London’s East End has always been a melting pot for cultures and creative from all over the world. The last few years has seen a boom in even more exciting places to explore, learn, wine, dine and even just people watch. Having made East London my home for a decade now, I never tire of living here. It is fun, interesting and there is always something new to check out. Here is my insider guide with some ideas on how to make the most of your visit to what many of us consider the creative heart of London.
Visit a pop-up restaurant/art gallery/theatre/café/market
The East End is so open to experimental “pop-ups” that it is impossible to list them all. One of the most successful has been Street Feast which runs every summer weekend in Dalston Yard and is cheap, fun and always delicious. For pop-up shops, restaurants and art galleries go straight to Shoreditch High Street’s Box Park where its mall of shipping containers hosts an ever-changing line up of pop-up shops that sell everything from headphones to shoes to bubble tea.
Make the most of the East End’s markets
No weekend in the East End is complete without a visit to the markets. Broadway Market on a Saturday is always great fun. On Sunday, Columbia Flower Market, Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Petticoat Lane should all be any London itinerary. All of these are close to the Travelodge in Aldgate East and Liverpool Street. Peckish? Then a salt-beef beigel from one of the century old traditional Jewish bakeries at the North end of Brick Lane may well be what’s in order.
Walk and learn
The East End starts at the Tower of London which is also the starting point for several Jack the Ripper Tours. If you’re keen to go modern and learn all about street art the Alternative London Tour frequently gets rave reviews. Walk Eat Talk Eat tours do exactly what their name says.
Get an award winning haircut or take a music video dance class
Taylor Taylor on Commercial Street has been voted London’s best salon several times and they serve delicious cocktails for you to sip on while they do a gorgeous job of your hair. A great time to visit could be after you take a music video dance class at Frame Shoreditch who rotate Madonna with Beyonce, Michael Jackson and all the greats.
Have an amazing meal no matter what your budget
Skip Brick Lane’s curry houses and head to Needoo in Whitechapel for outstanding grilled meats, naans and curries, My Old Place, close to the Travelodge in Bethnal Green, for exceptional Szechuan Chinese food for under a tenner, or splash out and have an incredible steak at Spitalfields’ Hawksmoor. Visit Kingsland Road for its Vietnamese restaurants, everyone has their own favourite (the VietGrill is always a hit!).
Be a cool kid and head to one of many bars in Hoxton Square and Old Street
So many to choose from; but you won’t go wrong with turning up to Hoxton Square and picking the buzziest looking bar.
Have the kids in tow? Then a visit to one of the East End’s several city farms is in order. Stepney and Hackney farms both have fantastic cafes and host a range of activities for the little ones. The adventure playground in Stratford’s Olympic Park and the Docklands Museum are also highly rated.
Enjoy your stay in the East End, it truly is a wonderful part of London to explore.