Double-decker buses, black cabs, and Big Ben.
All that is London. But in this guide from there, we are highlighting a different side of the British capital. The punk music, the markets, the fashion. And, believe it or not, the great food. To find all these things, we are traveling East.
The East End of London has evolved a lot in recent years. From sometimes shabby street corners and empty warehouses to polished art galleries and design agency offices. For our guide, we tried to find a perfect mix of both worlds. Some shiny new places, and some beloved old favorites.
East London is a part of London, the capital and most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. Founded by the Romans, it has been a financial and cultural hub for two millennia.
Population (metro area): 13.9 million
Currency: Pound Sterling (£)
10am – Ace Hotel London Shoreditch
Starting the day with the best view
Good morning, East London! Our favorite hotel here (and the place we’ll call home for this stay) is the Ace Hotel London Shoreditch. Slap dab in the middle of Shoreditch, it has the perfect location for a day full of exploring. Just like the other Ace Hotels Stateside, it boasts chic, design-y interiors, relaxed staff, and attracts a creative crowd that hangs out in the lobby at all times of the day, working on their latest project.
The rooms come in different sizes and at very different price points – the smallest ‘Standard’ rooms are perfectly fine for couples traveling together. Inside, you’ll find stylish bedding, some cool gadgets like record players, books, and magazines.
Ace Hotels are famous for their cool vibe, and the London Outpost is no different. Staying here is a good primer for exploring the rapidly changing streets of East London.
Ace Hotel London Shoreditch // 100 Shoreditch High St // website
10.15am – Ozone Coffee Roasters
Taking in some sights
DO & DONT’S
Do: Be on the lookout for pop-ups, new openings, and temporary stores. Things change quickly here.
Don’t: Only explore the well-gentrified corners of Shoreditch. If you have extra time, venture further East!
The Tube, London’s Underground system, is the world’s oldest and longest underground railway system. It’s easy to use and efficient and – together with the famous double-decker buses – will take you wherever you need to go. Buy an Oyster card at a machine and top it up when you used up your balance instead of buying single tickets.
This is going to be a long, eventful day! So you better have a hearty, British breakfast and some great coffee to get you up and running. Leave the hotel, and take the short walk via Bateman’s Row and Curtain Road to Leonard Street, which pleasantly feels very much like a regular, local neighborhood street.
From the outside, Ozone could be easily missed. It looks just like any other tall-ish, warehouse-like building on Leonard Street. That all changes once you get inside, though. The company from New Zealand is roasting its coffee downstairs in the basement, and you can peek down via a giant mirror on the wall. But the big roastery is not the only thing grabbing your attention here. There’s an open kitchen with busy chefs preparing food, a giant bar with shiny coffee machines behind it, and lots and lots of locals hanging out, working, or having their first coffee while reading a newspaper.
Ozone’s coffee is really tasty, and the food among the best we had on our trip. Also: The staff is extremely friendly, efficient and helpful.
Enjoy your breakfast (if you want to feel truly British, try their homemade Baked Beans!), and then get ready to leave Shoreditch for a while.
Ozone Coffee Roasters // 11 Leonard Street // Mon-Fri 7.30am-5pm, Sat/Sun 9am-4pm // website
11.30am – Regent’s Canal
Luxury shopping (of the window variety)
Time to explore one of London’s staples, the markets. This part is a little tricky for us to describe since most markets take place on certain days of the week only. For the sake of our guide, we are pretending to spend these 12 hours in London on a Saturday or a Sunday. If you are in the city on a regular weekday, have a look at Time Out London for some other local markets. You’ll find one every day!
Every Saturday, the famous Broadway Market takes place. And getting there is no chore, it’s actually a mini-vacation in the middle of the city. Take the Overground from Shoreditch High Street for two stops to Haggerston. (If you feel adventurous, you could easily walk this distance. Have a look at our map and decide for yourself.) From there, walk down the street towards the water.
The Regent’s Canal is an old waterway that was originally built for commercial use. Now, it’s a magnet for city folks who want to get away from the busy streets for a while. The sides of the canal are full of pedestrians and cyclists (Watch out under the low bridges!), and on a sunny day, you’ll see people on canoes on the water.
Walk along the water all the way to Broadway Market.
12pm – Broadway Market
A Hackney institution that takes place every Saturday. It’s always crowded here, so bring some patience while you walk from the canal up to Fields Park and back again. But the vendors are so worth it! You’ll find mostly food, lots of it produced locally, and drinks. Some stalls also sell accessories like bags or jewellery. One of our favorites: Miss Crofton’s Homemade underwear that is extremely pretty and surprisingly affordable.
