Spitalfields Market

One of our favourite places to take guests on our Eat the East End food tour is Spitalfields market. Here we talk about the history of the market and what you can expect to see when you visit today.

The Beginning of Spitalfields Market

After the great fire of London in 1666, the areas to the east of the city became hubs for markets and trade. 

In 1682 King Charles II granted a royal charter that allowed a market to take place every Thursday and Saturday in Spital Square. The market quickly established itself as one of the city’s most popular fruit and vegetable markets.  

Business throughout the 18th century flourished. For this reason, the area attracted French Huguenot immigrants weavers. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 meant French Protestants were forced to flee France.

Those who arrived in the East End of London brought their silk weaving businesses with them. Some of the weavers’ homes can still be found today on Fournier Street. 

The French weavers were later followed by Irish weavers who had to emigrate from Ireland due to a decline in the linen trade. This influx of people led to the building of a church in the Spitalfields area – Hawksmoor’s magnificent Christ Church, a site we recommend you visit.

Spitalfields’ Decline

During the 19th century the market declined and it became known for cheaper, less desirable goods. 

The low costs made it an attractive area for new immigrants to settle. It was at this time that many Jews from across Europe settled here, many fleeing anti-semitic attacks in the Russian Empire. The area became one of the largest Jewish districts in probably all of Europe, home to a staggering forty synagogues. 

But the Jewish community would also gradually move out as other areas of the city came into their own, enjoying their own boom periods. By the mid-20th century, the area was a shadow of its former self. 

Towards the end of the 20th century, the market itself was closed down and moved to the outskirts of London.

Spitalfields Market Today

Spitalfields Market Today

The area began to go through a period of cultural renewal in the 1970s as large numbers of Bangladeshis arrived, bringing with them their vibrant culture and amazing cuisine. Conditions, though, were still far from ideal. 

In the early 2000s, a process of redevelopment was begun and today Spitalfields Market is a must-visit for food lovers in London. 

Open every day, the market is full of some of London’s most well-loved food stalls. You can find anything here, from artisan pizza vans to Sri Lankan curry stalls. The market’s historic roof has been kept which gives a really cool atmosphere.

There’s also a really good section for local artists and fashion designers. It’s the perfect place to find that unique gift to take home!

Next door, there is also the Old Spitalfields Market, another space offering unique gifts, vintage items, and unmissable food and drink. 

Though often thought of as one market, Spitalfields Market and Old Spitalfields Market are two separate entities. However, they’re right next door to each other and both offer a dizzying amount of choices! 

What to Eat in Spitalfields Market?

On our London food tours, we like to come to Spitalfields and try some amazing dishes. A great place to visit is the Dumpling Shack. These guys make amazing Shanghai dumplings. There might be a queue but it moves pretty quickly and is well worth joining. 

We also love the Chai Guys who have a small stall knocking out some amazing Chai. Perfect for a cold London morning.

There are always some new stalls popping up so it’s worth a walk around before you choose what to eat.

To find out more about Spitalfields market and all of the delicious food offerings there, consider joining us on our London East End Food Tour – a great way to discover London and some of its hidden food gems!

If you have any questions regarding this blog or our tours, please get in touch

A bowl of Dumpling shacks famous dumplings.