With the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games set to take Stratford by storm this summer, East London has cemented itself as a ‘must visit’ destination for tourists – many of whom will be taking mini breaks to the capital. With such a huge offering, it can be a cloudy wilderness of possibilities for those strapped for time. So we’ve put together the top five must do’s to ensure you don’t spend your valuable holiday crowd-shuffling behind die-hard sports fans:
Fill Your Belly at Brick Lane
Brick Lane is the most iconic lane in east London for good reason; the food. Whether Caribbean or Indian dishes tickle your taste buds, there’s a renowned restaurant here which can serve you. For Indian specialities, try out Aladin which was voted No.1 on Whatpoll’s ‘Best Brick Lane Curry house’. The management even have a recording of Prince Charles praising the venue which they will happily play on request. If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for us! Why not get in true Brit spirit and don your red, white and blue wares for the Jubilee weekend?
If you fancy somewhere laid back to spend the whole evening, try The Brickhouse Supperclub. Located in the historic Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, it was originally the site of the Old Brick Lane Music Hall. Although modern in design, The Brickhouse captures the vibe of the speakeasies with its 1930s supper clubs which offer cabaret, burlesque and, on the rare occasion, even mind reading!
Soak Up Stratford
With 70% of traffic expected to pass through Westfield Stratford City come July it’s a gem (or should that be huge, shiny diamond?) which is hard to miss. The centre prides itself on its excellent entertainment and leisure offer, including a 17 screen cinema, the UK’s largest casino, bowling alley and Great Eastern food market which is a modern take on the 100 year old market which once resided in the area. Oh, and there’s a few shops too, if you need to pick up a souvenir or two.
Our tip is to stop by for a coffee at the John Lewis cafe which overlooks the Olympic grounds – time it right and you might catch a glimpse of some sporting action! Or, if you’re visiting before the Games, check out the Marilyn Monroe photography exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery between March 23rd March to 3rd June. Here, largely unseen Monroe images will be on show from Getty’s 90 million-strong archive and you can pick up a print from £65.
Hit a Market
Immerse yourself in some good old-fashioned cockney culture by visiting a London street market.
Every Saturday the Broadway market in London Fields is a must visit with vintage clothes stalls galore and quality fresh food at lower prices than the supermarkets. Crammed in a little East End street there’s a mash up of various tastes and cultures across the many stalls, shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes. Go to the Cat & Mutton for a pint and people watch – all the East London fashion trend setters are there!
The Spitalfields Traders Market is open every day (except Saturdays and Mondays) and is under canopy, so is a perfect option when the British weather isn’t ideal. On a busy day there can be up to 110 stalls trading in contemporary and vintage fashion, music, bespoke children’s toys, accessories and home interiors – often aspiring designers set up shop here so pick up some unique pieces.
For quirky homeware make a trip to The Tea Rooms on Brick Lane. Inside you will find antiques, art, working retro electrical goods, vinyl records, jewellery and handmade fashion items. Muse over whether to purchase that quirky ornament with a homemade cake and cup of English tea.
Schmooze in Shoreditch
Shoreditch has a superb bar offering with plenty of live music making it, arguably, one of the trendiest spots in east London. For the perfect end to an afternoon browsing the market stalls, why not plan a bar-hopping journey from old English boozer to sophisticated cocktail bar? There’s so much choice on offer here it’s more a matter of what mood you are in, just make sure you pop in to Hoxton Bar & Grill on your adventure. New bands debut here so it’s a great place to experience live music.
Go Gallery Gazing
The east end has over 180 art galleries, most of which are free to enter.
Founded in 1901 to bring art to the East London masses, the Whitechapel gallery has been further expanded in 2009 and offers a light, spacious venue for some inspiring art. World-class artists have premiered here including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Sophie Calle. Situated on Whitechapel High Street the gallery is open 11am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday.
The White Cube in Hoxton Square is a clean, minimalist, 2000 square foot exhibition space housed in a 1920s industrial building. It opened in 2000 and has included the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers on its books. Remember to check out the film auditorium where you can watch short documentaries on controversial artists Gilbert & George. Open 10am-6pm Tuesday to Saturday.
Now you are armed with some must-do’s for your trip, it’s a good idea to print out a map and mark the places of interest so that you can plan your way round East London simply and quickly. Most importantly, keep calm and enjoy your mini-break!