Where do you start with a city like London? Each corner of this sprawling metropolis has its own distinct vibe. If you like the finer things head to the West, if leafy gardens are your thing then North is for you and if you want to be where all the cool kids are, go South.
If you want a mix of all these things, head to the East. Once a run-down industrial part of the city, London’s East End has seen a surge in popularity over the past 20 years and is now the go-to spot in England’s capital. From Whitechapel to Hoxton, explore the East End on a city break to London.
It’s official: Londoners love brunch. Walk around any part of the East End during the weekend and you’ll see cafes and restaurants filled to the brim with pretty young things dusting off the cobwebs from the night before with an egg florentine and a bloody mary. For the classic East London experience, go to Bistrotheque. Set in an old warehouse, it’s known for its crisp, whitewashed decor and refined spin on British classics. If you make it through the weekend you’ll be serenaded by a piano player, performing pop favorites with a classical twist.
For somewhere a little more relaxed head to Little Georgia, a cozy but bustling cafe. Decked out in Georgian paraphernalia, it sells hearty Central Asian takes on a full English breakfast.
If breakfast is not for you, start with a quick lunch at the Dusty Knuckle. A trendy bakery known for its sourdough bread, their sandwiches are full of flavor and unique combinations—try the charred greens sandwich with hispi cabbage and fragrant fennel. Alternatively, get a warming Pho at Sông Quê. Considered an institution by locals, this cheap no-frills Vietnamese canteen will keep you and your wallet full.
Not stuffed yet? East London is a mecca for South Asian restaurants, a direct result of a vibrant diaspora. Tayyabs has been providing locals with delicious Punjabi dishes since 1972 and their lamb chops are so beloved that people travel from all over London to enjoy them.
On Saturdays, stroll along the Regents Canal to Broadway Market, a popular spot surrounded by bars and butcher shops. On Sunday, a visit to either the lesser-known Chatsworth Road Market or the infamous Columbia Road Flower Market are a must.
Broadway Market is surrounded by bars and butchers. Credit: Shutterstock Get ready to haggle at Broadway Market. Credit: Broadway Market
From the bars in Shoreditch to the warehouses in Hackney Wick, the hedonist in you will surely find something to do. However, as this is being written in time of COVID-19, it would only be sensible to skip past the basement clubs and suggest airier spots instead. Luckily, the East has a great selection of pubs with beer gardens that are perfect for a socially distanced tipple.
The People Park’s Tavern is a modern pub with a gigantic garden that backs onto the popular Victoria Park. For a more low-key affair, head to the Scolt’s Head, where punters often spill out of their triangular garden onto the streets—it also does one of the best roasts this side of The Angel.
If you want to learn about the area’s love affair with the arts then a visit to the Whitechapel Gallery is a must. Opened in 1901 to bring art to the people of the East End, the space now features modern and contemporary art.
With previous exhibitions from Jackson Pollock to Picasso, The Whitechapel Gallery excels in contemporary art. Credit: Guy Montag/Whitechapel Gallery Enjoy a social-distanced pint or two at the People’s Park Tavern. Credit: People’s Park Tavern
The Kip Hotel is situated near Hackney Central station, making it ideally located to explore the further corners of East London. With a stylish monochromatic motif throughout, Kip’s motto is to offer a modern and enjoyable experience with an affordable price tag.
The Kip is known for its sleek monochromatic designs. Credit: Booking.com Although affordable, the Kip doesn’t skimp on comfort. Credit: Booking.com
The Hoxton Hotel
The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch brought all the cool kids to the East End and they remained. Known for its sleek design, expect exposed brick, industrial lighting mixed with colorful and comfortable furnishings. The rooms range from “shoebox” to “roomy” so there’s something for every budget.
One of the best-known hotels in the area, The Hoxton is an enjoyable experience. Credit: Ross Edmond/The Hoxton, Shoreditch Not afraid of color, The Hoxton makes for an IG-worthy visit. Credit: Ross Edmond/The Hoxton, Shoreditch