Gilbert and George's essential guide to London Life: from pubs and galleries... to palaces

Gilbert and George with today’s specially designed front cover of the Evening Standard (ES)
Gilbert and George with today’s specially designed front cover of the Evening Standard (ES)

1)The East End

Gilbert: London is the place for artists, and especially east London. We have lived and worked in here since 1968 and at the time there was huge excitement in the area. The Whitechapel Gallery, in particular, was very important at that time. World famous. Now there are so many other galleries as well. The East End is still full of artists, and it’s still the centre of London art.

George: Here in London we’ve felt like we were living in the middle of the world.


George: The first thing you find out when you arrive in London, is where is the cheapest place? And the cheapest place when we arrived was Spitalfields.

Gilbert: It’s been an amazing journey for us to make this crazy art and go out in the world from here. We’ve done more than 105 big museum shows. It was important that it was cheap, that we were able to live here as artists because we were poor.

George: It’s a historic centre of the world as well. Ours is a French built street on a Roman cemetery. It’s extraordinary, the whole bloody world is here. There are Jewish history tour groups, Huguenot tours, Jack the Ripper tours too, sadly.


George: To us the Palace of Westminster is freedom. So many European visitors come to the Houses of Parliament and think, ‘My God’. Not just because of the building but what it represents. Many see it as this great example of democracy and freedom.

4)Buckingham Palace


George: Every tourist who comes here from around the world goes to see Buckingham Palace. However many twits run around outside with signs saying ‘Not my king’, the royal family persists internationally. The love for Queen Elizabeth in the world was extraordinary. She was more loved and respected than any film star.

Gilbert: We have the image of the Queen in our pictures and have done since 1968.

George: She’s been such a big part of our lives. Will King Charles appear in our work? We shall see. He’s part of the modern movement, he’s an amateur painter. He likes architecture, ecology and is supportive of the arts

Gilbert: I always liked King Charles.

5)Mangal 1

Gilbert: We eat there every night. We used to walk 45 minutes – it’s in Stoke Newington – but then we stopped doing that because we’re getting old, so we get a bus up or a taxi up.

George: That’s where these pictures come from because on the way you pass 30 newsagents and you can see all these posters. Some are Evening Standard some are Hackney Gazette.

Gilbert: If we find a place that we like, we keep to that. For 10 or 15 years, we went to a Korean restaurant in Highbury and Islington. Every single night. But then it closed and we found this Turkish one, and we love it. We’re part of the family there.

George: All of our friends are always agonising over where they are going to have dinner tomorrow. We don’t have to worry, our heads are free and we always go to the same one. We always have the same. We’ve never read the menu. We know all the members of staff.

6)Nilly’s and Sizzles cafes

George: Nilly’s is a Turkish café in Spitalfields market and Sizzles is near Aldgate. We go here in the morning to get marmalade toast and two cups of tea to take away for our breakfast. Sizzles is the only place in London that is still run by a real cockney lady. She’s called Carol.

7)The Golden Heart

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

George: If you want to meet young artists go to The Golden Heart, the east London art pub.

Gilbert: Maybe not so much now but it was extraordinary…. It’s run by our favourite lady of all time. Sandra Esquilant has been the landlady for more than 40 years. She comes and brings us snacks because she knows we haven’t got a kitchen.

8)Brick Lane

George: The greatest high street in London. People have to go to Brick Lane. It used to be so rough in the Seventies. Tramps would come into restaurants and grab handfuls of your dinner. There were three huge hostels here for damaged people nearby. There were damaged people from the First World War, the Second World War and a whole different group damaged by the sex laws pre-decriminalisation. There were all these groups and so many people sleeping rough.

That’s why when we went to a junk shop in north London and saw the record Underneath the Arches, it became our living sculpture. We didn’t buy it because we knew the song. We understood it because they were underneath the arches here sleeping rough. They’ve been replaced by a younger group of drug addicts, the modern equivalent today.

Gilbert: We went through amazing periods, and there were periods when this was the rough place of the East End of London. Then everybody wanted to move here, artistic people.

George: Times change.

9)The White Cube

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

Gilbert: This was our favourite gallery in London when it was in Hoxton, though that site has closed now – they have one on Bermondsey Street and another on Mason’s Yard now. We have done a number of shows at White Cube including London Pictures in 2011. It was a gallery that moved people east when it arrived. It was exciting.

10) Liverpool Street

George: If a spaceship landed on earth and the aliens said they had just 10 minutes to report back and asked where to go for a typical place on planet earth, we’d say Liverpool Street Station. The general hubbub, the shops, the city, the clubs, pubs, everything is there, the centre of the universe is Liverpool Street station.

The second exhibition at The Gilbert & George Centre, London Pictures, is open now; for more information visit

Competition giveaway!

We are giving away 50 signed copies of the Evening Standard front page artwork by Gilbert and George. To enter, like and comment on the post below, follow @evening.standard or @esculture AND @gilbertandgeorgecentre for a chance to win.Full T&Cs on the Instagram post