East London is a thriving and trendy hub of culture, history, and creativity just waiting to be explored. It has an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, each with its own unique character.
Most visitors to London, except those in the know, don’t usually make it to East London. But I think you should! I go every time I visit just for the food.
In this guide, I cover the top things to do in East London — street art, galleries, foodie venues, markets, and more!
25 Attractions & Best Things To Do In East London
1. Street Art
East London is just filled with graffiti and street art, reflecting its creative spirit.
The best places are in Shoreditch, Brick Lane, and Hackney. You’ll want to check out Brick Lane, Fashion Street, Princelet Street, Hanbury Street, New Inn Yard, and Shoreditch High Street.
Some of the most famous street artists have left their mark there, including Banksy, ROA, Ben Eine, Stik, and Shepard Fairey.
Be sure to peak down all the side streets. You’ll see diverse people, urban settings, abstract and surreal images, and all manner of creatures — giant octopuses, birds, aliens, etc.
2. Coffee Shops
If you’re like me, you want (need?) to kickstart your day with excellent coffee. East London hipsters have high standards, and this area really delivers.
Ozone Coffee Roasters is in an expansive factory, where you’ll always find a seat. The baristas are amazing. There’s a good food menu and an onsite bakery.
Palm Vaults in Hackney is another great spot. It’s Wes Anderson inspired decor is the stuff of Instagram dreams. Palm is famous for its pastel colored lattes and dreamy interior.
Paradox Coffee Paradox sling the good brews from Netil Market in Hackney. You’ll find killer lattes with high quality beans. I can recommend the iced rose latter.
Nude Coffee Roasters takes its coffee seriously, which is evident from their micro-roastery and coffee school situated across the road from the cafe. The beans are ethically sourced from small-batch growers around the world and roasted nearby.
East London also combines coffee and retail to good effect.
Look Mum No Hands is a bike store and coffee shop. The Peanut Vendor sells both furniture and coffee. And Rough Trade East sells record albums and coffee.
3. Spitalfields Market
I love this market.
Spitalfields is not nearly as crowded as Borough Market. And, at 350+ years old, it was once the greatest medieval market in London
There are a host of permanent stores and over 100 market stalls. Depending on the day, you’ll find different vendors selling food, fresh produce, vintage, designs, and fashion.
For brunch, my favorite place is Brother Marcus. For curry, I like Gunpowder. For Middle Eastern vegetarian, head to Bubala.
You can’t go wrong here!
4. Humble Crumble
Humble Crumble in Spitalfields is now an internet sensation and social media darling. It features all sorts of apple crumble, which it calls “Britain’s most nostalgic desert.”
It’s best to go early in the day. Or you’ll find long lines.
You can find a huge selection of toppings for your crumble, and there are special offerings for each season. I had one with rose leaves!
5. Poppies Fish & Chips
Only a few minutes from Spitalfields, Poppies has won awards for the best fish and chips in London.
They are cooked in peanut oil, so are light and crispy. They’re usually served with mushy peas.
Poppies is known for using high-quality ingredients, including sustainably sourced fish and fresh potatoes for their chips.
The restaurant has a retro 1940s-1950s decor, complete with vintage posters and memorabilia.
6. Herd Of Hope
You can also see the “Herd of Hope,” a group of 21 life size bronze elephant sculptures, near Spitalfields.
This public art installation was part of an awareness and fundraising campaign for the conservation of Asian elephants.
The project aimed to highlight the urgent need to protect these majestic creatures from threats like habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict. They could face extinction by 2040.
Each elephant in the herd was uniquely decorated by artists. They appear quite joyful as they migrate across London.
7. Spitalfield Roundels
Hidden in the pavement of Shoreditch is another “installation” of interest. They are round bronze plaques in the ground, 22 of them in total.
They were made by local artist Keith Bowler in the 1990s.
One specific plaque, on Princelet Street, is believed to commemorate either London’s first Yiddish theater or the life of the renowned viola player Lionel Tertis.
Another, with apples and pears, marks the location of Spitalfields Market. Similarly, one with beer jugs refers to the iconic Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.
8. Columbia Road Flower Market
All over East London on a Sunday you will see people carrying bunches of flowers or struggling under the weight of a towering house plant.
They’re all on their way back from the must visit Columbia Road Flower Market, a very popular thing to do in East London.
This is where you go to pick up some bargain flowers and plants or just immerse yourself in sheer visual appeal. It’s a buzzing place, with cockney flower vendors vying for your attention.
For the best selection and quality, arrive early. If you want to bargain for the lowest prices, arrive late and haggle over what’s left.
It’s best to buy flowers that are in season. The market typically runs from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
9. Broadway Market
Broadway Market in Hackney is one of London’s most vibrant street markets. It has a rich history dating back to the late 19th century when it first opened for trade.
Each Saturday, a community of traders, artisans, and food producers line the streets. You can indulge in street food and hunt for unusual vintage finds.
It’s really a paradise for foodies. You’ll find gourmet burgers, artisanal bread, vegan dishes, Ethiopian cuisine, pastries, and much more.
The market often features live music performances and street entertainers, so it has a festival-like vibe.
