Often known for being the industrial heart of London, East London today is proof of the glorious melting pot that the capital has become. Whether you’re here for food, culture or shopping, here are some of the best things to do during your visit to London’s East End.
Eat in Brick Lane
The eternally trendy street-of-the-East, Brick Lane is known for its eclectic shops, lively bars and vibrant art scene. Feeling peckish? Brick Lane is home to a vast range of different cuisines and eateries: from quaint cafés to stylish restaurants, there’s food to satisfy all the senses in the East End.
Fancy a ruby? Thanks to its history as a hub for Bengali immigrants, the narrow cobbled street is chock-a-block with authentic curry restaurants. Brick Lane is now known as the curry capital of England: just take an evening stroll between Woodseer Street and Fashion Street and you’ll smell all the delicious scents of Indian cuisine.
Our favourite Brick Lane curry eateries include:
- Cinnamon Brick Lane - vibrant decor and an extensive menu
- Bengal Village - simple food with delicious vegetarian options
- Tayyabs - just down the road at Whitechapel serving classic and contemporary Punjabi food
The vibrant influx of Jewish immigrants during the 19th Century has enriched the East End with one of the best things about Jewish culture: its food - most importantly - bagels. Delicious, fresh and easy to customise, bagels are perfect as a quick bite to eat while shopping in Shoreditch, or as a tasty lunch with friends. Beigel Bake is possibly the most famous of its kind. This 24 hour bakery is located at 159 Brick Lane and serves an array of yummy bagels (the salt beef and mustard is to die for!), cakes, donuts, bread and drinks. Other great bagel places include Bagel on the Park and Beigel Shop.
Pie and Mash
Few dishes are more associated with East London than pie and mash: a meat pie served with mashed potatoes and a parsley fish sauce, known as ‘liquor’. This traditional working class dish has its roots in the 19th Century and is still popular across much of the East end to this day.
Grab an authentic taste of the East end at EastEnders Pie ‘N’ Mash in Poplar, Robins Pie & Mash on Station Road and B.J.’s Pie & Mash London on Barking Road.
Take A Stroll in Victoria Park
Enjoy a break from the clamour of city life by enjoying a stroll through one of the East End’s gorgeous parks. South Hackney is home to a natural haven in the heart of the bustling East End: Victoria Park stretches between the Tower Hamlets and has§ a rich history as being the primary green space for East-enders to enjoy a breath of fresh air. With its three lakes, wildlife enclosures, play park, tennis courts, bowling green, two cafés and an array of original Victorian architecture, the ‘People’s Park’ offers something for everyone to enjoy, whatever the weather.
Follow in the Footsteps of the Kray Twins
The East End’s notorious gangster brothers, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, have long intrigued the area’s visitors. Since Tom Hardy’s memorable depiction of the dangerous duo in the 2015 film Legend, visitors East of the river are eager for a glimpse into the city’s illustrious past. A number of places known to be favourite haunts of twins are still open for business and make for an interesting snapshot into the East End of the ‘60s.
Some of the places known to have been visited by the Kray twins that are still standing today include:
- E. Pellicci’s Cafe: located at 332 Bethnal Green Road, this classic family-run caff is known to have been a favourite breakfast spot for the twins. The interior of the café is more or less unchanged since the 1960s, and the menu has a delicious array of traditional greasy spoon dishes as well as classic Italian food.
- The Blind Beggar: a thriving Victorian pub on 337 Whitechapel Rd, this venue is significant for the Krays. This pub was the scene of many violent crimes committed by the twins, including the shooting of George Cornell which landed Ronnie Kray in prison. The Blind Beggar is now thoroughly modern, has a beer garden and serves tasty craft ales.
- The Tower of London: one of the most intriguing attractions of East London is the Tower of London, where the Kray twins, among others, were once imprisoned. History buffs and culture enthusiasts will find its bloody history an interesting read, and the Tower is home to tours, festivals and ceremonies to entertain all the family.
Go Shopping in Shoreditch
You could easily spend the whole day in Shoreditch; packed with vintage shops, edgy galleries, art exhibitions and the Sunday Market on Brick Lane, there’s no shortage of places to spend a penny. Situated in the heart of Shoreditch, the Boxpark boasts the title of the world’s first pop-up mall.
Combining indulgent street food, creative arts, contemporary and retro fashion and trendy drinks spots, Boxpark is the ultimate spot for a thoroughly modern, yet comfortable shopping experience. As well as vintage clobber and artsy stalls, Shoreditch is also home to dozens of quirky gift shops and boutiques, as well as high-end designer dens.
Head to Redchurch Street for a selection of artisanal grocers, interior design shops and unique clothing retailers, or stroll up Shoreditch High Street where there’s a vast array of British and international fashion outlets.
Spend the Evening at An Independent Cinema
In the era of digital downloads, 3-D films and multiple screens, the independent cinema still reigns supreme. The charm and sense of occasion associated with attending a screening at a unique, historical venue is keeping arthouses and indie cinemas open for business. The East End’s reputation as London’s trendy culture hub is evident in its vast array of independent cinemas.
Here are some of our favourites: