Krista the Explorer
Things To Do In and Around Whitechapel
Updated: Feb 19, 2022
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Whitechapel is one area of London that I hadn’t thought of visiting before. It’s not your usual tourist destination and doesn’t have as many attractions as other areas of London. But it’s not without its charm. I was surprised to find so many things to do in Whitechapel, as well as nearby in Spitalfields. It has a great food scene, and a lot of unique vintage shops to hop between. It also has a large artistic community which brings the streets to life. Not to mention its multi-cultural history that’s still very present today.
The history of Whitechapel isn’t the most pleasant. In the Victorian period, Whitechapel was considered to be the worst district in London’s East End, with sweatshops, slums, and overcrowding making it a no-go part of the city. And it didn’t help when Jack the Ripper came on the scene. Today though, Whitechapel is a vibrant area of London and a bustling part of the city’s East End. There are plenty of things to do near Whitechapel as well which are easily accessible by foot. We spent quite a lot of our recent trip to London exploring this area and really enjoyed ourselves. Here are some ideas for things to do in and around Whitechapel.
The first attraction in Whitechapel that you’ll come across, if you’ve taken the underground, is the Whitechapel Gallery. Opened in 1901, the gallery has played host to a number of important temporary exhibitions, and even exhibited Picasso’s Guernica in 1938. It was one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in London, and visiting it is still one of the best things to do in Whitechapel. Entry to the Whitechapel Gallery is free, but they do host a couple of ticketed exhibitions every year.
Brick Lane gets its name from the 15th century brick and tile manufacturers who set up shop here, and today walking along Brick Lane is one of the best things to do in Whitechapel. It’s now considered to be one of the cool areas of London, with its vintage shops, vibrant art, and extensive exhibition spaces. Of course, you can’t forget about the curry shops along here either. The 18th century Brick Lane Mosque is an important feature of the street as well. You’ll also notice the large chimney of Truman Brewery towering over the street. The brewery was established in the 17th century, and its warehouses are now home to over 250 businesses. No Whitechapel tour is complete without exploring Brick Lane!
Brick Lane Vintage Market
If you like vintage clothing, you’re going to want to check out the Brick Lane Vintage Market. They have over 40 independent shops to choose from, making them one of London’s biggest vintage retail markets. You can find pretty much anything here dating from the 1920's onward. It’s not cheap though so don’t expect massive bargains. They’re located in the basement of one of the Truman Brewery warehouses and are open every day. If you have time, ATIKA is a vintage clothing shop spread out over two floors in a Victorian warehouse which is pretty interesting to shop in.
One thing you’ll notice about some of the areas of Whitechapel, particularly around Brick Lane, is the street art. Brick Lane runs right through the heart of the East End, connecting Whitechapel to Shoreditch, and has long been a popular spot for both local and international artists. It’s one of the most famous spots in the country for street art, so I would highly recommend checking it out even if it’s not necessarily your thing. If it is your thing though, there are a lot of urban street art tours in London that you can go on which cover Whitechapel and Brick Lane.
Wondering where to eat in Whitechapel? Look no further than The Buxton, located along Brick Lane. This modern pub serves seasonal dishes, which are both British and European inspired. They use local food suppliers to ensure their products are of the highest and freshest quality, and also make good use of the garden on their rooftop. Make sure you order three courses so you can taste a wide variety of flavours! The Buxton also doubles as a hotel, so not only is it a unique place to eat in London, you can also enjoy a relaxing sleep in the comfort of one of their modern rooms.
The Beigel Shop
At the far end of Brick Lane, as you make your way towards Shoreditch, you’ll come across a couple of beigel shops. Brick Lane is known for its beigels, so while we were in the area we knew we had to stop and try one. We chose to visit The Beigel Shop, with its yellow storefront. It dates back to 1855 and claims to be the first beigel shop in London! They still use their original recipe and offer a variety of different beigels with fillings - and desserts too!
You’re probably wondering if beigels and bagels are the same thing. Beigels come from the Jewish community and are boiled first before baking, and typically aren’t served toasted. Whereas bagels are more Americanized and are the standard ones you’d find in a store. Pretty similar but slightly different. We arrived at The Beigel Shop just after noon and they only had plain bagels left, so if you want a choice of bagels make sure you get there earlier. I opted for a cream cheese filling which is always my go-to. It’s also not a bad idea to take one of their desserts with you to snack on as you explore Brick Lane.
Visiting the Bell Foundry is something you have to do in Whitechapel. Although it’s now closed to the public, it’s played an important role in both British and American history. Not only is the foundry the original manufacturer of the Liberty Bell in America, it also re-cast Big Ben. The foundry made bells for more than 450 years, and was located in Whitechapel for over half of that time. Even though you can’t take a tour of the foundry anymore, it’s a very unique tourist attraction in Whitechapel to say that you’ve been to.
East London Mosque
Just next to the Bell Foundry is where you’ll find the East London Mosque. It’s a very impressive building to look at, and is the largest mosque in the UK. Not only that, it’s also one of the largest mosques in Europe, which is pretty remarkable. With its close proximity to other key attractions in Whitechapel, it’s worth taking a short walk to and taking a photo of from across the road.
The Gherkin is one of the most recognizable buildings along London’s skyline. It’s only a short distance from Whitechapel, so you can easily get to it on foot. Although the building is not open to the public, you can still visit its panoramic restaurant and cocktail bar on the top floor. It’s a unique thing to see near Whitechapel if you have some spare time.
