I was going to title this London Walks: East London and realised that would be a bit mis-leading. East London is such a huge area and with there being no signs of gentrification slowing down saying that we’re heading to “East London” no longer just means we’re heading to Brick Lane. On the contrary, no-one refers to Hackney having a “murder mile” anymore, Shoreditch is no longer a wasteland, and Mile End is not just the place where we saw Blur play to 27,000 people in 1995. There are so many pockets of greatness that I can’t cover everything with one post but will share with you in this post one of my favourite walks across part of the east. Depending on how much time you like to stop, shop, drink and eat you could do part or all of this walk.
Start at Old Street tube station. If it’s in the summer, and early on in the day (queues are long later on in the day), find the secret entrance up to the Magic Roundabout. Street food, bars & DJ’s literally on the big roundabout in the middle of Old Street. Open from 8am you can stop in for a morning coffee to start you off on your day.
Walk down Old Street and when the road forks, take Great Eastern Street – the Red Gallery will be on the corner of Great Eastern and Rivington Street. A nice little spot to see some street art by Invader, Thierry Noir, Stik, Ayakamay (at the moment, it’s always changing).
Carry on walking down Rivington Street, always a favourite of mine to spot some new street art or see some old. Have a peek in Tramshed, the chicken and steak restaurant which has Damien Hirst’s “Cock and Bull” hanging from the ceiling. Next up is a quick stop at Cargo, to see a preserved Banksy.
At the end of Rivington Street turn left down Shoreditch High Street and left onto Redchurch Street, another favourite of mine for street art. Don’t forget to look down the side streets, look behind you and even look up – you may see a Christiaan Nagel mushroom. Take a little diversion on to Whitby Street to see a couple of Jimmy C’s which have been there since 2012. Although it still makes me sad that LoungeLover, one of my favourite cocktail bars is no longer in existence here.
Cross over Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane is over to your left. There’s so much to see and do down Brick Lane. We started off with joining in the current trend of rainbow croissants from the Beigel Shop – previously it was rainbow bagels. A stare in the Cereal Killer Cafe (after all these years I still can’t believe there is a cafe dedicated purely to cereal), then a browse in the Brick Lane Bookshop. Take in the sounds, indulge in some street food, plenty of street art to see and plenty of shopping to be had in the independent shops, boutiques and markets – my favourite is the vintage emporium The Tea Rooms. Don’t forget to explore the roads leading off Brick Lane for some great art pieces. More about London street art here.
Our next stop will be Spitalfields Market. Take any of the roads on the right to lead you there from Brick Lane – Hanbury Street, Fournier Street or Fashion Street are good options (I include Fashion Street as that’s always been a good go to for street art). For us it was lunchtime so we stopped for some traditional fish and chips at Poppies. There is always a queue out the door in the restaurant on Hanbury Street but they also have a kiosk in Spitalfields Market.
From Spitalfields head towards Liverpool Street station, turning left along Bishopgate. On the crossroads of Bishopgate and Bevis Marks, up on the 37 & 39th floor of Heron Tower are the upmarket restaurants Duck & Waffle and Sushisamba. Sushisamba has a cool outdoor garden with added fire pit for cooler nights, but don’t count your chickens on getting one of the prime spots for an amazing view across the city – these seem to be bagged early by the young and glamorous. But if you do manage to get the approval of the door lady to head up to the restaurant the view from the glass elevator is worth the quick trip!
Back down on ground level, take a left down Bevis Marks, then a right down St Mary’s Axe. To your left there will be the magnificent Gherkin building, to your right, if you take a peek down the road weirdly called Undershaft there is a Damien Hirst 7m sculpture of a young disabled girl holding onto her teddy bear and a collection tin called “Charity”.
Carry on walking down St Mary’s Axe, cross over Leadenhall Street and down Lime Street. Once you’ve passed the Lloyds building (the one that looks like the inside plumbing is on the outside), turn left down Leadenhall Place. This will lead you into the the beautiful Victorian Leadenhall Market. On the weekends this area is very quiet as it’s mainly financial businesses in the area so you can get some great shots of market ceilings and decor.
When you come out of Leadenhall head south to Fenchurch Street, take a left and then an right down Rood Lane, which leads onto St Mary At Hill. Halfway down there is a side street on your left, St Dunstan’s Lane which takes you into St Dunstans in the East. This is definitely a hidden gem! A bombed out church during the Blitz, it’s outside walls still remain with a beautiful garden in the centre. It’s so serene, hidden away that for years I’ve walked the surrounding streets unaware that it even existed.
You can leave the grounds from across the otherside from where you came in. Heading straight down Cross Lane and a little side step to the left you will see the Tower of London in front of you. Time for a well deserved soft serve ’99.