Situated right in the heart of the East End – and just a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station – lies Spitalfields, a lively, multicultural neighbourhood bordered by Shoreditch to the North and Aldgate to the South. There’s everything here from art galleries to street food spots – and that’s without even mentioning the legendary Brick Lane! So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of 10 of the best things to do in Spitalfields:
1. Wine and dine in the Old Spitalfields Market
The OG of East London markets is actually open seven days a week, but weekends are the busiest and most colourful affairs. The usual suspects of food, fashion, and crafts are all present, and you’ll find higher-end eateries and shops surrounding the market here too.
Make sure you stop by the ‘Kitchens’ when you’re here, as it’s got some of the best street food in the area. There’s everything here from vegan dishes with an Ethiopian twist to bagels with pulled pork and melted cheese – and with over 41 different stalls to choose from, you’re sure to find something you’ll like! If street food is your thing, then why not join an immersive food tour of the area, which will give you the chance to try Indian sweets and samosas among many other things. Grab your tickets here.
📍You’ll find the Old Spitalfields Market at 16 Horner Square, London, E1 6EW.
2. Take a wander down Brick Lane and shop for vintage threads
We couldn’t mention Spitalfields without talking about Brick Lane – and yes we know we’ve got a specific guide for there too thank you very much. Snaking its way from Bethnal Green down to Whitechapel, it’s a diverse melting pot of vintage fashion boutiques, authentic curry houses, proper old boozers and cobbled streets covered in a whole array of eclectic street art.
There’s plenty to do along this one strip of road, which dates all the way back to the 15th century. Tuck into one of the area’s famous salt-beef bagels, catch a gig at the iconic record store Rough Trade East, or join a walking tour and follow in the footsteps of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers – the blood-curdling Jack the Ripper. You can grab your tickets here. Now, speaking of…
📍Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 6RU.
3. Grab a pint or two at good old boozer The Ten Bells
Set on the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street lies The Ten Bells – a Grade II-listed spot which, dating all the way back to 1666, is awash with history. Rumoured to be haunted, it’s also where two of the victims of the Ripper, Mary Jane Kelly and Annie Chapman, were rumoured to have drank before they sadly met their tragic fate.
In fact, this East End boozer actually used to be called ‘The Jack The Ripper’ for a stint in the late 70s and 80s before its name was rightly changed after a campaign by ‘Reclaim The Night’. Who knew?! Nowadays, it’s a cosy, candle-lit affair which whips up some killer (sorry) cocktails and ‘the best Guinness in East London’. Now if that doesn’t tempt you then we don’t know what will!
📍You’ll find The Ten Bells at 84 Commercial Street, London, E1 6QQ.
4. Delve into the world of legendary artist Vincent Van Gogh
Having celebrated its one-year anniversary back in July 2022, the Van Gogh Immersive Experience continues to go from strength to strength. Transforming a 19th century stable building, Commercial 106, this multi-sensory journey through Van Gogh’s most famous bodies of work offer an entirely new way of experiencing art, bringing every brush stroke to life. And we do mean that literally, thanks to some nifty projection work and even some VR too!
The piece de resistance here is arguably the ending, where you’ll enter a cathedral of light, colour, and sound in a 360-degree projection room illuminating the artist’s most iconic pieces of work. Word of advice – bring a camera! Get your tickets here.
📍You’ll find the Van Gogh Immersive Experience at 106 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LZ.
5. Meet the animals at Spitalfields City Farm
Another one of the best things to do in Spitalfields is a visit to the city farm found here, which was established back in 1978 with the aim ‘to make a positive change in people’s lives, their community and the whole planet’.
Their farmyard, gardens, tea hut and farm shop are open from Tuesdays through to Sundays between 10am and 4pm, and there are resident donkeys, ferrets, sheep, chickens, ducks, pigs and more which can be found here. There’s even a chance to groom the donkeys or take the goats on a walk! Sign. Us. Up.
📍You’ll find Spitalfields City Farm at Buxton Street, London, E1 5AR.
6. Explore the historic trinkets inside Dennis Severs’ House
Tucked away right in the heart of Spitalfields lies the Dennis Severs’ House, a Georgian, Grade II-listed building which is now home to one of London’s most fascinating museums.
Described as a time capsule ‘still life drama’, the backdrop of this intriguing spot follows various incidents in the life of a fictitious family of Huguenot silk weavers – the Jervis family – who lived here back in 1724. You’ll take a step back in time and will be able to put yourselves in the shoes of this ‘family’ to see how they went about their daily lives. There’s a whole host of historic artefacts on show here, so this is one for the culture vultures among you!
📍You’ll find Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street, London. E1 6BX.
7. Enjoy some peace and quiet at Christ Church Spitalfields
As you wander around Spitalfields, chances are you’ll see the towering spire of the Christ Church. Constructed in the early 18th century by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, it’s a Baroque masterpiece which doubles as both an event space and, as you’d expect, as a place of worship.
It’s a lovely spot to while away the hours, and you can grab a coffee and a slice of cake at the Café in the Crypt, which also doubles as a quiet working space.
📍You’ll find the Christ Church Spitalfields at 88-90 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LY.
8. See what exhibitions are on at the Whitechapel Gallery
Located directly beside Aldgate East station (if you pick the right exit), the Whitechapel Gallery is a brilliant place to get your artsy fix and to feel a little bit cultured. They don’t have any permanent art exhibitions, but they’re always getting new and exciting artists to showcase their work – and they’ve got plenty of hands-on workshops here too. Plus, the rolling programme gives you an excuse to visit again and again.
One of the best things to do in Spitalfields, they also have really great cake in the café, and if you’re a bit of a bookworm – or if you’re looking to just chill out for a couple of hours – then their bookshop is a good ‘un.
📍You’ll find the Whitechapel Gallery at 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX.
9. Tuck into some tasty grub at Noodles & Beer
Noodles AND beer? Now that’s a winning combo if ever we saw one! This modern spot close to Spitalfields Market was inspired by food from the Chinese provinces of Chongqing and Sichuan, notably ‘chongqing xiaomian’ – a warming bowl of noodles packed with a delicate spicy aroma and intense flavours.
Standouts for us at this modern spot include the ‘suan-cai yu fen’ which incorporates rice noodles with basa fish, sour mustard greens and pickled chilli – and the exceedingly spicy ‘xian jiao niu-rou’ – a delicious melting pot of wheat noodles with red peppers, beef, peanuts, spring onions and pickled greens. All best washed down with a couple of beers of course.
📍You’ll find Noodle & Beer at 31 Bell Lane, London, E1 7AB.
10. Get your Italian foodie fix at Eataly London
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Spitalfields is Eataly London – the ‘biggest Italian food destination in the whole of London’. It’s a vast and expansive place which has three different restaurants, bars, an outdoor Aperol terrace and a market serving pasta, cured meats, fabulous cheeses, olive oils, sauces, plus panettone, coffee, ciabatta, ravioli, gelato. Phew!
It’s a whopping 42,000 square feet in size, and they’re also specialists in wine. Offering some 2,000 (!) wines, they’re owners of the largest Italian wine collection in London, and they’ve got a fantastic wine festival running this March, which also gives you the chance to learn from some of the finest Italian producers. You can grab your tickets here.
📍You’ll find Eataly London at 135 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3YD.
So there you have it, a roundup of 10 of the best things to do in Spitalfields. From Jack the Ripper walking tours to meeting the animals at Spitalfields City Farm, there’s something for everyone here, so make sure you get yourself to E1 pronto!