If you want to have a quiet stroll, going at your own pace and taking time to look around at all the little details — stay far away from Brick Lane on Sunday.
If you want bustle, color, variety, and noise, then there’s no better time to visit Brick Lane than a Sunday, when numerous street markets set up shop along its length, and hordes of clamoring people flood into the narrow road.
These markets sell all sorts of things. There’s a basement warehouse devoted entirely to vintage clothes and accessories; other vendors, like those found at the Backyard Market, showcased art, jewelry, collectibles, and other curiosities. One vendor sold old cameras, and her stand had a miniature dark room built into it. Another sold pendants made of real leaves that had been coated in copper and colorful metallic finishes.
The best thing by far is the international food, of which there is a seemingly endless selection. I walked past Mexican, Lithuanian, Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese, and Korean cuisine, just to name a few. You can also get a good, old-fashioned coffee or giant sausage in a baguette if your tastes run more toward the simple.
As you walk, you’ll get a good look at all the things that characterize Brick Lane. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants, mostly featuring western and south Asian food: Bengal, Indian, Turkish. Graffiti slathered on any spare piece of wall and down every alley. Artsy, hipster shops tossed in amongst the grittiness, including Dark Sugars, the hot chocolate place I raved about last week, and Kahaila Cafe, which doubles as a charity and a community space.
(Kahaila makes a great soy chai latte and even better cakes.)
So I came to Brick Lane just wanting to sit at a cute cafe & get some work done, and ended up staying hours longer than I intended as I stumbled into all these markets. I’m going to return later and take a closer look, but I’ll have to make sure I come back hungry.