Jewish London has a fascinating history, full of interesting tales and incredible people. But the stories are not necessarily widely known, particularly to those who do not have Jewish heritage. Taking a tour of of London can help rectify this, with experienced guide Stephen Burstin on-hand to show visitors around the city and inform all about the secrets of its long-established Jewish community.
Jewish London Walking Tours are available at various times throughout the week. These include both public and private tours, with advance booking required for each via the company website. Public tours run on most Sunday mornings and midweek evenings, while private tours can be booked at any time of the week – on mornings, afternoons and evenings.
Booking a Jewish walking tour
If you’re interested in taking a Jewish walking tour, there are a number of different options to choose from. Each is taken at a relaxed and gentle pace, meaning the walks are suited to people of all ages. Stephen also offers tours which include short strolls and travel in a minivan, which take in large sections of the capital.
Here is a quick rundown of the tours available:
1. Spitalfields and Aldgate
This tour takes in the narrow alleyways and backstreets of these two districts of the Old Jewish Quarter in London’s East End. Highlights include Bevis Marks, England’s oldest synagogue dating back over 300 years, the Jewish Soup Kitchen and the first Yiddish theatre in England.
2. Jewish West End
Soho and Fitzrovia – two districts in the heart of the West End – are full of fascinating Jewish history, focused on communities which continued to thrive in the area until 75 years ago. The tour explains how impoverished people lived just yards away from the very wealthy, and how Hebrew school pupils studied alongside the ladies of Soho’s red light district. It takes in the famous Berwick Street, Dean Street and Frith Street among other sites.
3. Stepney and Whitechapel
There are many interesting sites to see in this part of London’s Old Jewish Quarter, including a 300-year-old Jewish cemetery hidden in a modern setting, a tiny synagogue dwarfed by a neighbouring Mosque, Yiddish theatres, a pub where potato latke was a popular dish, the Jewish Hospital and Jewish Market. The tour visits the area where Oswald Mosley’s fascists were driven back by Jewish activists during the celebrated Battle of Cable Street in 1936.
4. London’s Famous Attractions
This tour – which utilises a minivan – takes in many of London’s most popular tourist attractions, each with a Jewish slant of course. At Buckingham Palace, it explains the Jewish bloodline into which Prince William is said to have married, and at the Tower of London it recalls the fate of 18 leading Jews who were wrongly prosecuted. Outside Downing Street, the tour details the little-known Jewish ancestry of the current prime minister, while there are also interesting tales to tell at Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and the Houses of Parliament.
5. Jewish Heroes and Villains
This tour of the East End celebrates the fantastic achievements of members of the Jewish community – such as the first Jew to win the Victoria Cross – while also maligning some of its more infamous members – including several notorious Jewish gangsters. It celebrates the colourful characters and personalities who have contributed to life in this area over the decades.
6. Willesden Jewish Cemetery
The Willesden Jewish Cemetery tour takes in the resting place of many famous Jews, along with unknown members of the community. People have been buried at this place for 140 years, and many of them have had a real impact on the local community and the country as a whole.
7. Grand Tour Extravaganza
This four-hour tour takes in all the highlights of the various tours, including Bevis Marks, the Jewish Soup Kitchen, Petticoat Lane Market and the major London tourist attractions, such as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. This is a ‘greatest hits’ option for those who can’t decide which of the individual tours to book on to.
Here’s what guide Stephen Burstin has to say about Jewish London Walking Tours:
“As a specialist guide of Jewish London with over 25 years experience conducting tours, I will give you an insider’s view – past and present – that is not found in any guide book. I delight in sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm for this lovely city, a legacy from my parents who gave me a unique insight into the amazing story of Jewish life in London where I was born.
“On all my conducted tours I recount heartwarming and heartbreaking tales about people and places. I will introduce you to colourful characters from the past and point out many sites of great interest… and some are little known!”
Montcalm hotels are best option to stay and see these locations.