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The East London Guide: Cool Things to Do + Insider Tips

The East London Guide: Cool Things to Do + Insider Tips

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Looking for things to do in East London? Discover the area’s best attractions and activities with this handy guide. 

East London has been the melting pot of many religions, cultures and ethnicities since the 19th century and, as a result, it’s diverse and brimming with history and cool things to do. 

Want to spend some time in East London but not sure where to start? We’ve picked our favourite East London spots for you to discover. 

Fun Things to do in East London 

Today, East London is an energetic area with a brimming creative and alternative community.

Admire Shoreditch’s Street Art 

Lil rebel - car driving

Shoreditch is easily one of our favourite neighbourhoods in London. 

It’s known as ‘Hipster Heaven’ because there are just so many artistic spaces here. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that there’s a TONNE of stuff going on in Shoreditch that you can’t resist a visit… and the eclectic street art is one of them. 

The neighbourhood is also famous for being the temporary home of Shakespeare. He worked for some time in Shoreditch, drawing inspiration from the surroundings. 

Shakespeare isn’t the only artist that was inspired by this area – many local and international artists have graced the industrial setting with surreal urban art and graffiti. 

Leading local and international artists have come to show their skills on Shoreditch’s many walls. The result is an absolute riot of colour. 

Searching for things to do in East London today? Why not spend some time with a learned guide and understand the motifs behind the artworks that you could spend hours analysing.

Check out a guided tour of the fascinating street art through East London’s Bohemian district.

Eat Everything at Victoria Park’s Sunday Market 

Crosstown Doughnuts at the Market

Victoria Park is East London’s most popular park and referred to as the ‘People’s Park’ by locals. It was actually the first park in this part of London. 

The communities give back to this 86 hectare park every Sunday, with an organic street food market. We’ve been a couple of times and the only advice that we can give you is go hungry, you’re going to want to try at least a couple of things while you’re there. 

It also has live music, so you can expect a day full of fun. Oh, and don’t expect basic street food – these are award-winning dishes!

In the area? Hackney has tonnes of cool restaurants like this one.

Stroll Through the Iconic Brick Lane 

Brick Lane

I’ve talked about how multicultural East London is, and Brick Lane is probably the biggest testament to this. For example, the beautiful religious building, which at first operated as a church, then a synagogue, then finally… a mosque. 

So, we think it’s safe to say that Brick Lane was and is home to a number of different cultures. In the past, this area was the immigration hub of London, which has now expanded into flourishing communities. 

Brick Lane is also well-known for its many foodie attractions. 

We’ll be honest – we don’t think the standard of the curries from the curry houses it’s famed for are quite as good anymore, but there are plenty of other foodie options scattered along and around Brick Lane, including the 24-hour heaven that is Beigel Bake.

Read Next: Brick Lane – The Insider’s Guide

Drink Cocktails at the Slick Speakeasies

Heaven and Hell at Found

It’s no secret that we’re suckers for a good cocktail and, having sipped our way around the city, we can attest to the fact that some of London’s best secret bars are in the Eastside. Why? Because they fit right into the retro and edgy setting. 

Speakeasies are quirky and cleverly hidden bars that are dimly lit and very relaxing. Personally, we recommend Found Shoreditch, Nightjar, Callooh Callay and Happiness Forgets. Together they’re the perfect recipe for a cocktail-fuelled and rather messy night out.Plus, when you’re finished, you can indulge at one of East London’s coolest restaurants

Read Next: The Best Bars in Shoreditch

Time Travel to the 1700s at the Dennis Severs House

Ever wanted to know what East London life was like 300 years ago? Well, that’s actually possible. 

At 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, you’ll find the Dennis Severs House – an 18th-century 5-storey house that’s been reconstructed to look exactly the same as the day it was built and one of our favourite places to visit in East London. 

Leave the 21st century behind as you experience the candle-lit chambers. You’ll be part of a still-life drama that’s almost like walking through a time machine. We mean, Dennis Severs did want it to have a 3D Baroque interior. 

Brighten Your Day at Columbia Road Flower Market

You haven’t lived until you’ve been to Columbia Road Market

OK, maybe that’s the tiniest bit of an overstatement, but it really is one of the spots we recommend everyone visiting East London go to at least once. 

What’s the big deal then? How do you feel about a street that’s absolutely brimming with stalls selling a variety of plants and flowers every Sunday? Thought so. 

Whatever the time of year, the market is guaranteed to brighten up your day.

Read Next: Why You Need to Visit Columbia Road Market

Unleash your Inner-Child in a Boozy Adult Ball Pit

Who could say no to an adult ball pit attached with a cocktail bar? Sorry, we mean two giant ball pits (filled with more than 1 million balls in total). Add to that Baillie Ballerson’s banging cocktail menu and you have the recipe for a rather fun night out. 

It’s located in Shoreditch and combines childhood fun with booze. On weekends, you can also book a bottomless brunch experience, where you get unlimited martinis and pizzas. 

Need we say more? 

Take a Jack The Ripper Guided Tour

Jack the Ripper

Discover East London’s grisly past with a guided tour of Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel. It’s one of our highly recommended activities to do in East London.

