But dig a little deeper under the arty markets of the 21st century, and you will find a murky, forbidding patchwork of historical happenings that are world renowned.
Did you know that this area was a Roman burial site? Among other valuable finds, a well to do Roman lady was discovered in an archaeological dig during the 1990s with a selection of fine silks about her person.
The name Spitalfields stuck from the 16th century, when the largest hospital in medieval England sat prominently in the gloom. The land behind St. Mary Spital was used as a cemetery, as in Roman times. So, literally, in local dialect, this place was known as ‘Spital (as in hospital) fields.’
And guess which English monarch appeared through the ominous fog and stench on his horse with a small army and smashed the place to smithereens? I’m Henry the VIII I am I am.
But don’t worry, it’s not all death and destruction.
The East End of London has traditionally been a place that immigrants have landed, made the place their own and left their own indelible, colourful mark, their unique contribution to the tapestry of London.
The French Huguenots were famous for introducing silk and textiles to the Fields, followed by the Irish settlers of the 1700s. These two groups didn’t always get along so well – the aftermath of the Spitalfield Riots was marked with a double public hanging, one French weaver, one Irish, outside a local pub.
Around this time, Jewish settlers came to the area, bringing skills in tailoring that continued and flourished right through to the late 1960s, followed by the Bangladeshi community, who have made Spitalfields the curry epicentre of London.
But the 1800s were a pretty dismal period for Spitalfields, as slum housing and social desperation encouraged a hotbed of crime. Ladies of the night plied for trade as moustached Victorian gentlemen stumbled from boozer to boozer, staggering up dark alleyways, policemen on each corner, a whistle never far from their bristles.
And of course, a brief trot through the history of our locality is incomplete without a mention of the most infamous serial killer of all, ‘you can’t catch me,’ Jack the Ripper.
Fast forward to today, though, and take a breath. Because for a truly unforgettable, artistic, enriching experience, Spitalfields is unbeatable.
And, oh, the markets… silks, fashionable clothes, fruits, flowers, furniture, art galleries, cafes, fish and chips…
For more information about this historical gem, visit: http://spitalfieldslife.com/