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A guide to East London

East London is a vibrant mix of cultures, innovation and the sharpest bars in town. Whether you’re looking for a fantastic curry, fascinating classes, cool urban parks or extraordinary vintage clothing, here are top ten places in the East where alternative London meets city chic…

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1. Get cultural at the Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX

A work of art in itself, the glorious art nouveau Whitechapel Art Gallery was founded in 1901 to bring art to the impoverished East End. Always at the cutting edge of contemporary art, promoting the work of everyone from Picasso, Rothko to Hurst. It continues to showcase new art, championing the vast number of local artists. Open all year round it’s only a short walk from Liverpool Street station.

How much does it cost? It’s free!

How do I get there? Take the train to Fenchurch Street, Whitechapel Gallery is a 10 minute walk.

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2. Enjoy something extraordinary at the Troxy

The Troxy, 490, Commercial Road, London E1 0HX

A mammoth 1930s ex-cinema, the art deco Troxy saw dark days as a bingo hall in the late part of the 20th Century. Now it’s one of the most exciting music venues in London. Whether a curious one-off happening from the likes of Secret Cinema or the East End Film Festival or a corporate giant, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the next extraordinary event, especially given it’s just a five-minute walk from Limehouse station. 

How much does it cost? Varies by event, check the website for more details.

How do I get there? Take the train to Limehouse, the Troxy is a 5 minute walk.

Tell me more! Visit the website here

3. Go back in time at the Geffrye Museum

136 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA

For some period drama try the quaint 18th Century almshouses, set back off Kingsland Road. The rooms have been joined then transformed to make ‘a living room’ from different moments in history, right back to the time of famous London diarist Samuel Pepys up to the 1980s. Make a special trip at Christmas to see the rooms decorated according to each period’s taste.

How much does it cost? It’s free!

How do I get there? Take the train to West Ham, change for the District line to Whitechapel and then the overground to Hoxton. The museum is less than 5 minutes walk.

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4. Have a midnight snack at Brick Lane Beigel Bake

159 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB

For places to eat the famous curry houses of Brick Lane are a great shout. Whether it’s the middle of the night and you’ve just emerged from a sweaty nightclub with an empty stomach and an emptier pocket, or you just fancy something delicious, Brick Lane Beigel Bake is where you should head. It’s been serving traditional Jewish bread rolls and salt beef sarnies 24 hours a day for nearly forty years and the queues are testament to how tasty (and bargainous) it is.

How much does it cost? Depends how hungry you are! A traditional salt beef beigel is £3.70, while smoked salmon & cream cheese is £1.60.

How do I get there? Either walk from Liverpool Street (15 minutes) or take the train to West Ham, change for the District line to Whitechapel and then the overground to Shoreditch High Street. Beigel Bake is less than 5 minutes walk.

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5. Catch at gig at Wilton’s Music Hall

1, Graces Alley (off Ensign St), London E1 8JB

Crumbling, romantic and lost for several generations, Wilton’s is a slice of Victorian East End charm. Boarded up and used as a rag store, it survived two world wars, aggressive slum clearances and a stint as a Methodist hall, coming out the other side as one of East London’s hidden masterpieces. The building was saved by volunteers and has been producing imaginative theatre, gigs and one-off events for the past ten years.

How much does it cost? Varies by event, check the website for more details.

How do I get there? Walk from Fenchurch Street (15 minutes)

Tell me more! Visit the website here

6. Visit the heart of East London at The Old Truman Brewery

The Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL

For the past fifteen years, ten acres of land along Brick Lane that used to be warehouses, workshops and a brewery, have been slowly developing into a dizzying world of exhibitions, cafes, venue spaces, bars, shops, markets and all manner of other creative projects. Celebrating rather than obliterating the area’s history, the result sees the old East End meet contemporary East London. Eat, drink and enjoy the best of what London’s artists and innovators have to offer.

How do I get there? Either walk from Liverpool Street (12 minutes) or take the train to West Ham, change for the District line to Whitechapel and then the overground to Aldgate East. The Old Truman Brewery is 10 minutes walk.

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7. Shop, drink & dance at Paper Dress Vintage

114–116 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AH

Is it a shop? Is it a bar? Is it a club? Actually, it’s all three and more. This unique vintage dress emporium in Shoreditch has a secret after-hours life.
Rails are rolled aside, guitars, drum kits and PA equipment unpacked and glasses polished as a stylish cocktail bar and nightclub emerges.
Pick up an extraordinary original 50s top and pedal pushers, then dance the night away to the rockin’ sounds of Diamond Jive club night.

How do I get there? Walk from Liverpool Street (9 minutes)

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8. Picnic in the park at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, E20

Not only is it perfect for lazy afternoon picnics in the park, now you can have them on the newly created East Beach too. Once you’re done with all the relaxing take a ride on the best new helter skelter in the world - Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit was unveiled as a sculpture for the Olympics in 2012 but now the infamous curly-wurly has been metamorphosed into the world’s most awesome slide.

How do I get there? Walk from Stratford (11 minutes)

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9. Sip speakeasy-style cocktails at The Nightjar

The Nightjar, 129, City Road, London EC1V 1JB

One of London’s first ‘nouveau speakeasies’, this Old Street prohibition-style bar, a short cab ride from Liverpool Street station, serves cocktails new and old. Dripping with live jazz and dark wood, the gorgeous, low-lit basement is louche, hip and sexy. It’s nigh-on essential to book in advance, but with a bar menu that reads like poetry and an atmosphere rivalling flapper-age parties, it’s worth making the effort just to sip a Betsy Ross, a Prairie Flip or a Barrel-Aged Zombie.

How do I get there? Walk from Liverpool Street (15 minutes) or take the train to Fenchurch Street and then the 135 bus from Dukes Place to Old Street Roundabout.

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10. Learn a new skill at Bishopsgate Institute

Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH

If you fancy taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill, Bishopsgate Institute has been teaching and inspiring for the past 120 years with a programme of courses, classes, lectures, conferences and events plus a knockout library and bright, creative café. A couple of minutes’ walk from Liverpool Street station, classes range from languages to wine, dance to history and are priced to attract a wide range of students.

How do I get there? Walk from Liverpool Street (6 minutes)

Tell me more! Visit the website here