It’s a story that fascinates us all: between April 1888 and February 1891, 11 women were murdered in London’s East End. It was a gruesome serial killing that would soon come to be known as The Whitechapel Murders. 

Join an expert Ripperologist as you try to uncover who Jack really was, visiting each of the murder sites and discussing the many suspects in a spooky evening to remember.

Read More: An Alternative Take on Jack The Ripper’s Murders

ABQ at Hackney Fun House

Why just drink cocktails when you can don a hazmat suit, live out your wildest Breaking Bad fantasies, mix your own concoctions, and drink fun cocktails? 

Head to ABQ at Hackney Fun House, which is basically an adult’s playground with booze. We likey.

Enter into the iconic RV and prepare to get sciencey – will you plump for Walter Junior’s Brekkie (a combo of rum, blueberry pancake sherbert, and vodka orange chaser)? 

How about the 420 that sees you creating CBD-infused champagne foam along with baked brownie sherry? We’ll take one of each, thanks.

On the other floors you’ve got plenty of space for a boogie and some stellar street food options.

Channel an Olympian at the VeloPark

Fancy yourself as the next Laura or Jason Kenny? Test out your cycling skills at Lee Valley’s VeloPark.

Book yourself onto a taster, where you’ll get to ride the ACTUAL OLYMPIC TRACK used by the legends themselves, and a coach will show you exactly how you can manage to stay upright on the bank as you whizz round at 50mph (can someone let us know, it’s been bothering us for a while).

Ride the Emirates Air Line

Emirates Air Line

Fancy seeing London from above? Of course you do. 

Head to the Royal Docks near the Excel Centre and board the Emirates Air Line for a cable car flight over the Thames and towards Greenwich. You might want to skip if you’ve got a fear of heights, though the stunning view makes it all worth it. Dreamy.

Pssst… You can use your Oyster Card to ride, since the Air Line is run by Transport for London.

Chow Down at Boxpark Shoreditch

Why stress over where to eat in London, when you can simply head to Boxpark and be surrounded by excellent grub?

Whether you fancy a juicy steak (The Argentinian Grill is your best bet), a filthy burger (Black Bear), or want to pop in for a light lunch (Acai Berry’s bowls are to die for) the sheer range of food available here makes it worth a visit.

Make sure to check out the events schedule too – you’ll find everything from Drag Queen brunches to sport screenings coming up.

Swim in London Fields Lido

When the sun is out (it can happen, promise), one of the best things to do in East London is to spend an afternoon at London Fields Lido.

We’re huge fans of swimming in London – be that open water or safely contained in a pool – and there’s nothing more fun than splashing about in Hackney during the summer months.

The colourful changing rooms and sundeck might just be enough to convince you that you’re somewhere a little bit more tropical – not to mention Pub on the Park is just around the corner.

Where to Stay When You Visit East London

East London has ample places for you to stay while enjoying your time here. You’ll find some of the trendiest boutique hotels here. And it’s still cheaper than other parts of London. 

One Hundred Shoreditch

One Hundred Shoreditch

One Hundred Shoreditch is a stunning modern 5-star hotel located on Shoreditch High Street. With six restaurants, a wine bar, and a take-out hatch, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing when to dine. The rooftop bar offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

Check prices for One Hundred Shoreditch here.

Point A Hotel 

Point A

If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can stay centrally in the hip and happening area of Shoreditch. Point A Hotel is spacious, modern and has an incredible continental breakfast every morning. You’ll also be in the most exciting part of the city.

Check prices for Point A Hotel here.

The Mondrian 

Mondrian

The Curtain Hotel is a high-end hotel in the gentrified area of Hackney. It boasts an outdoor pool, a close distance from Hoxton Square and a colourful interior. And while it’s adorned with luxury finishes, there’s still a homey, spacious feel. 

Check prices for The Mondrian here.

Getting Around East London

Getting around this part of the city is quite easy and affordable. 

First of all, you can walk between many of East London’s attractions, e.g. it’s a 5-minute walk from Shoreditch to Spitalfields. 

For rainy days, or longer distances (e.g. Shoreditch to Bethnal Green), you can catch the 8 Bus. There’s also the Central tube line which connects parts of East London including Liverpool Street, Bethnal Green and Mile End. 

And, for other trips (e.g. Hackney, Homerton and Dalston) you’ll even have the London Overground to aid you. 

We suggest you download CityMapper on your phone. It tells you the quickest route to the destination and you can also see the accurate time schedules for these different transport modes. 

Facts About the Eastern Areas of London

East London has some pretty cool facts: 

  • Tower Hamlets, a borough in East London, has one of the highest ethnic minority populations in the country. 
  • East London is famous for producing Cockney rhyming slang
  • It’s been the filming location for countless world-renowned movies like Sherlock Holmes. 

Final Thoughts on What to do in East London

All in all, East London is an inclusive area that embraces diversity, different cultures and ethnicities. 

Other than being a cultural hub, there are actually plenty of fun things to do in East London. You could be shopping in the sensational markets, or be jumping into an adult ball pit. Either way, we guarantee that you’ll feel right at home.

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