From Aldgate station turn left, and at the first junction go left into the pedestrian subway, leaving it at exit 11. This is Middlesex Street, with the famous Petticoat Lane market awash with cheap jeans and leather coats. Walk through it, cross the zebra crossing, then turn right into Wentworth Street. Turn left up Toynbee Street and look out for the plaque on the flats to your left marking the birth there in 1884 of the former Labour cabinet minister Manny Shinwell. Where the street joins Commercial Road, the overpowering Christ Church comes into view. Regarded by many as the finest of Nicholas Hawksmoor's early 18th-century churches, it fell into near-ruin in the 1950s but, by a determined local effort, it is now slowly being restored.
Turn down Fournier Street, on the north side of the church. Many of its solid brick houses survive from the 1720s, when Huguenot weavers moved into the district. Their broad attic windows were designed to provide the weavers with as much light as possible.
At the end of the street on the left is the London Jamme Masjid mosque - a building that encapsulates the area's ethnic history. Built in 1743 as a Huguenot chapel, it became a synagogue and now serves the Bengali community whose locale we are about to enter.
Turning left on Brick Lane, you encounter the sights and scents of the Bengali shops - the bright saris and the pungent spices. On your right, Hanbury Street is lined with one neon-lit restaurant after another. Keeping ahead, you pass the Truman Black Eagle Brewery, with parts dating from the 18th century.
Just beyond the railway bridge is a faded street sign saying 'This is Sclater Street'. At the lights turn right onto Bethnal Green Road, just after the Post Office, turn left and follow Barnet Grove to its end, and turn left onto Columbia Road.
This short road comes to vivid life every Sunday when it is the venue for London's biggest flower and plant market: spring bulbs are the current best buy. Do not fail to make a detour down Ezra Street on the right, for its flowerpot factory, bakery and delicatessen.
At the Birdcage pub, turn left and take an immediate right on the footpath through Newmans Estate, then follow Virginia Road. Turn left down Hocker Street to Arnold Circus, with its raised bandstand surrounded by plane trees. This is part of the Boundary Road estate, the first council estate built by the old London County Council.
Leave the Circus at its western exit, Calvert Avenue. On the right is the early Georgian St Leonard's Church, immortalised in 'when I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch'. It is open Mon-Fri between noon and 2pm. When closed thewell-tended garden is worth a walk around. A set of ancient stocks can be found in the north-west corner.
Pass the front of the church and cross the road at the lights by Syd's Original Coffee Stall, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Head west along
Rivington Street. On the left is the Tramshed, which was once just that but is now an exhibition space. Until Sunday you can see the extraordinary surrealist sculptures of Malcolm Poynter (noon -7.30pm daily).
Keep straight ahead and
follow Great Eastern Street to Old Street Station. Cross by the subway, leaving at exit 6, and walk down Old Street, turning left at the lights down Bunhill Row.
Turn left opposite the Artillery Arms into Bunhill Fields, the old non-Conformist burial ground. When you get
to the brick hut, the tombs of Daniel Defoe and William Blake are on your left, while to your right rests John Bunyan.
This is non-Conformist territory. As you leave the cemetery, the Methodist John Wesley's house and chapel are immediately in front of you. Turn right here and cross the road into Finsbury Square, passing the bowling green and flower beds.
Leave the square from the opposite corner and turn east down Sun Street. At its end turn right into the Broadgate Centre, one of London's best new office developments. Go across or around the arena and turn left into Liverpool Street, crossing the first floor gallery of the renovated station.
When you get to Bishopsgate turn left, then right up Brushfield Street to Spitalfields Market, now containing tennis and badminton courts, and a small weekday market, surrounded by interesting eating places. Walk back to Liverpool Street for the tube.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content