12.45pm – Artwords Bookshop
Get your reading on
On your way back to the canal, you’ll pass a tiny corner shop called Artwords Bookshop. Don’t miss it! It has one of the best selections of books and magazines we’ve ever encountered, and the staff helps you out with even the most mundane request.
That obscure Japanese fashion magazine that everybody’s talking about on Twitter but is impossible to get a hold of? Artwords probably has it in stock…
If you don’t want to carry around books the whole day, there is a second Artwords shop pretty close to the hotel in Shoreditch!
Artwords Bookshop // 20-22 Broadway Market // Mon-Fri 10.30am-6.30pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12pm-6pm // website
Columbia Road Flower Market
Flowers for everybody
DRESSING THE PART
London is one of the world’s most exciting fashion capitals. Anything goes here, and in the East of the city, outfits tend to be a bit more adventurous and a bit less posh than in the rest of the city. Go simple, if you want to, go crazy if you dare. Anything goes.
Proper English tea from T2 Shoreditch on Redchurch Street.
A vintage leather jacket from Brick Lane.
A brush or some other beautiful household item from Labour And Wait.
If it is Sunday instead, you sadly missed Broadway Market. But don’t fret, because we have an amazing alternative for you. While everything is about food at Broadway Market, it’s all about flowers at Columbia Road. Vendors are selling freshly cut flowers and potted plants, and people are buying them in bulk. “Ten for a tenner!”, the sellers scream.
Don’t miss the little side streets, where you’ll be able to buy delicious food, from freshly shucked oysters to Bloody Marys and coffee.
And now, back to Shoreditch!
Columbia Road Flower Market, //every Sunday 8am-3pm // website
2.30pm – Goodhood Store
Streetwear at its best
WHAT TO ORDER
Food: Indian Food at Dishoom. A bagel from Brick Lane Bagel Beigel Bake. Fish & Chips.
Drinks: A beer from a pub. Or, if it’s summer: An ice-cold Pimm’s.
GOOD TO KNOW
The East end has traditionally been a working class neighborhood that also naturally attracted refugees and immigrants.
East London is the most popular film location in the city, playing host to everything from Oliver! to A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket.
Before lunch, let’s get some shopping done. First on our list is the Goodhood Store, really close to The Hoxton. We love this shop for its great selection of contemporary fashion labels for Women and Men. Expect lots of Scandinavian brands like WoodWood, Japanese designers like Junya Watanabe and a beautifully curated selection of small, useful things like watches, shoes, wallets, and magazines.
GoodHood Store // 41 Coronet Street // Mon-Sat 11am-6.30pm, Sun 12pm-5pm // website
3pm – Present London
For the boys
Let’s go over to Shoreditch High Street, this giant lifeline of the East End. It’s bustling with commuters and shoppers alike. No wonder, the selection of shops and restaurants is really extensive.
In our humble opinion, Present London is one of the best shops here. They sell everything a guy could ever want, from some of the world’s best menswear brands like Nanamica to the perfect boots, and the clothes have been picked out with a lot of appreciation for quality and taste.
Inside, next to the entrance, Present London has their very own Prufrock coffee cart, that some people claim sells Shoreditch’s best coffee.
Cross the street and enter Calvert Avenue. This is one of Shoreditch’s nicest streets, complete with a little church and a park at the end.
Present London // 140 Shoreditch High Street // Mon-Fri 10.30am-7pm, Sat 11am-6.30pm, Sun 11am-5pm // website
3.20pm – Leila’s Shop
Time for lunch
Hungry yet? Let’s have lunch! Just down the street from Anthem, on the other side of the road, is Leila’s Shop. Half amazing neighborhood grocery store, half café, this is a place where locals come to mingle. Owner Leila McAlister herself is one of the friendliest people who will ever prepare your lunch, so sit back and relax. The food is simple and nice, with a strong focus on good, fresh ingredients. There are a lot of options for Vegetarians on the menu, too!
Leila’s Shop // 15-17 Calvert Avenue // Wed-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm // website
4.15pm – Albion
Grocery shopping, the fancy way
Walk down Boundary Street. At the corner, you’ll spot the Boundary building. It’s now housing a very nice (and very expensive) hotel, a restaurant and has a rooftop bar. But what’s really interesting for us is The Albion on the ground floor.
