Having both spent the summer at our home cities, Hanoi and Berlin, the Furries reunited in London – this beautifully exciting fashion capital – in order to indulge our passion for fashion, art and cake. Since my dear Vintage Furrie had never been to the UK before she commenced her studies in Oxford, I decided to accompany her during her first week. We first spent some days in London, where I showed her some of my favourite places around the East End and I want to share those places with you too.
Therefore, this shall be a practical guide for everyone who fancies vintage shopping and street food, combined with a little excursion into local history, and for those of you who have not yet discovered the magic of London’s East End. First of all, let me introduce you to Brick Lane – a rather long and weird street in between Aldgate East and Shoreditch/Bethnal Green. It is weird in a sense that the first half of the street consists only of Indian Curry places, with people standing in front of each door trying to lure you in, and the second half is paved with vintage shops, local boutiques, cosy cafés, street food stalls, fucked up looking bars and loads of fashionable and artsy people.
Vintage stores + markets
The following are by far not all the vintage stores and markets in the East End but rather a compilation of some places that I like.
1. Beyond Retro
This is definitely one of my favourite vintage stores of all time – there is something for everyone here. I would say it is one of the biggest stores around Brick Lane and not overpriced (as many other stores are) but at the same time with super cool and unique clothes. I have made so many bargains here. Walking to Beyond Retro, which is just off Brick Lane on Cheshire Street, you will pass by loads of alternative places, such as Taylor Taylor London, a tiny but super stylish hair salon, the Cloak and Dagger Tattoo Parlour, where you can get your next old school tattoo made in London, or the Duke of Uke, a shop dedicated to Ukuleles.
Location: 110-112 Cheshire Street, London, E2 6EJ
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 10am to 6pm
Yet another great vintage store – any retro fan will love it here! The interior of the store is beautifully designed and has a modern yet charming atmosphere. The ground floor is neatly arranged, including a little café right next to the entrance and some of the clothes that are for sale but my personal highlight here is the huge assortment of retro books. You will find all the classics, such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde or Lewis Carroll. Every book is three or four pounds, so it would be a sin to not take some of them home. Those of you who do not care much about books should go to the basement, which is where the Blitz displays most of their clothes – it is huge down there. However, it is a bit more expensive than Beyond Retro, but nevertheless worth a visit.
Location: 55-59 Hanbury Street, London, E1 5JP
Opening times: Monday – Saturday: 11am to 7pm, Sunday: 12 Midday to 6pm
This is a more upscale vintage store with a great choice of clothes (especially loving their extensive assortment of Levis and Wrangler jeans shorts) right opposite of the East End’s one and only Religion store. Rokit also has a comprehensive range of men’s clothing.
Location: 101 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SE
Opening Times: Monday – Friday: 11am to 7pm, Saturday – Sunday: 10am to 7pm
You love dressing up in original 20’s drop waist dresses? Then the Vintage Emporium is your store. Just off Brick Lane, on Bacon Street, you can find beautiful clothes out of eras long gone. However, it is a bit pricey, so make sure to rob your piggy bank before coming here. Best of all though, the Vintage Emporium has the most amazing little café on the level above the store (the store is in the basement). It looks like a super cosy living room with rocking chairs and couches and roses hanging from the ceiling. It is simply a MUST to go there when being in the area! And while being there, you should have one of their delicious homemade cakes or scones, together with a hot apple and cinnamon drink. If you are lucky, there might even be live music by some up and coming, folksy, singer/songwriter.
Location: 14 Bacon Street, London, E1 6LF
Opening Times Shop: Monday – Sunday: 10am to 7pm
Opening Times Café: Monday – Sunday: 10am to 10pm
This might be the biggest vintage market I have ever seen. You will be able to find everything here, from classic Burberry trench coats to your favourite retro glasses. The prices vary a lot – you can definitely make a good bargain if you look thoroughly.
