Spitalfields District, East London
Colloquially known as Little Jerusalem, or Petty France, Spitalfields is an East London district formed around Commercial Street in the Tower Hamlets. As home to four of London’s most famous street markets, Spitalfields is a shopper’s haven and a hub for British street wear.
In parts like Brick Lane, century-old brick buildings remind you of the district’s rich multicultural history, while futuristic skyscrapers dotting Spitalfields’ skyline depict what’s to come. Take a look at the area’s history and some cool things to do in Spitalfields.
The History of Spitalfields
Long before the district of Spitalfields came to be, the area was an expansive piece of land owned by the St. Mary Spital, one of the biggest hospitals in Medieval England. The priory was established by Walter and Rose Brown in the late 1190s.
Development began in the late 16th century after the arrival of the Huguenots silk weavers. They settled in Spitalfields and other areas in East London to avoid restrictive guild legislations while enjoying proximity to the City of London.
Shortly after their arrival, a committee was set up to raise poverty alleviation funds. It even built terraced houses to accommodate them. Soon, chapels, grand urban mansions that doubled as homes and workshops, followed by the famous Spitalfields Market, cropped up, further fueling the area’s growth.
The Huguenots were followed by the Irish immigrants searching for greener pastures and, later, East European Jews fleeing harsh conditions in Russia and Poland. Today Spitalfields is a melting pot of cultural diversity characterized by century-old watering holes, chain restaurants, trendy fashion stores, art galleries and everything that defines edgy East London.
Cool Things to Do in Spitalfields
Here are cool ways to spend time in Spitalfields:
Explore Commercial Street
Shoreditch is among London’s hippest neighbourhoods. The Shoreditch High Street, to be precise, is like an open art gallery thanks to the fantastic 3D street graffiti plastered over buildings throughout the street.
Head over to Rivington Street for even more art. It features impressive street art from big names like Banksy and Bambi. Other Shoreditch streets with unique art include the Great Eastern, Princelet and Cremer streets.
Check Out the Markets
As noted, Spitalfields is home to some of London’s most popular street markets. These include the Old Spitalfields Market, a 350-year old market with more than 100 outlets dealing with food, drinks, clothing and vintage ware, and the new Spitalfields Market, a food and art market established in 1666. Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane markets are also worth your time in Spitalfields.
Try Out Poppie’s Fish and Chips
If it’s a while since you enjoyed the classic fish and chips dish, ensure you stop by Poppie’s when in Spitalfields. This small, 1950s-style restaurant has a rich menu of classic dishes and serves chips and fish takeaways the old-school way, wrapped in a newspaper.
Located a short distance from Shoreditch, Spitalfields is one of East London’s most coveted districts for good reasons. It has countless restaurants, bars, and trendy spots to spend time, markets with everything you might dream of, and is just a short drive from the City of London.