This café (an a bit more expensive alternative for lunch) has an amazing in-house bakery where you could buy yourself some snacks to last you through the afternoon. And on the corner is their small shop that sells mostly British products. Everything here looks beautiful, even the cauliflower and carrots are arranged like a painting. By all means, go inside and have a peak.
Albion // 2-4 Boundary Street // daily from 8am until late // website
4.30pm – A.P.C. & Aesop
Just around the corner from The Albion, on Redchurch Street, our shopping trip continues. There’s a branch of 12hrs favorite A.P.C., the French brand known for updated, timeless classics with a Boho vibe.
Opposite A.P.C. is one of London’s many Aesop shops. This Australian skincare company is always worth a visit. Their products smell amazing and really work. Have a look at their useful travel kits if you’re looking to spoil yourself a bit. If you don’t buy anything, at least make use of their generous testers outside of the shop. Everybody can use some hand cream, trust us!
4.45pm – Labour and Wait
Who says cleaning supplies can’t be beautiful?
Let’s continue our way down Redchurch Street towards Brick Lane (although we won’t end up there just yet). You’re passing Allpress Coffee on the right, which is yet another New Zealand implant that roasts amazing beans. If you’re in the mood for an Espresso or a flat White, grab one there.
Then, go to Labour and Wait. This beautiful shop makes the most mundane things look special. They carry all sorts of household items, from brushes to tableware and more sturdy things like ropes and shovels. Each of these products come from small, specialized manufacturers that focus on quality rather than quantity. A small selection of books about East London and just a few items of clothing make Labour and Wait a perfect little neighborhood shop.
5pm – The Vintage Emporium
Get your vintage shopping on
If you continue down the street, you’ll inevitably end up on Brick Lane. This is the quintessential East End Street, with all its cafés, vintage shops, and Indian curry places a bit further down the road.
In the recent years, Brick Lane has become a tourist magnet, and it’s harder and harder to find really good, affordable second-hand clothes here. But there is at least one exception to that rule, The Vintage Emporium.
Located on a small side street, it’s a Victorian style café on first sight that serves nice tea and scones, but once you go down the stairs into the shop section, you understand why we had to include this shop into our guide. You’ll find true vintage items here, dating back as far as the very early 1900s. There are flapper dresses, hats and shoes, and even old underwear. Some of the items on display here look like they should hang in a museum, they are so delicate and well preserved. It’s not cheap here, but prices are very reasonable. Carefully explore all nooks and crannies, and then head back outside.
The Vintage Emporium // 14 Bacon Street // shop opening hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-7pm, Sat-Sun 10am-7pm // website
5.15pm – Boxpark
Pop-ups, neatly lined up
Walk around the corner and towards Shoreditch High Street station, we need to take a train to our next destination. On your way to the train station, you’ll see Boxpark. This array of containers calls itself “The World’s first Pop-up-Mall”. Each of the little units houses another brand or store. There are some nice shops there, among them a store from 12hrs business card printers of choice, Moo.com, and Marimekko from Finland.
Walk around the boxes, or head straight to the train. See you in Dalston!
Boxpark // 2-4 Bethnal Green Road // Mon-Wed & Fri/Sat 11am-7pm, Thu 11am-8pm, Sun 12pm-6pm // website
5.45pm – LN-CC
Avantgarde fashion for the adventurous
Take the Overground train again and get off after a short ride at Dalston Kingsland. Dalston isn’t as commercial as Shoreditch yet, the rents are a bit lower, there are fewer businessmen and more teenagers on the streets, everything feels a bit more local.
A weird place for a shop like LN-CC, but then again, they don’t play by the rules, anyway. In order to enter this fashion store extraordinaire, you need to book an appointment first. This might sound annoying or intimidating, but trust us, just do it. A super short email to them (address on the website) with your preferred date and time is enough, they’ll get back to you after a while. The earlier you book your appointment, the better, confirmations sometimes take a tiny bit longer.
Walk down the street to number 18, on the right side of the building is a small way leading towards a locked door. Ring the bell, and they’ll let you in. A member of the staff will show you around and explain everything to you, and after that, you’re alone in that magnificent space.
Each room has a different focus, from sportswear (in a term not used very literal here) to more high-end fashion. There’s a library room with rare art books and a very cool and very obscure vinyl record collection (on our visit, we found mostly Japanese Bossa Nova and Russian Jazz) as well as space for shoes. If you have the money, you can find some of the finest clothes for both men and women here. If not, treat it as if it would be a museum. It sort of is, anyway.
