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Top Things to Do in Brick Lane: Guide to the Brick Lane Markets

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7 months ago

Brick Lane’s day markets are renowned the world over, and it’s because there are so many things to do in Brick Lane. From street musicians in between bustling crowds to exciting new foods. There is truly something new and special to enjoy every single time.

And I should know: I live right next to Brick Lane in Spitalfields.

The Brick Lane market is split into food and shopping so there’s something for everyone. Let me tell you how to navigate the Brick Lane markets like a local, when to go, what to see and what to eat.

Where are the Brick Lane Markets?

The Brick Lane Saturday and Sunday markets are in two places: in the Upmarket exhibition venue on the corner of Hanbury Street and Brick Lane, and on the small section of Brick Lane between Hanbury Street and the huge Old Truman Brewery brick sign (you can’t miss it).

Anything further up or down or is just the usual Brick Lane (except on Sundays, which I’ve written about below).

Very occasionally (usually only in summer), vendors will set up kiosks in the Old Truman Brewery’s yard that can be entered from Hanbury Street or Brick Lane. If you want to check it out (and it’s still worth the trip – there are some interesting food trucks in the yard), walk all the through the Upmarket exhibition venue to outside into the courtyard.

When is the best time to go to the Brick Lane Markets?

If you’re asking when the best time to go to Brick Lane markets on the weekend is, I have a very considered answer for you: Saturday. The Brick Lane market is held every Saturday and Sunday, but Sunday is also a lot busier because visitors to Columbia Road’s Sunday morning flower market all walk down to Brick Lane for their next adventure.

Saturday is the right day to go to Brick Lane’s markets because it is far less busy than Sunday and it’s more or less the same experience as going on a Sunday. Most people go on Sunday because they think that’s when the better market is on.

This means that lines for basically everything are painfully longer on a Sunday. Do yourself a favor and go on a Saturday if your itinerary allows it. And the vintage clothes in the shops are better on Saturday than the vintage clothes in the Sunday market.

The Brick Lane markets start to open from about 10 am to 6 pm (though I wouldn’t get there at exactly 10 am – the vendors are usually still setting up their stalls at that time).

What is there to do and eat at the Brick Lane Markets?

Once you’ve entered the market, all your senses will be stimulated with the crowds of people streaming between the different aisles of food vendors. Here, it’s all about trying something new. You’re going to see a lot of foods you’ve never seen before – even if this isn’t your first visit.

It’s never exactly the same group of sellers every week, but there are certainly some staples that you shouldn’t miss. The Brick Lane food market hall is one of the best in London.

Just to give you a sense of the types food on offer, you’ll usually find Saudi Arabian karak chai tea, Venezuelan arepas (gluten free, of course), Korean toppoki (rice cakes with a rich, spicy sauce), Brazilian brigadeiros (one of my all-time favorite desserts), Lithuanian dumplings and so many more. But before you make your decision on what to eat too quickly, walk around the whole market – and I’ll tell you why you must do it.

My favorite part about this market is that pretty much all of the food vendors are happy to give you free samples of their food – and they always want to give you their best to try! So walk around and pick up samples from the different vendors so you can try even more.

A Little Piece of Bahia

In my opinion, if you’re looking for totally new flavors, you should try to find the stall named A Little Piece of Bahia. There’s not always a queue, but there should be because it’s some of the best Brazilian food in London. I really don’t think you can find these dishes anywhere else. Try the acarajé which is a deep-fried ball of dough stuffed with (at this stall) shrimps.

The last time I went, I was quite literally the only non-Brazilian (or, at least, non-Portuguese speaker) in the line of eight people; if Brazilians are choosing this, then you know it’s vetted by people who know it best, which is what we’re all about. Also, they don’t update their menu, so you’ll notice quite a few dishes in front of you that aren’t on the menu.

Don’t be afraid to ask (the one that looks like mash potato topped with parmesan is a very unexpected delight). Make sure you tell them that it’s your first time (if it is) – they might treat you to something special. And it’s run entirely by Brazilians so don’t forget to say obrigado instead of thank you.

This being East London, pretty much every vendor offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. I think one of the best vegetarian options in the Brick Lane weekend markets is the caribbean food vendor. They’ve got some incredible curries on offer.

Pop-up shops

If you’re looking for some not-so-ordinary shopping, the area behind the food vendors has a number of pop-ups that sell everything from neon signs to street art to candles. This is usually where I pick up a gift for a friend or a souvenir from London.

Are the Brick Lane Markets different on a Sunday?

The short answer is yes, and the long answer is yes, but they’re not so different that you should actively aim go on a Sunday instead of a Saturday. On Sundays only, there is a whole other part of the market which opens up between Buxton Street and Bethnal Green Road which is the northern part of Brick Lane. You won’t be able to miss it. There is always a huge crowd of people.

I would only recommend that you go on a Sunday if you’re looking to buy vintage clothes, vinyl and furniture in an outdoor setting. The truth is, you can buy all of those things in the vintage, vinyl and furniture shops along Brick Lane normally, so I think you end up paying more for them on a Sunday because they’ve moved their stock outside.

There are also a few more food options, one of which is maybe the only reason I could be persuaded to go on a Sunday. When you spot the big sign that reads GRILLED CHEESE and a queue in front of it, you know you’ve just found one of the best grilled cheese toasties in London.

So, there you have it, your guide to Brick Lane’s weekend markets. Remember to poke around the rest of Spitalfields and Brick Lane if you have time. It’s one of the most exciting and underrated areas of London.


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Phoebe

Monday 5th of February 2024

Thank you for the opportunity to see/ visit the interesting markets in East London. Hopefully, will get there sometime soon.