colours and sizes and nationalities are out and about.  For me, *this* perfectly encapsulates London.

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People sit on the scuffed, soiled sidewalks eating ethnic foods out of small plastic containers, and on a hot day like yesterday the street smells faintly of sweat and alcohol.

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Another big feature of the market is the young creatives who paint graffiti, tout crafts and creations, and make music. Our main reason for heading to the market yesterday was to see my incredibly talented designer friend Chi, who was in London for just three days selling his fashions in the pop-up store he mounted in the Old Truman Brewery.

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This is cutting edge London, and perhaps not what you would expect if your knowledge of the city comes from mainstream media. It feels like a place where anything can happen.  Case in point: Liebling and I spotted a skilled female beatboxer doing her thing before a captive audience, then minutes later happened upon a hairstylist ardently giving his client a side shave right on the street. Not five minutes after that, one of the restaurant touts on the sidewalk broke out in an impromptu dance when he saw my camera pointed in his general direction. Because that’s just the way folks roll here. 

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If you’re looking for alternative London, this is it!

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Have you ever been to the Brick Lane Market on a Sunday?

 

18 Comments

  • Laurie says:

    I love your photos of the market! When I am in London I have to go to the Brick Lane markets on a Sunday. I love the Sunday upmarket and I adore all the ethnic food! And the street art is amazing! I always start off with a bagel from the Beigel Bake but decided last time…they aren’t all THAT special so will save my appetite for something better! Two months and 6 days until I am back to London – but who’s counting? I’ve been visiting London since the 70’s but only started venturing into the east end about five years ago (with the exception of a Jack the Ripper tour way back) – and now I love it!

  • Yes!! Love this, Oneika. I wish that we could have gone together – I was there every Sunday in April and May. It is always such a great time.

    By the way, I always get a bagel from that same shop when I visit…and I even went there at 5am on my birthday! So tasty. Awesome photos and article as always, thank you for highlighting this fun area. I can’t wait to live in east London and be so close to one of my favourite spots, I only wish that you would be around when I arrive!

  • Sista Voyage says:

    Loving all of that natural hair in that one picture!!!

  • Sista Voyage says:

    Also loving the one man who just had to ‘strike a pose’ with what seems like a 5 hour energy drink in his hand.

  • PhillyGirl says:

    I haven’t been to Brick Lane but putting it on my to-do list- SO much to SEE and Do in my new city!!!! I’m too excited!

  • I clearly need to spend more time in London — I love markets like this.

  • This place sounds like it’s right up my alley. Never heard of it until now, but when I’m in London, I’ll definitely have to check it out!

  • Even without the market, the area is very interesting for all the street art. It’s worth going there every 3 or 4 months, because the paintings, graffiti and murals will have changed completely.

  • Christine says:

    One of my favorite places to just be when I visit London.

  • Christian says:

    I absolutely love Brick Lane! I went twice during a two day visit to London in January. It’s so unique and filled with my favorite shops: vintage and boutiques! I doccumented my trips on my blog http://www.willworkfortrips.com/2012/12/first-day-in-london-brick-lane-shopping.html

    It’s nice being able to see it through another person’s lens 😉

  • Melissa says:

    Definitely a favourite and one I always walk through when I go and check out the street art. I brought a friend here who was visiting from home and she really loved it and liked that it was a bit rough around the edges. Your eye is always caught by something interesting looking.

  • Erika says:

    I love this! I loved getting a glimpse into London beyond Buckingham Palace and the London Eye… I think I had heard of Brick Lane, but of course, I hadn’t been.

    Oh man, I love London. I was so fortunate to work there a couple of summers ago and while my job wasn’t the best fit for me, I loved that I got to spend so much time there. I loved feeding my addiction to Costa Coffee and Au Bon Pain and riding the tube and in general, I found the energy of the city to be just right for me. There are a lot of cities that are overwhelming to me, with too much going on, or just… are off. But London was the kind where I wanted to get out and do things, where I enjoyed pushing myself a little bit, and there’s always something to see or do. Love it. 🙂

  • I have worked in London for 8 years and have never made it to Brick Lane. Shame on me! Next time I am in London in the winter I will definitely go. Looks well cool!

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  • Stefania says:

    Oh, I love Brick Lane. I used to live in East London too! 🙂

  • Stefania says:

    PS: there’s an awesome bagel shop in Columbia Road too!

  • Tinuke says:

    This is by far one of my favourite places to chill out and people watch, here and then on to Old Spittalfields which is only a few minutes away from Brick Lane.
    Really glad to have found your blog today via Quirky Brown Love’s list of best bloggers. You deserve your spot xx

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