London’s Top 5 East-End Attractions
So much more than jellied eels and a TV soap, London’s East-End is now more commonly known for its entertainment, food and strong multicultural presence. For visitors, there’s plenty to see and do, often at a fraction of the price of central and west London prices.
East London has earned a reputation for being the centre of hipster culture. While the geographical boundaries are not set in stone, Shoreditch is generally considered the epicentre of this culture. It has a strong heritage as the home for creatives and it was not uncommon to see street art from Banksy on local walls at one time.
Despite its modern day veneer, the area remains steeped in social history and still has plenty to offer those with different interests. So without further ado, let’s dive into some of the best activities in East London for your visit.
1. Brick Lane
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Brick Lane is mostly famous for its rows of curry houses. No trip to East London would be complete without a visit, and the main challenge is choosing the best. Much like the ‘Best Pizza in New York’, everyone will have their own opinion on the best curry house on Brick Lane. Our advice is to ignore those touting for business outside – if they are doing so then they need the custom for a reason. Instead, make a beeline for Muhib. It’s great food served by attentive staff for a reasonable price.
It may surprise you to learn that Brick Lane originally hosted a large Jewish community. A few last bastions of this bygone age are still present. While the curry houses are delicious and plentiful, if you need dessert then a sweet bagel from Beigel Bake might be just what you’re after. Equally, if you haven’t already eaten, then the traditional salt-beef bagel is a must. Don’t expect 5* service, these guys are your traditional no-nonsense East-End types, but the food is delicious.
If shopping is more your thing, then the Truman Brewery Market hosts a huge indoor vintage market. Here you can pick up a range of vintage clothes and other eccentric items. Even if you have no intention of purchasing, the range of goods on offer makes for a perfect browsing opportunity while indulging in the epitome of hipster chic.
2. Spitalfields Market
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For a market that has been operating for over 350 years, Spitalfields looks great. Now host to a range of food, clothing, craft and souvenirs stores, the market has something to offer everyone. It’s housed inside an old food market, and the distractive architecture adds to the feeling of being in 17th century London.
Visitors can enjoy a range of products and services under one roof. Want to get the quintessential hipster haircut or beard taming? Barber Barber can help you out. Or maybe you would like to pick up a piece of modern art from a local up and coming artist? The art market can source something for you. For the hungry, there is a range of food trucks selling everything from Mexican wraps to vegan specialities.
3. Walking Tour
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With a slightly grittier feel, East London is not short of social history. You can find a range of family-friendly tours (Dickens, street art) to the more criminally minded (Krays, Jack the Ripper). Though most of the horror is generally delivered with flair from semi-professional actors, making them more palatable to those of a nervous disposition.
Tours will typically take you around the sites of greatest historical importance, and the guides are always enthusiastic and well-animated. Without getting swept up in grisly details, the tours often give a lot of historical context and paint a vivid picture of what life in the era was like. This is often brought to life even further by seeing the buildings and landmarks that people of the time frequented.
For those looking for a more family-friendly tour, the street art tours will often capture the imagination of younger visitors. As well as challenging older tourists to ask themselves – “is this art”? The response from most locals would be a resounding “yes”, and the local Truman Brewery plays host to an art gallery housing some of the more renowned pieces of street art.
4. Victoria Park
Victoria Park is one of East London’s largest public parks. The perfect place for a stroll to escape the urban sprawl and offers opportunities for cycling along one of its designated routes (pick up a Boris Bike nearby). Alternatively, you may wish to pick up one of the boats on the lake. For those taking a walk, be sure to drop by the huge Chinese pagoda that was originally part of the Chinese exhibit in the park during Queen Victoria’s reign. While the original was mostly destroyed during WW2, the restoration is now in place and the area is a perfect spot to spot and people watch while sipping a coffee from the nearby (and delicious) Pavilion Café.
If you visit on a Sunday, then there is also a farmer’s market offering a range of domestic and international cuisines. These range from gourmet cheese toasties to Sri Lankan curries. This makes for a perfect Sunday visit.
5. Museum of London Docklands
Credit: Mikel Parera via Unsplash
While the docklands may not instantly strike you as the most interesting of topics, the Thames and the Docklands area has played a major role in London’s history. Aside from the pomp and circumstance of Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, the Docklands gives an insight into how everyday Londoners worked. It also gives insights into how the waterway was an integral part of London’s social and political history.
Kids will love the stories of pirates and the interactive exhibits. Whereas adults will learn about the history of the waterway through the ages, from its role in the sugar trade, slavery and empire, to the modern day function as an international port.
Entrance is free!
While you are in the area, be sure to explore nearby Canary Wharf. As an antidote to the vintage kitsch of Shoreditch, the area is the financial hub of London, with skyscrapers as far as the eye can see.
While East London has earned a reputation for its artisan coffee shops, art galleries and hipster lifestyle, the area offers so much more. With our guide, visitors are sure to leave understanding the historical context of the area, just as much as where they can source the best vintage clothing. It truly has something for everyone.
As with all activities, do make sure you give enough time for any potential travel delays. Passengers should be back at Hammersmith Bus Station (Stop D) at least 15 minutes prior to the pre-booked departure time. Unfortunately, the coach is not able to wait if you are running late.
London transport costs vary. The London Underground will be a lower-cost alternative to a taxi or Uber. Remember walking is free!
All information was correct at the time of writing. However, please always check venues prior to travel in case of any changes due to COVID-19 or otherwise.