I’m approaching my third year as an expat in Sydney but in my heart I’ll always be a London girl. I lived in trendy East London for 12 years and never ran out of cool things to see, do and eat. From Cereal Killer Cafes to the Columbia Road Flower Market, here are 10 of the best things to do in East London, according to an ex-Londoner who misses her corner of the city.
How To Get To East London
When people refer to ‘East London’ they are not necessarily talking about the whole east side of the city but rather the hipster suburbs found near what was historically known as the ‘East End’. The main areas of interest are Shoreditch, Hoxton, Aldgate and Whitechapel, which are all within easy reach of Liverpool Street Station.
If you’re flying into London, therefore, you might want to consider flights to London City or Stanstead Airports as they both have easy connections to Liverpool Street. As you can see from the graphic below, London City is just 33 minutes away by Docklands Light Rail.
The Best Things To Do In East London
- Search for Banksy
It’s easy to come across artwork by some of the world’s best urban artists as you wander around Brick Lane and the surrounding streets of Shoreditch. But to find out more about these artists and the issues that inspire their work join the London Street Art Tour. On this 1hr 30 walking tour you’ll be introduced to street art by well-known artists including Invader, Conor Harrington and Banksy himself.
- Try Brick Lane’s Famous Bagel
You can’t come to Brick Lane without grabbing an expertly chewy yet gooey bagel from Beigel Bake. This Brick Lane institution is open 24/7 and the salt beef bagel makes a deliciously good late night snack.
Find it: 159 Brick Lane
- Eat All The Cereals At Cereal Killer Café
If like me you could eat breakfast foods all day every day you’ll love the concept of Cereal Killer Café. This quirky café proudly serves over 120 types of cereal with 20 different toppings in a kitschy venue that has 80s TV sets on the wall and children’s beds (complete with Simpsons bedding) to sit on.
Find it: 139 Brick Lane
- Rummage For A Vintage Bargain
London’s East End is a gold mine for fans of fancy dress and vintage fashion. Old warehouses near Brick Lane are stuffed full of clothes from a bygone era and the sheer quantity of goods means there is always something for everyone. My favourite places to rummage are Beyond Retro – an old dairy factory on Cheshire Street filled with second-hand fashion and accessories – and Blitz London on Hanbury Street, who are great at refashioning old fabrics into fashionable new garments.
Find it: Beyond Retro, 110-112 Cheshire Street and Blitz London, 55-59 Hanbury Street
- Tuck Into Curry On Brick Lane
Another cuisine that Brick Lane is famous for is a good Ruby Murray (or curry for those not conversant in Cockney rhyming slang!). Brick Lane is lined with curry houses who all claim to be London’s best but most visitors choose which one to dine at according to which one is given out the most free beer and poppadums. If you’d like to try a selection of dishes from the most popular curry houses (plus lots more of east London’s best dishes) join Eating London’s East End Food Tour.
- Sip Great (Aussie) Coffee
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to good coffee houses in East London but if you’re looking for a legitimate Aussie Flat White Allpress Espresso Bar is the place to head to. The well-trained baristas at Allpress take their duties very seriously and are known for not serving anything less than perfect (there can sometimes be a wait to get served but at least you know you’ll get a good coffee at the end of it).
Find it: 58 Redchurch Street
- Browse Old Spitalfields Market
With a history that dates back for over 350 years, Old Spitalfields Market is one of London’s oldest markets. Despite the long history the market has seen a revival over recent years and now trendy eateries and independent boutiques gather around the market stalls in the middle. The stalls at the market change on different days of the week – visit on Thursdays if you love antiques, come on Friday for fashion and art.
Find it: Horner Square, Spitalfields
- Listen To Live Music at Box Park
Box Park is a shopping, dining and entertainment venue near Shoreditch train station composed out of shipping containers. If you love live music come by on a Sunday when a small stage plays host to some of London’s best buskers.
Find it: 2-10 Bethnal Green Road
- Buy Blooms At Columbia Road Flower Market
The array of colourful blooms on sale at the Columbia Road Flower Market are sure to put a smile on your face. Held every Sunday from 8 to 3ish, people come from all over London to grab a posy and catch up with friends at the local cafes and coffee shops. Don’t miss the chance to try a Bakewell Tart from Lily Vanilli Bakery on Ezra Street while in the area.
Find it: Columbia Road
- Watch A Movie At A Rooftop Cinema
London’s original outdoor cinema is found on the rooftop of hipster hangout Queen Of Hoxton. The Rooftop Film Club screen a mix of 80s and Hollywood classics as well as the latest Oscar contenders and you needn’t worry about being comfy – director’s chairs, blankets and wireless headphones are all part of the package. Check out the Rooftop Film Club’s website for more information.
Find it: 1 Curtain Road
Have you explored London’s East End? Is there anything you would add to my list?