One of the most vibrant districts in 21st Century London, the Shoreditch area, which sits right on the cusp of the Square Mile (thus, very easy to reach from the City of London’s best hotels, such as, say, the Montcalm Brewery hotel London), is absolutely packed with fantastic things to see and do. Everything from eclectic retail destinations to old-school markets, luxury cinemas to fascinating museums and supreme city farms to parks and green spaces…
• The Electric (64-66 Redchurch Street E2 7DP) if the sound of a film-going experience in luxury appeals to you then Shoreditch’s Electric is the cinema for you; something of an all-things-to-all-people venue, its auditorium is made up of leather armchairs and footstools to rest your pins, while you can cover yourself all snug in cashmere blankets, meanwhile downstairs there’s a café, an old-school barbers and even a manicurist
• Pillow Cinema (2 and 4 Homerton High Street E9 6JQ) The only way to enjoy movies on the big screen come the spring and summer; that is, on a beanbag on the roof of a Grade II-listed building in Hackney, with snacks and drinks all served too.
• Columbia Road Flower Market (Columbia Road E2 7RG) One of the most popular of London’s myriad markets, this one’s full of colour and all manner of vibrant, vivid and colourful fresh flowers, as well as bulbs, herbs, shrubs and garden equipment; only open on Sunday mornings and afternoons
• Old Spitalfields Market (16 Horner Square E1 6EW) The site of a market for the past 350 years, this highlight of the Square Mile’s retail scene offers stalls vending men’s and women’s fashion and vintage items, while around its edges you’ll find a cornucopia of stylish boutiques and eateries like restaurants and snack outlets (perfect then for lunch during a day out from one of the area’s luxury hotels for families)
• Brick Lane Market (91 Brick Lane E1 6QR) Made world-famous thanks to Zadie Smith’s hit novel ‘Brick Lane’, this destination’s more a cornerstone than a mainstay of the East End. Although open every day, Sundays are undoubtedly the best day of the week for a visit, for it’s then that the street’s full of folks hawking all manner of different wares, while street performers add a lively, colourful vibe to the whole scene.
• Blitz London (55-59 Hanbury Street E1 5JP) – a vintage department store housed in an old, renovated furniture factory, this place clearly takes as its inspiration the hip and stylish wares on sale at nearby Brick Lane Market and, in fact, there’s a furniture section courtesy of The Dog & Wardrobe stall at the East End’s Broadway Market, while exquisite fashion garments are complimented by an accessories floor and a book section
• Boxpark (2-10 Bethnal Green Road E1 6GY) – a firm fixture (and symbol) of the hipster haven that’s Shoreditch, this pop-up mall’s made up of refitted shipping containers (yes, really) located in the arch created by the elevated Shoreditch High Street station; it’s full of independent and global fashion stores, lifestyle outlets, eateries and cafés.
• Dennis Severs’ House (18 Folgate Street E1 6BX) – a fascinating Georgian town house that succeeds in creating the ‘still-life drama’ of different generations in a family of Huguenot silk weavers
• Hackney City Farm (1 Goldsmiths Row E2 8QA) – fantastic for families, this city farm’s full of friendly, furry creatures and has a chequered past thanks to its animal inhabitants; some claim it’s haunted, but what is true is that those who move into flats nearby have to agree not to complain about the racket from the farm of a night-time!
• Hackney Museum (1 Reading Lane E8 1GQ) – tracing the many centuries of the Hackney area’s residents, this fascinating place tells the stories of Anglo-Saxon settlers, Victorian villa-dwellers and recent refugees and immigrants, all through objects, imagery and, where possible, interviews.
• Christ Church Spitalfields (Commercial Street E1 6LY) – built in the early 18th Century, this glorious white-stone Anglican church combines triumphal arches with a fine obelisk, while its magnificent organ was, when first installed in 1735, the largest in England
• Spitalfields City Farm (Buxton Street E1 5AR) – a fabulous green space that’s less than a mile away from the centre of the City of London, it’s another of the excellent city farms with which the East End is blessed; indeed, here there’s a great emphasis on children’s activities and educational workshops.
• Geffrye Museum (136 Kingsland Road E2 8EA) – Taking its moniker form Sir Robert Geffrye, a former Lord Mayor of London and Master of the UK’s one-time Ironmongers’ Company, this museum does a terrific job exploring homes and home life in the capital all the way from 1600 up to the present.
Public green spaces
• Bunhill Fields (38 City Road EC1Y 2BG) – the resting place of 123,000 souls, among them the legendary poets and playwrights William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan, this Non-conformist burial ground opened in 1865 and was deemed a public open space just two years later and forever afterwards; although bombed and damaged during the Second World War, it survived the Blitz and was reconstructed in 1960
• Allen Gardens (Buxton Street E1) – an attractive and pleasant green space right next-door to Spitalfields’ city farm, so great for families and ideal for a picnic or just a leisurely moment of repose during your trip to the Shoreditch area that’s so full of vibrant, dynamic and bustling attractions!