If you and your friends are up for laughs, quirky fashion, and a bit of history, a stroll through Brick Lane in East London may be in order. This used to be a dodgy area — it was Jack the Ripper’s turf, after all — but the grime of the Victorian Era has long been washed away, replaced with fabulously inventive street murals and vibrant shops. Instead of not-so-great smells from the crowded streets of the 19th Century, today intoxicating aromas emanate from dozens of fantastic curry houses, drawing you in for a taste. For those you can thank the local Bangladeshi community, which keeps a strong presence even as Brick Lane becomes a trendy artist hub.
You and your mates make your way along the Brick Lane marketplace, digging up one-of-a-kind gems in the vintage clothing shops and designer boutiques, and stopping to marvel at the brilliant street art. If anyone in your group is a music fan, pay a visit to legendary Rough Trade East, one of the biggest and most respected record stores in the city. As you walk through the cavernous space–the site was originally a brewery–be on the lookout for cutting-edge music to liven up your next party. Time your visit right and you’ll enjoy an in-store concert from some buzzy young band, a pleasant surprise on a day out with friends. As you continue your adventure, you can’t resist a jaunt into the Bernstock Speirs hat boutique, where you take turns trying on Instagram-worthy rabbit-ear caps and beanies with bridal veils incongruously attached.
When the rumbling in your stomach gets too loud to ignore, seek out a curry house for a satisfying lunch. The most famous is Aladin, where the menu is overflowing with Kashmiri specialties. While your friends get mild balti dishes, you boldly ask for the spicy chicken jalfrezi. After the first fiery bite puts tears in your eyes, the waiter brings you a cool mango lassi yoghurt drink, which you gratefully sip as your friends chuckle.
After you’ve finally managed to push away from the table, take a little walk to the Ten Bells pub to pay homage to the Brick Lane of yore. The gorgeously intricate tile walls and comfortable vibe belie the place’s dark past: This was the spot where Jack the Ripper stalked his first victims in 1888. It also happens to have a decent beer selection, so order pints of Bombardier and share your own theories about the Ripper’s true identity. After the sensory overload of bright street art and a hectic market scene, you’ll find this comfortable pub–murder mysteries notwithstanding–quite welcoming indeed.