Once largely known for its rough-around-the-edges demeanor and its industrial sites, East London has transformed into a multicultural, creative haven. Now home to a wide range of neighborhoods featuring well-known pubs, art galleries, and popular markets, East London is a must-visit for artsy, innovative travelers. So, if you’re looking to get in touch with the British capital’s creative side, here’s a guide to some of the coolest neighborhoods in East London.
Shoreditch and Hoxton
More affluent than it once was, some think the Shoreditch area has lost its charm. However, with its creative community, galleries, and street art, it still retains much of the gritty — yet creative — essence that originally made people fall in love with it.
On Sundays, you’ll see the heart of Shoreditch at its busiest thanks to the Brick Lane Market — a weekly event where the street is lined with many stalls selling unique clothing, street food, and antiques. On other days of the week, you’ll find smaller markets located at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane such as Boiler House Food Hall and the Vintage Market.
The area is also famous for its curry houses and bagel shops. Largely inhabited by young creators, the Shoreditch and Hoxton areas are known for having a wide range of restaurants, hip bars, and quirky vintage shops. The neighborhood houses one of East London’s well-known creative spaces, Rich Mix. This space lets people come together to experience various art forms, including film, music, dance, comedy, spoken word, and theater.
The neighborhood’s close proximity to the Liverpool Street railway station makes visiting convenient. It’s also accessible via the Overground — embarking at the Shoreditch High Street Station will allow you to travel throughout most of East and South London.
Dalston is known for its nightlife, luxury shopping, trendy restaurants and cafes, and multicultural population. Located four miles from central London, there are multiple Overground stations in Dalston, which will easily take you to Liverpool Street. Similar to other East London neighborhoods, Dalston used to have a grittier reputation, but with the increase in restaurants and bars, Dalston has become more popular among young professionals. A few hotspots include Tina, We Salute You, which is a creative space serving coffee and food, and Ridley Road Market, situated in the center of Dalston and known for its bagels, international goods, affordable fruits and vegetables, and reggae music.
Haggerston is a little more under-the-radar than nearby Shoreditch. Despite being a creative area with easy access to London’s hotspots, it’s viewed as more laidback than areas like Shoreditch and Dalston (though it’s within walking distance of both). With its street art and fun pubs, it’s becoming a more popular location for young and creative-minded people.
Haggerston is also home to its own popular market — on Saturdays, many people visit Broadway Market to buy food, coffee, crafts, and more. Within the neighborhood, you’ll also find Haggerston Park, which is home to Hackney City Farm. The farm is free to visit and offers workshops for a fee. You can also enjoy a walk or bike ride along Regent’s Canal, which runs through Haggerston. If you’re looking for brunch, the Barge House is known for Breakfast In Bed, which is bread filled with some of your favorite breakfast foods. For pastries, bread and other baked goods, Better Health Bakery, part of a local mental health charity, is worth visiting.
Mile End offers more green spaces than other East London neighborhoods, as it’s surrounded by Mile End Park and Victoria Park. Mile End Park is a great option for families, since it has a children’s play area and various leisure activities, and Victoria Park is best known for outdoor activities, festivals and community events.
Though its food and pub scenes are growing, Mile End’s nightlife still has a relaxed vibe compared to other neighborhoods. Queen Mary’s University is located here, making Mile End a popular location for students, though it’s also attractive to a growing number of young professionals.
Considered less affected by gentrification than some other East London neighborhoods, Whitechapel is a multicultural area with a large Bangladeshi community. Though it is still associated with Jack the Ripper’s crimes, the neighborhood is now recognized for its creativity and diversity. The Whitechapel Market is widely thought to provide an authentic London market experience where you’ll find bargains on a wide selection of knick-knacks, fruit, fabric, and all kinds of spices. In the area, you’ll also find a growing art scene and restaurants ranging from American barbecue to traditional curry restaurants. The most prominent art space in the area, the Whitechapel Gallery, is a vibrant gallery known for premiering world-famous artists.
More tourists started visiting Stratford after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were hosted there. The area is largely known for Westfield Stratford City, the largest shopping mall in Europe, and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The mall also provides great views of the park beyond.
Compared to other areas of East London, Stratford has a very modern feel. Even if you’re not a big fan of shopping or sports, you might consider staying in Stratford if you’re looking for a neighborhood that’s well connected to other areas of London. With access to north, south, and west London, as well as direct routes to Liverpool Street, Stratford is well suited for travelers.
Located near the Olympic Stadium and on the outskirts of the East End, this once-industrial area has transformed into a grungy, artistic neighborhood. Creatives have turned old warehouses into music venues, galleries, and restaurants. One such place is the Yard, a theater and music venue that volunteers created from salvaged material. The Yard is devoted to exposing stories that need to be heard through performance. Located in a former sausage factory, Grow is a kitchen and creative space focused on sustainability and quality ingredients. The space also hosts free events, including performances by local artists and art festivals. Hackney Wick has become a cool, thriving neighborhood with inspiring street art and great drinks. Like many other areas of East London, this neighborhood is attractive to artists and activists.
Situated just east of Shoreditch, Bethnal Green is still a little rough around the edges but lies within close proximity to vibrant nightlife and more gentrified neighborhoods. An increasing number of art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques have opened in the area, and there are also many pubs nearby. Many feel that the neighborhood still maintains its original East London charm. Home to many long-time Londoners, young professionals, and immigrants, the area is known for its independent businesses and authenticity.
Locals and visitors alike enjoy visiting one of London’s most beautiful markets, located right in the neighborhood. Bethnal Green’s Columbia Road Flower Market fills the street with flowers and other plants every Sunday. Another popular location in Bethnal Green is the Backyard, one of the British capital’s major comedy clubs. Beyond stand-up comedy, the venue hosts various other events and serves homemade pizza.
Though commonly overlooked, if you’re looking for creative spaces, unique restaurants, and trendy cafes, you’ll want to stop by some of these East London neighborhoods the next time you’re in London.
Header image by Jonathan Kho