LN-CC // 18 Shacklewell Lane // open seven days a week, by appointment only // website
6.20pm – Farm Shop
The future of farming?
Once you’re outside the vault-like LN-CC again, you might long for something more substantial. A short walk away is the Farm Shop. This odd little place is exactly what the name suggests: A farm within a shop.
The owners grow herbs and plants within a regular Dalston shop, there are even tanks full of fish and a nice garden in the back. Urban farming at a whole new level.
There’s a café attached that sells sandwiches and salads grown in the shop. Sadly, if you followed our schedule closely, Farm shop will be closed by now. You can still see all the weird planters and vegetable from the outside, so it is definitely worth a visit. If you’re ever here before 5pm, head in.
Farm Shop // 20 Dalston Lane // Mon-Sun 11am-5pm // website
7pm – Dishoom
A wonderful place to savour those Indian flavours
Back to Shoreditch, it’s time for dinner. There are a lot of amazing restaurants around the East of London, but if we have to choose one, we’ll always pick Dishoom.
Having Indian food in London is a good idea anyway, but Dishoom is very special. It has been modeled after the Bombay Cafés that flourished in the Indian city during the 1960s. Built by Persian immigrants, there were once almost 400 of them in Bombay, and they attracted everybody – from sweaty taxi drivers to businessmen and families.
Dishoom wants to be as uncomplicated as these establishments, and it manages that with ease. The crowd is very diverse, and the décor reminds you of far-away places, with faded pictures on the wall and fans slowly turning on the ceiling.
The food is outright fantastic! You order several small dishes that you can share with everyone at your table. Don’t be afraid of the giant menu, the members of the super welcoming staff explain everything to you and always have great recommendations. The 12hrs cheat sheet: Get Far Far while you are waiting, then pick whatever you want, but make sure to include their signature dish, the House Black Daal, and the amazing Pau Bhaji. Oh, and the Gunpowder potatoes. And the Kacchi Lamb, and…
Dishoom doesn’t take reservations (unless you are a party of six and more), but it’s big enough so you should be able to get a table. There’s also a waiting list on crowded days and a bar to spend the time waiting with a good cocktail. Prices here are super fair, you won’t spend a fortune but still leave extremely happy.
Dishoom Shoreditch // 7 Boundary Street // Mon-Wed 8am-11pm, Thu/Fri 8am-12am, Sat 9am-12am, Sun 9am-11pm // website
8.30pm – Queen of Hoxton
Up on the roof
Over at the Queen of Hoxton, you can lose some of the calories you just acquired by walking up to the roof. This “youth club for adults” spans three stories, with spaces for concerts and theater, a game room, and – of course – a giant bar.
In the Summer, their rooftop garden (opened on weekdays only until 9 pm, on the weekends until 10 pm) gives you a great view of the ever-changing East End. They sell ice cream there, serve yummy after-dinner cocktails and host great events like outdoor movie clubs or silent parties.
In Winter, they might just build a Tipi up there and make it cozy. Check their website for details.
Queen of Hoxton // 1-5 Curtain Road // Sun-Wed 5pm-12am, Thu-Sat 5pm-2am // website
10pm – Pub Life
Let’s go pubbing
Going out in the East is an easy thing, so we won’t bore you with too many pub suggestions. There are great places on every corner, just have a look at the people standing outside, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how it will be inside.
We liked The George & Dragon a lot, a nice gay pub with a beaten-up bar that attracts a lot of mustache-wearers, as well as The Owl & The Pussycat, a very charming gastropub with great beers on tap and lovely décor.
Both establishments are in the neighborhood. Just wander around, and discover what suits you best.
Bonus: Brick Lane Beigel Bake
es, we know, our 12hrs in East London are over. But pssst, we have one more tip…
After hitting the rooftop bar, the pubs and maybe a club or two, you might be in need of something salty in your stomach. Something to fight off that hangover before it even gets a chance to hit you. In situations like this, there’s only one place to visit: The Brick Lane Beigel Bake.
Open 24 hours, seven days a week, this Jewish bakery feeds hungry hipsters and starving construction workers, tired partygoers and eager students alike. They bake everything fresh, around the clock. This is by no means a fancy place, it has a, well, let’s call it “rough” charm, but that makes it also very authentic. Fun fact: It’s the oldest bagel shop in London and produces around 7.000 Bagels every day.
Brick Lane Beigel Bake // 159 Brick Lane // open 24/7
The sound of London in 12 songs