On my first time visiting London’s East End, I fell for the neighborhood hard and fast. Walking through the Old Spitalfields Market and making my way through Shoreditch, I knew this was my kind of spot. The London neighborhood is generally considered one of the coolest and it can definitely hold its own among the world’s most hipster cities.
East London is made up of several different neighborhoods and districts, which can be a bit difficult to wrap your head around. Shoreditch is probably the most familiar to tourists as it’s become the hipster hangout for people visiting from around the world. But elsewhere in the Borough of Hackney, and then further north in Dalston, there are more than a few cool things to do. Here are the top 5 cool tips for sightseeing in East London, though:
Eat curry on Brick Lane
Brick Lane may be touristic but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. East London has long been the home to many ethnic cultures from around the world, and around Brick Lane you’ll find authentic Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants. Go for a curry where you can haggle for the price of your dinner, bring your own drinks and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. On one tour in East London you even get the chance to enjoy a sit-down meal at one of Brick Lane’s more famous restaurants. Check out more photos and a review on A Dangerous Business.
Go vintage shopping in Shoreditch
Along Shoreditch High Street you’ll find shop-after-shop selling name-brand clothing. But if you look close enough, there are plenty of thrift and vintage shops around as well (Beyond Retro is one of the more popular warehouse vintage stores.). Or show up to Shoreditch on a Sunday during the Sunday (Up)Market at the Old Truman Brewery. Over 100 stalls set up here selling everything including ’70s bell-bottoms, vintage shoes, trendy t-shirts from local indie designers and even arts, crafts and music! The Brick Lane Sunday market is also a great place to find some used goods if you’re looking for a bargain.
Take a graffiti tour
Perhaps because of East London’s amalgamation of cultures, or perhaps just because the East End was always a bit of a dump, the streets here are covered in graffiti and street art. Banksy has left his mark in several places throughout, but you’ll also spot big London names such as Ben Ein or Stik. If art’s your thing but you find museums and galleries too stuffy, try taking a London street art tour. The Street Art London tours can be done either by foot or on bicycle.
Visit the Columbia Road Flower Market
Has there ever been such a pretty street market before? I think not! The Columbia Road Flower Market each Sunday transforms this quiet suburban street into a bustling smorgasbord of sights, sounds and scents. Street buskers perform, bars and pubs open their doors, and flower-sellers set up stalls hawking plants and flowers. There’s a bit of a quirky atmosphere here. On a Sunday when I visited the Flower Market, I saw everything from fresh oysters to accordions among the lively street market. It can be crowded directly on Columbia Road, but the side streets nearby will be just as atmospheric with half the crowd. It’s also a great place to find a typical East London pub to pass the time.
Drink cool cocktails in cool clubs
Nightlife in East London is some of London’s best. Rather than the posh clubs in central London, the ones in the East End are much more down-to-earth. Sure you’ve got your pretentious hipsters, but don’t let that keep you away. There’s the pub Bar Kick where you can order good drinks at good prices all while competing in foosball tournaments. Or Loungelover, which with its oriental décor and award-winning design is as impressive as its drink list. Or further north in East London you’ll find cool clubs in Dalston — especially the Dalston Superstore (popular for its hipster gay club nights) or the Ridley Road Market Bar which is less a club and more a hole-in-the-wall café and bar located smack in the middle of an African street market.
No matter your taste, East London’s nightlife has something for everyone. Which is the whole point of the East End regardless: be what you want to be, and just enjoy life. That’s the kind of place I want to visit.
About the author
Adam Groffman is the writer of a popular travel blog, TRAVELS OF ADAM, which focuses heavily on the most hip and cool things to do around the world. He’s also the editor of a gay travel website, My Gay Travel Guide. Follow him on Instagram and Pinterest to discover his latest cool travel finds.