The “East End” of London is a funny old place. Let London Hotels Insight take you on a tour of its hidden side – the part tourists rarely get to see.
Parts of the area look like they are just street on street of 1960s concrete and 1950s brick. Other areas are still wasteland, bomb site or redevelopment that never happened. It’s truly an intriguing mix!
For example, you never actually “find” Stepney – there’s just a road and a tube station! And as for Mile End; if you name a place after the fact it’s a mile out of the City, how do you expect it to get a character of its own?
But though the East End isn’t full of well-known tourist sights – apart from Brick Lane perhaps – it’s still a fascinating place to visit.
There are some amazing markets there for instance. Roman Road isn’t now as good as it used to be (there were once great cheap fabrics available and good food stalls – but now it’s just knock-off fashions).
I’d instead recommend Columbia Road flower market on Sundays – cut flowers, bedding plants, even full-scale trees for sale plus cafes and a lovely patisserie, though some of the shops have become a bit yuppified.
Or for a real urban experience, try Whitechapel Market, where you can buy cheap batteries, aubergines, glittering sari fabric, parsnips, electric kettles, plastic shoes and pretty much anything under the sun.
It’s an ugly sprawl along the four-lane road, but it’s really alive and kicking!
Whitechapel Art Gallery opens on to the market – but inside it’s cutting edge, with permanent exhibition space as well as the temporary exhibitions of contemporary art for which it’s famous.
So you can mix pink plastic household goods with surrealist pictures or abstract painting, before you stop off for a curry at New Tayyabs (one of the best Indian restaurants in London).
You could also head off to Broadway Market, which we’ve already mentioned as one of London’s best food markets.
It’s got rather gentrified in recent years but the Saturday market is still as raucous as it used to be – and there’s still Cooke’s pie and mash shop.
Eel pie and mash is a great East End tradition – from the days when the Thames was so polluted, only eels could live in it – and the lurid green ‘liquor’ (gravy) still gives you an illicit thrill when poured over your mash.
The Trinity Almshouses are on your way from Whitechapel to Mile End.
These delightfully sober red brick almshouses were set up in the late seventeenth century for ‘decayed’ masters of ships, and their widows – hence the delightful models of sailing ships that surmount the front wall.
Captain Henry Mudd donated the land and it’s said that Christopher Wren worked on the design – though there’s no evidence for that at all.
The last stop should be Tubby Isaacs’ whelk stall. It’s a lonely survivor of a tradition that’s almost disappeared (Tubby Isaacs has another stall in Walthamstow Market, and that’s all as far as whelk stalls are concerned).
Head for Petticoat Lane Market (Goulston Street) to find cockles, mussels, winkles and whelks, jellied eels and that new invention, crab sticks. And even if the market is about 90 percent cheap and nasty knock offs , there’s enough chance of finding a bargain for it to be interesting.
Last but not least, no trip to the East End is complete without visiting one of East London’s many historic pubs, especially the Jerusalem Tavern.
Which hotel should you stay in to access the best of the East End?
Your prime choice would be the Andaz London. This is a hotel after all which prides itself on being at the gateway to East London, with staff primed to tell you of other secret delights to explore in the area.
At the time of writing, the Andaz London is currently ranked number 51 out of more than 1000 London hotels on TripAdvisor.