18 January 2017 | 5 °C

Things You Might Not Have Done Near Brick Lane

Things You Might Not Have Done Near Brick Lane

So you've eaten a beigel/curry, bought a vintage jacket, and leaned what a Huguenot is. You're done with Brick Lane, right? Hmm. Take a look at some of the lesser-known things to do in the area:

You'll be familiar with this place already. Photo: Past London

Spitalfields City Farm

A couple of minutes walk east of Brick Lane is Spitalfields City Farm. It's free to visit (although donations are always appreciated) and is home to the likes of donkeys, sheep and pigs, all waiting to be stroked/have funny noises made at them. The farm also hosts the annual Goat Race, a pun on the Oxford/Cambridge boat race that got out of hand.

Photo: Kaitlin Brower

As well as a place to get your dose of cute, Spitalfields City Farm is a working farm. A vegetable garden is run by volunteers, and the wildlife garden attracts different species all year round. There's a small café — with queues a lot shorter than those at Beigel Bake.

Shoreditch Nomadic Community Garden

Photo: Nomadic Gardens

If the City Farm hasn't satiated your appetite for the city countryside, Shoreditch Nomadic Community Garden weds urban with nature seamlessly. It was set up in 2015 to give local people somewhere to grow vegetables — also making use of what was essentially a disused building site. Think large wooden planters meets street art, with occasional special events thrown in. Though locals are in charge of growing things, everyone's welcome to visit.

19 Princelet Street

Photo: Terry Moran.

West of Brick Lane is the the tourist spot of Spitalfields Market — between the two sits 19 Princelet Street, a former synagogue telling the stories of refugees to the area, and functioning as a museum of immigration.

The house was built by Huguenots in the 1700s, and has since been inhabited by Irish, Polish and Jewish families. The exhibition describes these waves of people who made Spitalfields what it is today. 19 Princelet Street only opens to the public occasionally: check the website.

Charles Booth Walks

One of the best East End walking tours you'll go on. Sean Patterson takes you back to the Whitechapel known and mapped by the social reformer Charles Booth. This tour isn't stuck in the Victorian age though: find out where Gilbert and George live, discover the only building in London that's been a church, synagogue and mosque, and learn why Brick Lane is called Brick Lane.

Close-Up Cinema

Photo: Close-Up Film Centre

The Brick Lane area is a treat for cinema lovers. You've got Rich Mix showing new releases (it's worth checking out Rich Mix's exhibition and live music programme too), and the nearby Electric Cinema for those who like their films with a little more luxury.

Lesser-known is Close-Up Cinema, a cinema and library dedicated to all things film, and tucked away on Sclater Street. The programme of film screenings is curated to reflect the history of cinema, featuring both reel-to-reel and digital projections. Real film buffs, though, will be drawn to the library and archive, which has over 19,000 titles, ranging from early cinema to independent films, as well as books and publications about the film industry. There's an on-site cafe and bar to boot.

Learn how to make something

Photo: Tatty Devine

You've probably heard of perspex jewellery wizards Tatty Devine, but did you know that the Brick Lane store offers jewellery-making workshops? Spend half a day getting to grips with the tools and techniques the Tatty Devine guys use in creating their products, and take your finished materpiece home with you.

Des and Lorraine's Junk Shop

Photo: Bilkeau.

Decant off Brick Lane to Bacon Street for a taste of old Spitalfields. Des & Lorraine's Junk Shop is an Aladdin's Cave of bric-a-brac — tin signs, old lamps, cutlery, chairs, esoteric books, old stereos — you name it. Whether you're looking for something in particular or not, plunge into the seemingly backless lot, and rifle through this chaotic collection of hand-me-downs. As you make your way back to the front, prepare your haggle pitch.  

Last Updated 06 January 2017