Any casual visitor to the city wanting to find a high quality selection of street art need look no further than London’s Brick Lane. It is the epicentre of street art in the city. Artists from all over the world and the UK come here to paint, safe in the knowledge that they will get an appreciative audience and a wide appeal.
This tour is designed for the casual visitor who doesn’t have much time and just wants to catch a glimpse of some decent art without having to traipse through a whole load of unfamiliar areas.
Tour start – Aldgate East tube station (Hammersmith and City and District lines)
Tour End – Shoreditch High Street station (London Overground)
Tour length – 1-2 hours, dependant on how much pottering around you do.
From the tube station exit via the ‘Whitechapel Gallery’ side and turn left at the top of the steps. Head towards the junction with Osborne Street and turn left. Carry on past the Stolen Space gallery until you reach Brick Lane directly ahead. Keep going until you reach Heneage Street on the right.
On Heneage Street there is a quaint little pub called the Pride of Spitalfields should the need for a pint arise. It’s one of the only pubs left off Brick Lane and it’s still retains a lot of charm. Walk down the street until you come to a little playground, look around and on the gable end of a row of buildings an impressive giant mural from Sheffield based artist Phlegm can be seen. On your way back to Brick Lane keep your eyes peeled for other street art you can spot.
Seven Stars Yard
Almost opposite the entrance to Heneage Street is the entrance to a little yard known as the Seven Stars named after the pub which used to be on the site. Through the little alley you’ll be able to see some of the best paste up art in the city. Then in the yard itself it opens up into a space where a number of street art pieces can be seen. Towards the left hand side of the yard there are areas of wall which take the appearance of street canvasses. On the right hand side an 18th century building which dates from Huguenot times. That building used to be the home of the innkeeper of the old Seven Stars pub. Well before the current building was erected in the 1930’s, a much older Huguenot building had existed. Although much of the art in the Yard is permissioned. Any art on the side of the old innkeepers house is not given its heritage status.
Back on Brick Lane, head past the Brick Lane mosque and head towards Princelet Street. There look to the left and within a doorway can be seen a work by Stik which depicts a covered Stik figure holding hands with a non covered Stik figure. Called ‘A couple holding hands in the street’ It is very sweet and is a highly regarded piece by the local community. Recently this piece was included in a list of the Top 20 favourite pieces of British artworks.
Incidentally Princelet Street is also the former centre of the Huguenots who settled in the East End from France in the 1700s. The houses here are from this era and are quite unusual and worthy of greater exploration. If you are interested in the history of this area then try this free Walking Tour of the East End of London which covers the history in a bit more detail.
But for now we head back to Brick lane until we reach Hanbury Street. Turn left and you get straight into the heart of Spitalfields, right takes you into the heart of Whitechapel. This street is awash with art particularly along its length towards Spitalfields. For this tour though we are only interested in the art to the immediate right. Look down towards Whitechapel and dominating the view will be the giant Crane by Belgian artist ROA. This is another well loved community piece as evidenced by the local uproar that went on when Tower Hamlets council tried to cover it over with a banner just before 2012 Olympic Games.
Ely’s Yard, The Truman Brewery
Continue down Brick Lane past the Truman Brewery. This section gets particularly busy during the weekend because of its street food and markets during the day and its bars and curry houses at night. The Truman Brewery is an excellent place for a detour should you want to take one. The yard at the back of the building can be accessed via Brick Lane through a little alley and is usually very vibrant with plenty of street art.
Continue along Brick Lane until you come to the entrance to Pedley Street on the right. It’s only an alley at this point leading towards a park known as Allen Gardens. Walk down towards the park and you’ll see plenty of works. The building on the left covered in street art is actually the old Shoreditch station beyond which the space opens up and you’ll be able to see a lot of graffiti covered walls. From this spot you’ll also be able to see the entrance to the Nomadic Community Gardens just underneath the bridge which are well worth visiting if they are open.
Nomadic Community Gardens
The gardens are a must see if they are open. Still officially part of Pedley Street, they can be found just beyond the railway tunnel where lots of art can be seen against the path leading along the railway line. The gardens are a community initiative and have been developed on land owned by Network Rail. They have given over the space for use by the community and it has a very eclectic feel with buildings having been made out of found materials. Inside you can see street art, allotments and you can even get a coffee. It’s a strange and special place.
Grimsby Street and Cheshire Street
In order to visit the streets of Grimsby and Cheshire you can either double back and head to Brick Lane and carry on. Or, from the Nomadic Community Gardens, you can carry on, over the graffiti riddled footbridge over the railtrack. Either way you’ll find them pretty quick. From the Brick Lane end you just carry on up, take the next right into Grimsby Street to the end and then walk back along Cheshire Street back to pretty much where you started. Both streets will often have some good pieces to see and so it’s worth having an explore.
Upon returning to Brick Lane cross the road and head up Sclater Street. The spot has in the past been a real hub for street art but now has become a real target for the developers. You can still see some great spots though and directly in front of you will be an old looking warehouse building with lots of hidden gems on it. Beyond the warehouse Sclater Street carries on and the street is full of art. Have a wander along and then head back taking the little spur along Cygnet Street towards Bacon Street.
Bethnal Green Road
Once at Brick Lane turn left and walk to the main road junction with Bethnal Green Road. This section of the Lane is full of coffee bars and as such is a good place to find some refreshment. It’s also a good place to come when the shops are shut because a lot of the art here has been painted on shutters which only come down when the businesses have packed up for the day.
At the junction turn left and walk along Bethnal Green Road. It is likely that you’ll be able to spot some stret art on the other side of the road which marks the start of Redchurch Street (which is a tour in itself). Continue down and you’ll come to the junction of Sclater Street which is a busy spot as there is often another market here. Look across the road and you’ll see the giant ROA hedgehog poking out from Chance Street on the other side of the road.
The walk ends just beyond here at the Shoreditch High Street station which is just by the very cool Box Park one of Londons funkiest shopping centres. There you can get a coffee and explore the shops should you so wish.
So that’s it, a whistle stop your of Brick Lane certainly the key spot to find quality street art in the city. If your interested in getting a guided version of this or any of the other tours, give me a shout using the form below.
Finally for some more great street art tours try the outdoor street art gallery of Dulwich, A Street Art Tour of Hackney Wick and Fish Island and A Street Art Tour of Shoreditch. You might also be interested in checking out some of the street art of Camden which is beginning to establish quite a vibrant scene.