10. Market Day
Market day is Sunday and it’s held on Brick Lane. Hundreds of street stalls pop up, offering food and antiques. You’ll find buskers too.
It can get really busy, especially in the summer months. I was last there in October and it was still pretty packed.
My guide said, that if you’ve had something stolen (bike, jacket), it can magically appear at one of the stalls.
And you’ll want to watch your possession carefully, as there will be some pick pockets.
11. Beigel Bake
Beigel Bake Bakery is the best bagel place in London. It’s serves up bagels — 7,000 a day! –in a traditional Jewish style.
And it’s popular. Every day, you’ll find queues out the door. I was told that people sometimes wait in line for an hour.
The cult bagel of choice is a baked bagel stuffed full of salt beef, mustard, and pickles. I tried this one but admit to picking off the pickles. It was … interesting. There’s a huge selection of other fillings too.
The shop is open 24 hours a day. It’s one of the cheapest meals you’ll find in London. They also sell some lovely cakes.
12. Brick Lane
Brick Lane in Shoreditch is a great place for eating and people watching. It’s often referred to as the “Curry Mile” or “Banglatown.”
This nickname stems from the street’s reputation as a hub for Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine. I’ve sampled the curries at Aladin, and really liked the lamb boujan and prawn pathia.
But most locals don’t hit the curry spots on Brick Lane, deeming them too touristy. They go to ones on nearby streets.
Aside from curry, you may want to check out Mother Clucker. It’s a popular food stall and restaurant on Brick Lane.
It’s known for Southern-style fried chicken and other comfort food dishes often with a unique and flavorful twist. Their signature dish is the tea brined, buttermilk soaked, and twice-battered fried chicken. Try out the cluck bun or chickwich.
In addition to its culinary offerings, Brick Lane is also known for its street art, vintage shops, and cultural events, making it one of the best things to do in East London. Be sure to check out Rockit and Beyond Retro.
13. Sample The Local Beer
One of the best things to do in East London is sample some of the world class local beer. There are numerous microbreweries scattered throughout the area.
Some good places to try include White Hart Brewing Pub, Howling Hops, Old Truman Brewery, and Crate Brewery.
If you’d prefer a hsitoric pub, East London has that as well. Ten Bells Pub has existed since the 18th century. It retains many of its original Victorian features and is associated with Jack the Ripper’s victims.
The Blind Beggar and The Grapes are good choices too. The Grapes is in a 500 year old historic bulding. It’s owned by actor Sir Ian McKellen, who’s known to make appearances for the pub quiz.
14. Pie & Mash
Pie and mash is one of London’s iconic foodstuffs. And the dish has its origins in the East End.
In the 19th century, the pies used to be filled with eels from the Thames. These days, you can get them filled with chicken, beef, or vegtarian fillings.
When you order, you’ll get a pastry pie, mashed potatos, and either gravy or a “liquor” (green parsley cream sauce).
In East London, you can check out this staple at Maureen’s Pie & Mash Shop, G Kelly’s on Roman Road, or F Cooke’s in Hoxton.
East Londoners take brunch seriously, which I think is as it should be.
Neighborhoods like Shoreditch, Hackney, and Bethnal Green are known for their trendy and eclectic brunch spots. You can find everything from pancakes to avocado toast to shaksuka or Korean-inspired dishes.
One of the most popular places is the Breakfast Club in Shoreditch. It’s a modern take on an American diner with quirky retro decor.
Expect long lines. This is not a secret spot.
The restaurant is known for its egg dishes. But you can get everything from smoothies to wraps to pancakes.
You can also check out Cafe East on Roman Road in Bethnal Green or Friends of Ours in Hoxton.
16. Afternoon Tea
There’s nothing Brits love more than tea and cakes in the afternoon. And East London gives you some good alternatives to the fancy places like the Savoy or Claridge’s. In fact, there’s no shortage of baked goods.
Loafing, in Victoria Park Village, is a kitsch British affair with yummy cakes.
Lily Vanilli, near Columbia Road, serves up cakes with a sweet and savory balance. Think grapefuit or ginger tarts. And be sure to check out their Instagram account to stoke your appetite.
Violet’s Cakes is celebrated for its artisanal approach to baking and organic ingredients. The bakery offers up cakes, cupcakes, pastries, cookies, and more. Its owner, Claire Ptak, was selected to create the wedding cake for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018.
17. Food Tour
One quick and easy way to sample some of the goodies I’ve mentioned above is to go on a food tour in East London.
On my last visit, I went on a 3.5 hour tour with Eating Europe. My tour included bagels, apple crumble, curries, sticky toffee pudding, and more!
Madi was my guide and she entertained us with lots of history tidbits and pointed out things not to miss.
18. Go For A Swim
Are you a swimer looking for a pool?
If you’re a lap swimmer or masters athlete, head to the Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Stadium. It was built when London hosted the 2012 games.
If an Olymic size pool isn’t for you, head to London Field’s outdoor Lido instead. It’s open year round and is quite inexpensive to get in.
It can get really busy. So head out early if it’s a hot and sunny weekend.
19. V&A Museum of Childhood
Located in Bethnal Green, this museum is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum and is dedicated to the history of childhood.
