Cool things to do in East London

It is indisputably the capital’s funkiest quartier, but where to start? Local gal Olivia Palamountain lines up fun stuff to do in East London and suggests you hop on a bike to explore its pubs, shops, markets, street food and nightlife

With its dramatic juxtaposition of city cash, hipster swag and ethnic soul, nowhere else in the city continues to evolve with such panache as London’s East End. I was born and raised in west London so exploring Hackney has been an ongoing adventure for me, and now that I can proudly call it home, there’s no going back.

Elsewhere in London, the best advice – if you want the capital to reveal its secrets, that is – is to ditch public transport and wander the streets. Not so here. This is the land of two wheels, so for added kudos on your East End adventure, hop on a bike. Why not rent a trendy fixed-gear bike, or ‘fixie’, for the day from Cloud Cycles in central London and pedal east? Alternatively, take the tube to Liverpool Street station and walk up to Shoreditch to kick off your tour.


You’ll need a member to infiltrate private members club Shoreditch House but it’s well worth it for the spirited Bloody Marys and London’s only rooftop pool – divine when the weather is good. Alternatively, try brunch at Albion, for traditional British grub executed with finesse, or ‘Novoperuvian’ gem, Andina, for something more unusual.


Bijou Redchurch Street is a divine place to browse cafes and boutiques. My current favourite fashion find is Ante. Thanks to honest feedback from the owners, a minimal aesthetic and an unusual edit of indie labels, you’re guaranteed to leave broke but beautiful.


After that, you’ll want you hair and nails done. Head to the Painted Lady for one of their trademark vintage up-dos, and then to Cowshed for a mani and pedi. For something a little more out there, nip to Fifth Dimension, London’s only vegan tattoo parlour. I went piercing mad the other day and was very impressed by the serene atmosphere.


This area has an impressive past, as well as a glamorous present. Go back in time at Dennis Severs House, where an original Huguenot weaver’s house has been transformed by its artist owner to offer an extraordinary glimpse of how an artisan and his family would have lived in the 18th century.

Time for a pint

After that, you’ll want to zip past the colourful stalls of Bethnal Green Road, stopping for a pint in Broadway Market. About as close to urban perfection as London gets, the market has the authentic atmosphere and charm of Notting Hill before gentrification took hold.
The Dove has an insane selection of artisan European beers (I like Delirium – in small doses) and provides an opportunity for some great people watching. Alternatively check out Off Broadway, which does killer cocktails and a revolving kitchen residency so there’s always something new to try. If you descend on a Saturday, the market will be in full swing with street food, crafts and all-round ogling opportunities aplenty. Cycle through London Fields and past the railway arches where you’ll find yet more watering holes – London Fields Brewery is a must for beer aficionados.


Stop for an art fix at the Vyner Street Gallery. If you’re free mid-week, check out First Thursdays, when more than 150 local galleries run free events, exhibitions, talks, workshops, and private views during a special late opening. Laura Bartlett Gallery comes highly recommended from a particularly arty friend of mine. Street art fanatics: remain vigilant. It’s everywhere – but I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.


Weary feet? Head down to Victoria Park. It’s a total dream, with a boating lake and acres of lush green space, set in a beautiful neighbourhood (be sure to pick up a bottle of something chilled from Bottle Apostle before you strip off to sunbathe). I can never resist a quick swizz in Haus, a contemporary interiors store with an inspirational selection of furniture, homeware and lighting.

Cocktails, dinner, dancing (and even a place to stay)

Pre-dinner cocktails when the sun mellows is a must and Satan’s Whiskers will see your thirst quenched in style. This low-key bar operates a seated-only policy so your Negroni won’t be spilt by the crushing masses, and it’s minutes from the Typing Room at the Town Hall Hotel. The restaurant has recently re-launched and serves an absolute feast of a tasting menu, with stunning plates of courgette and basil profiteroles with black olive, cumin lavosh, with crab, sweet corn and curried egg, as well as bass, heritage tomato, courgette and squid. Either book a room at the hotel itself, or dance off your dinner at Oval Space, which is just down the road and offers ravers a heavy line-up of electronica in a cavernous old warehouse.

Photo by RoBeDeRo / Getty images

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