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Whitechapel, one of them has to be a quick visit to Rinkoff Bakery. This Jewish family-run bakery was established in 1911 and is still producing some of the best handmade baked goods around. There are plenty of things to choose from, including traditional challah bread, but what we went for were the crodoughs. These croissant-donut hybrids were born in New York City, but have been perfected at Rinkoff Bakery. They have a lot of flavours to choose from, so it’s probably going to be the most difficult decision of your day. As if this wasn’t enough, they have rainbow bagels. And you really can’t say no to such a colourful bagel. Especially filled with cream cheese.
Less than five minutes from The Buxton is its sister pub, The Culpeper. It’s named after a 17th century botanist and physician who helped treat people who weren’t able to afford medical care. The interior is very modern but still in keeping with a traditional English pub. Upstairs you can dine in their restaurant, and they also offer a few bedrooms for guests to stay in. We visited for cocktails which were being served in the pub on the ground floor, which were delicious. It’s a great place to meet friends for a drink or two!
Not far from Whitechapel, near Spitalfields market, is the impressive 18th century Christ Church. It’s one of the most well-known churches in London, and is often used for events such as opera and classical music performances. In the 1980's, the church’s crypt underwent an excavation that helped to change how archaeological dating is done, with 1000 bodies being found. Even if the church isn’t open, it should definitely be on your list of things to do near Whitechapel.
Old Spitalfields Market
If Victorian Market Halls are your thing, then you’ll love walking around Old Spitalfields Market. It was built in 1876, but a market has stood on this site since the 1600's. There’s a great mixture of handmade goods, clothes, and other accessories for sale at the various stalls. The big draw for us though was the food. We visited this market several times during our trip to London so that we could sample the different cuisines. Make sure you try the Dumpling Shack while you’re here!
Dennis Severs' House
Very close to Old Spitalfields Market is a very odd tourist attraction near Whitechapel - Dennis Severs’ House. The house itself dates back to 1724, and was lived in by Dennis Sever between 1979 and 1999. He transformed the house into a living museum, with each room recreated in a different historic style. The house is exactly how he left it when he died, and guests are asked to imagine they’re taking a journey to another time. It’s one of the most unique and bizarre things to do near Whitechapel. The area around Dennis Severs’ House is lined with Victorian-style houses too, which make for great photo opportunities.
Jack the Ripper Tour
For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the name Whitechapel is Jack the Ripper. From 1888-1891, eleven murders were committed in London’s East End, and it’s believed that at least five of these murders were the work of the notorious serial killer. It goes without saying that one of the best things to do in Whitechapel is to take a Jack the Ripper Walking Tour then. There are a few companies who do this tour, so make sure you do some research beforehand and pick the best option for you.
Where To Stay in Whitechapel
If you’re looking where to stay in Whitechapel, The Corner Hotel is a great base to lay your head at. It’s located less than five minutes from Brick Lane and the nearest metro station, and is less than ten minutes from the Old Spitalfields Market.
It’s a very modern hotel with self check-in services, a popular bar and restaurant, and quirky hotel rooms that offer ultimate comfort. The Corner Hotel is also one of the best eco-friendly hotels in London, with its sustainable rooms made from recycled materials, solar panels, free bikes, and the option of foregoing room cleaning in return for a free drink at the bar. It’s a stunning forward-thinking hotel in the heart of London’s East End.
We stayed in one of their Plush Rooms which is big enough to sleep three adults. The organic bed is extremely comfortable to sleep in, with a large poster behind it, a TV attached to the end of the bed, and mood lights to help save on electricity usage. The designer bathroom includes a rain shower (which is amazing), organic toiletries, and fluffy towels. There was also a bowl of fresh fruit and a bottle of filtered water on the desk for us which was a nice added touch. There’s a coffee and tea making station at the end of the hallway rather than one in each room. The bed was so comfortable that we struggled to leave it in the morning!
There are a lot of places to eat breakfast at in Whitechapel, but you’d be hard pressed to beat the incredible buffet breakfast on offer at The Corner Hotel. There’s a great selection of continental items, fresh juices, hot food, and fruit available. You can even make your own pancakes at the press of a button with their pancake machine! They also have a good lunch and dinner menu available, which is open to everyone, not just guests of the hotel. We stayed here for four nights, after visiting Camden, and ate dinner at the hotel for two of those nights, that’s how much we enjoyed the food. The Pale Ale Mac ‘n’ Cheese is delicious and is one dish I would recommend. It’s definitely one of the best places to eat in Whitechapel - and it’s a bit of a hidden gem! The next time you’re in London, give Whitechapel a try and check-in to The Corner Hotel for a fantastic experience.
>> Click here for the most up to date prices at The Corner Hotel <<
Whitechapel may not be one of the most visited areas of London among tourists, but it’s certainly worth adding to your list if you’ve never been before. You can easily spend a day in Whitechapel and see all of the main attractions, but to really get a feel for the area and explore it in more depth, I’d recommend spending at least two nights here. It’s a great base to explore other parts of London from, such as Euston Square and Bermondsey, as well!
Have you been to Whitechapel before? If so, let me know what you enjoyed the most about the area in the comment section below. And please stay in touch through Instagram, where you can keep up to date with my latest adventures and travel tips.
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