Things to do near Aldgate East
Grab a bite (although does it have to be curry?)
London’s famous Brick Lane is right next to the station, with its myriad of curry houses for you to sample. The bad news is, most or Brick Lane’s fame dates back to another time, when the food here was actually good. Nowadays it is best avoided, but if you get seduced by the tantalizing smells and the touts outside…well, who knows, you might get lucky. Otherwise I’d suggest snacking – buy a samosa or two in one shop, some colourful Bengali sweets in another, a salt beef bagel in one of the two famous bagel shops, then drop into one of the cosy cafes for a tea or hit the bars. Do you get annoyed/intimidated by the touts who try to drag you into the curry houses? The best technique is to smile, nod, and walk away…keep walking. Don’t stop. It’s not impolite. You’re fine.
But if you do wish to have a full meal, try Yuu Kitchen on Commercial Street for a truly enjoyable experience. They do ‘Asian tapas’, with dishes from South East and East Asia available to share. Excellent vegetarian options too, so bring your friends with you.
Check out some modern art
The Whitechapel Gallery is not, as the name suggests, in Whitechapel, but right near the Aldgate East station. It’s a small but funky gallery, which will appeal to true lovers of modern art. What do I mean by that? If you generally find modern art a bit annoying, you’d be better off visiting Tate Modern. This place is more niche, with some pieces being truly mind-boggling. But if you adore a challenge, it is a place for you. It has a pretty nice bookshop too, and the coffee is good. The gallery is generally free, although some exhibitions are ticketed. On Thursdays you can visit late – until 9pm, and there will be various events, free guided tours and activities available.
Visit the crown jewels and the crows
The London Tower is a 15-20 minute walk away from Aldgate East, but if you have some time on your hands, it’s probably the most interesting landmark around, or certainly one that I like to return to a lot. If you can, join a tour led by one of the eccentric yeomen (look out for guys in funny dress). These are included in the admission price. Otherwise, have a wander by yourself, making sure to visit the crown jewels, the torture exhibition and the Bloody Tower. Whilst walking around, look out for the cutesy crows, who are said to be the guardians of the Tower (although, ironically, they are the prisoners since their wings are clipped). There are usually some interactive displays and events on as well, so if waving a sword around is your thing, the London Tower might just be the place.
Have a browse at the Spitalfields Market
Spitalfields market is big, old and plentiful. Expect to find one-of-a-kind pieces of art, fashion and homeware, although you will need to have a good eye as there is quite a lot to take in. The main market is open every day. Then there is a special Arts Market for art lovers every month, which offers a good mix of affordable art alongside pieces from well-known artists. Saturdays, on the other hand, are when the market specialises in fashion and homeware, so do pop in if your wardrobe needs updating.