Its boundaries may be nebulous, but one thing’s for sure: the East End’s come a long way since its days as the heartland of working-class London. Chichi pubs, pram-friendly cafés and high-end boutiques have been slowly replacing the edgy, bohemian vibe that made the neighbourhood a magnet for creatives. But that just means there’s a bit of something for everyone in this hothouse for London’s latest trends.
In the mood for street eats? Head to Chatsworth, Spitalfields or Netil markets, where young, international chefs hold court with signature dishes. Need some breathing space? Sprawling Victoria Park’s lawns, ponds and skatepark will do the trick. If retail therapy’s more your thing, you’re bound to find something to bring home in the neighbourhood’s sleek boutiques, vintage shops (try Paper Dress for affordable treasures) and luxe outlets.
Tucked under a converted railway arch in Bethnal Green, this Venezuelan joint’s just the ticket for flavour-packed sharing plates and quaffable cocktails. Smoked brisket, beer-brined fried chicken and soft-shell crab are on the menu, stuffed in cornbread arepas and devoured alongside quick-fried plantain tajadas. Finish the night at next-door bars Mother Kelly’s or Sager + Wilde.
A watering hole for Hackney Wick’s motley crew of artists, designers and other cultural disruptors, this craft brewery has a couple of aces up its sleeve. The first is a canalside terrace that turns every sip of a pint into a contemplative treat. Hand-rolled, whisper-thin pizzas are the second, with unusual but utterly addictive toppings like spiced lamb with pine nuts or warming Kashmiri dal.
Another gem on the water, these artists’ studios foster the neighbourhood’s creative ambitions. Poetry readings, experimental animation workshops and photography shows regularly grace its events and exhibition spaces, open to all. Take a seat on the café’s pretty terrace overlooking the canal for hearty breakfasts, tasty lunches and home-baked sweet treats, which help to fund the studios.
Housed in repurposed shipping containers, this new-gen shopping destination showcases on-trend products from young creators. Get a London makeover from the edgy beauty mavens at Illamasqua, or stock up on Korean streetwear at Side Party. Upstairs, buzzy food stalls rustle up veg pots, gourmet burgers and round-the-world tapas for weary shoppers.
This thought-provoking gallery has always had the future firmly in its sights. Kahlo, Picasso, Rothko and co have all exhibited here, but its avant-garde programme of contemporary art, talks and immersive events is just as stimulating. Some of the big-name shows charge an entrance fee, but there’s always something free and intriguing on offer.
The epicentre of all things hipster, Broadway Market comes alive on Saturdays with stalls peddling lust-worthy crafts and round-the-world street food. Visit during the week for a quieter taste of its excellent cafés and boutiques: 69b gets our vote for sustainable style. Come cocktail hour, Kansas Smitty’s diminutive basement room hosts some of the liveliest Jazz gigs in town.
The heart of London’s Bangladeshi community, Brick Lane is an eclectic jumble of vintage kitsch, curry houses and raucous bars. At the weekend, stalls sell everything from retro clobber to street eats. Drop in to Dark Sugars for seductively moreish chocolate truffles, or join the late-night queues at the bagel shops to rub shoulders with the capital’s most colourful characters.
There’s nothing better than a lazy morning at E8’s Broadway Market – tinkering through teeny bookshops and waking up with a coffee at Hackney institution, Climpson & Sons.
Discover our guide to London's West End, from Piccadilly’s neon billboards, to Chinatown and Theatreland.
Grab a fancy sandwich at Kerb's market during the day and dance the night away at Camden's electric gig venues.
Once the beating heart of London’s maritime trade, the Docklands’ today is peppered with charming pubs, eateries and show-stopping sushi platters.
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