Location: F Block, 85 Brick Lane, London E1 6SA
Opening Times: Thursday – Friday 11am to 5.30pm, Saturday: 11am to 6pm, Sunday: 10am to 5pm
You want cheap? Go to the East End Thrift Store! This is admittedly not the prettiest of all retro stores around Brick Lane but definitely one of the cheapest, which does not mean that you cannot get cool clothes here, because you can. Again, it is a must to come here. The ground floor is a bit more upscale but as soon as you go downstairs you will know what I mean – loads and loads of clothes under 10 pounds.
Location: Unit 1a Assembly Passage, London, E1 4UT
Opening Times: Monday – Sunday: 11am to 6pm
Uhhh…the Sunday UpMarket…you HAVE to go here at some point! It is not solely a vintage market but a huge market including vintage clothes as well as local designers selling their clothes or edgy and fun arts and crafts. My personal highlight, however, is the food hall. Entering the market from Brick Lane, you will directly stand in the food hall, where you can find food from all over the world – this is perfect if you feel like trying new stuff. When I was still living around the corner from there, I would go to get some food at around 4pm, as the food is usually priced down by half. In summer you could then take your food through the other halls into the backyard of the Truman Brewery, where loads of benches and tables stand and get a refreshing drink from the Corbet Place Bar, or from one of the street food stalls out there (loooooads of street food stalls!). You could live at the Truman Brewery; there is simply everything you need – from bars over street food to record stores and funky hair salons. I spent many great Sundays here.
Location: The Old Truman Brewery, London, E1 6QL
Opening Times: Sunday: 10am to 5pm
Alright, these were my favourite vintage stores and markets in the East End. There are so many more, I know, but I did not want to overwhelm you with information and you will easily discover all the other cool places by walking through Brick Lane and by taking a turn once in a while.
Food + Cafés
We already covered two of my favourites for this category (sorry about that!!! I don’t seem to be too good with writing under the right heading), namely the Café/Tea Room at the Vintage Emporium as well as the Sunday UpMarket (here you simply have the biggest choice of street food ever!).
1. Brick Lane Beigel Bake
This really is not a gourmet place but it is essential for you to know of its existence and where it is situated, as it might save your life at some point! It looks quite unimpressive during the day and you won’t see many people ordering a bagel or any other (unusually large) pastry in there. But as soon as it gets dark and especially after the bell marks the last round in the pubs, loads of people go on a pilgrimage to the Bagel Shop. Everything is super cheap in there and at that time of the day, you will find it extremely delicious. They have all kinds of bagels but the most popular ones are: the salt beef bagel with mustard, and the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel. If you are not a big fan of bagels then you can choose from a rather extensive range of pastry and brownies or cake. For some reason everyone always goes to the Bagel Shop that is closer to the end of Brick Lane. There is another one just next to it, but I would advise you to go the Beigel Bake.
Location: 159 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB
2. The first half of Brick Lane
Next to all of those weird, hip and fun places to grab some food, there is of course the first half of Brick Lane, namely Banglatown. The street names thus appear in Bengali as well as English, Brick Lane looks like this: ব্রিক লেন. Just go into any of these restaurants – I tried many of them and they all were good. Do not be afraid to haggle with the guys in front of the doors and they will give you a really good price. I often had a three course dinner including one drink (or sometimes even a bottle of wine) for £10! Oh and ..if you are not a big fan of spicy food, go into one of these curry places anyway and then try a dish called ‘Korma’ – you will love it.
Jack the Ripper
You are probably wondering what this whole vintage tour has to do with Jack the Ripper, it’s simple – I have always been fascinated with the mysterious killings that happened around Whitechapel in 1888. Why did those five prostitutes have to die and who distorted them? It will probably remain a mystery forever…making it even more exciting to walk the streets of London’s East End.
(Jack the Ripper by Banksy. Source)
Brick Lane is paved with all kinds of graffiti – call it as you wish but I think its art and it certainly gives Brick Lane its peculiar charme. Here some impressions of Banksy and friends 😉
– Impish Furrie
(Pictures taken by Alina Siebert, Phoebe Nguyen and Natascha Asberger, unless otherwise referenced)