It houses an extensive collection of toys, games, and childhood-related objects, making it a great place for both children and adults to explore.
You’ll find antique dolls, dollhouses, teddy bears, vintage board games, mechanical toys, and interactive displays. There are also exhibits showcasing clothing and accessories worn by children throughout history.
There’s also an excellent shop stocked with toys and gifts.
20. Museum of London Docklands
Situated in Canary Wharf, the Museum of London Docklands explores the history of London’s port and the Thames River.
It features interactive exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia displays that tell the story of the city’s maritime heritage.
There are permanent exhibits on slavery, empire, and the blitz. Plus, it’s perfectly free to visit.
21. IFS Cloud Cable Car
If your feet need a break, the IFS Cloud Cable Car is a chance to see the city at a relaxing pace. It runs between the Royal Docks and North Greenwhich.
You can take in miles of sights from the sky. The cable car offers stunning panoramic views of the River Thames, Canary Wharf, the City of London, and other iconic landmarks.
It runs continuously 7 days a week. It’s not just for tourists either. Locals use it to commute across the Thames.
Tickets can be purchased at the terminals or online. There are various fare options, including single journeys, round trips, and discounted fares for Oyster card and contactless payment users.
22. Whitechapel Art Gallery
The Whitechapel Art Gallery is a renowned contemporary art gallery located in the Whitechapel district of East London.
The gallery was founded in 1901 in Victorian London and has a rich history of showcasing contemporary art. It played a pivotal role in the development of modern and contemporary art in London and beyond.
There is no permanent collection. Rather, it hosts a diverse range of exhibitions, featuring both established and emerging artists. You might see Frida Kahlo or a cutting edge local artist.
23. Geffrye Museum of the Home
The Geffrye Museum is dedicated to exploring the history of the home and how domestic living spaces, interiors, and furnishings have evolved over time.
It aims to provide insights into how people lived, decorated their homes, and created comfortable living environments throughout history.
One of the unique features of the Geffrye Museum was its series of “period rooms.”
These are meticulously recreated historical domestic interiors that allow visitors to step back in time and experience different eras and styles of home decor, from the 1600s to the present day.
24. Victoria Park
Victoria Park is often referred to as “Vicky Park” or the “Regent’s Park of the East” by locals.
It’s a beloved green space in East London. Opened in 1845, it’s one of London’s Royal Parks.
It’s over 200 acres and filled with two ornamental lakes, monuments, tennis courts, flower beds and lawns. In the summer, it’s often taken over by festivals, while in the autumn park-goers are treated to epic fireworks displays.
The Pavilion Cafe is a must visit. It’s right in the middle of the park, with benches and tables overlooking the boating lake. It serves up brunch and lunch items.
25. Jack The Ripper
Jack the Ripper is one of the most infamous and enigmatic figures in the history of crime. The unidentified serial killer terrorized East London in 1888. His crimes were sensationalized by the Victorian press.
His canonical five victims were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. They were prostitutes and lived in the then impoverished Whitechapel district.
The Ripper’s throat slitting lead to a frenzy of panic and fear in the neighborhood. Despite ample theorizing, the Ripper’s identity has never been conclusively proven.
Today, if murder mystery or horror is your cup of tea, there are Jack the Ripper evening walking tours in Whitechapel. They guide tourists through the locations of the murders and provide historical context about the case.
One place you’ll stop by is the Ten Bells pub. The pub’s connection to the Jack the Ripper case lies in the fact that two of the victims, Kelly and Chapman, were known to have frequented or been seen at Ten Bells before their tragic deaths.
Over the years, the pub has embraced its history and Jack the Ripper connection by featuring Ripper-related decor, memorabilia, and themed events.
Tips For Visiting East London
How To Get There
You’ll probably want to hop on the tube to get to East London. Here are you options:
- Old Street: This station is centrally located in Shoreditch and provides easy access to the heart of the neighborhood.
- Shoreditch High Street: This station is located along the London Overground line and is also within walking distance of many attractions in Shoreditch.
- Liverpool Street: While technically not in Shoreditch, Liverpool Street station is nearby, and provides good access to the area, and is served by multiples lines.
Where To Stay
The Hoxton on Commercial Street in Shoreditch seems to be the most popular hotel. It’s a 4 star with hip lodging and a bar.
Nobu Hotel Shoreditch is a modern hotel with a sharp-edged Japanese design and an industrial chic look. It’s a hip place with a good subterranean restaurant.
If you want something more traditional, check out Batty Langley’s on cobbled Folgate Street. The location is all Georgina architecture, cozy pubs, and street lamps. There are plush rooms, a cozy bar, and quiet courtyard.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the best things to do in East London. You may find these other London trael guides and resources useful:
- 3 Day Itinerary for London
- 5 Day Itinerary for London
- Hidden Gems in London
- Tourist Traps To Avoid in London
- Best Museums in London
- Day Trips from London
- Harry Potter Places in London
- Guide to the Tower of London
- Guide to Westminster Abbey
- Guide to the Churchill War Rooms
- Guide To the National Gallery of Art
If you plan to visit East London, pin it for later.