London has had a long, well established history of art and culture. From the Tate Modern, which first opened it’s doors in 1897, to the Saatchi Gallery for Contemporary Art, the city has always been a place for artists to explore a variety of themes and genres. Though icons, such as Big Ben, The London Eye, The Tower of London, and the Thames, are a big part of the appeal of London, a great alternative to the well worn tourist track is to visit the East End of London. More than just Jack the Ripper and murder tours, the galleries, restaurants, art, and culture will help you see London again for the first time.
East End Galleries
The galleries are fresh, hip, and young and bring a very different point of view to the London art scene. These are the galleries that get behind the Banksys, the street artists, and other artists that don’t subscribe to the traditional and thrive on being on the fringe of the “normal” art culture. One must visit Nelly Duff, which sits in a small storefront on the quiet Columbia Road. This gallery features artists like Dain whose works are influential in the New York street art culture and has gained worldwide appeal for its homage to old Hollywood glamour. Visiting the gallery and the Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday is the best time to experience the area since most of the shops aren’t open during the week. The Brick Lane Gallery (another relatively young gallery) is located on, of course, Brick Lane and features a wide variety of contemporary artists from all over the world. The Brick Lane Gallery gives a voice to emerging artists exhibiting for the first time, as well as to established artists with a good sized following. The diversity in media that the gallery exhibits gives it an immediate appeal to a wide range of art enthusiasts.
Street Art and The Cereal Killer
In the East End you’ll see street art with cheeky cats in profile, midcentury modern images of women with gas masks and cans of spray paint, and doorways hidden behind black and white stylized vines. The variety, breadth, and depth of the subject matter, the way that passersby interact or don’t interact with the art is intriguing to watch. Humorous, political, sarcastic, colorful, and whimsical characters add to the fun atmosphere of the East End. The East End of London is a vibrant culturally diverse area of the city that provides close proximity to Liverpool Street and Aldgate East, with popular places like the Cereal Killer Cafe that offers up a nostalgic return to childhood by serving nothing but cereal favorites like Cap’n Crunch and Cookie Crisp all day. It’s popular with those who want to see a different side of London. Closeup Cinema is library, magazine shop, and cafe with an emphasis on culture and history through film. Located next door to the Brick Lane Gallery Annex on Sclater Street, they have an impressive collection of 16 mm to 35 mm reel-to-reel selections as well as digital, but have vowed to also keep the reels. Go in for a cup of coffee and a game of chess or browse their hundreds of movie titles.
Burgers and Markets
If you’re hungry stop in at Bryon Burgers for simple, well crafted burgers from a guy whose misspent youth and love of a great burger fuel his passion. There’s something for everyone at Byron Burgers, as vegetarians are not left out. Byron Burgers is located on Sclater Street near the corner of Bethnal Green and about a block from the Shoreditch High Street overground stop. Old Spitalfields Market has been a market for over 350 years and is one of London’s most popular markets. This large indoor space includes arts and crafts, shops, restaurants, and general food items. Open seven days a week and extremely popular on the weekends, it’s definitely a must see.
A New Way To See London
London is so much more than the icons we know and love. It’s a young, old, funny, funky, complex, diverse, weird, quirky mashup of culture, art, and humor. You’ll need to visit over and over again, each time discovering a new London.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.