People were always telling me to check out Shoreditch when visiting London, and since moving to the area two years ago, I can really see why.
It’s a youthful area that’s unashamedly artsy, and you can get a real taste of what local life is like for the trendsetters that reside here.
Stylish eateries repurpose formerly derelict buildings, Instagram-worthy graffiti decorates the streets, and you’re certain to come across unique finds in the boutiques along the way.
by Therese Detje;
Therese can be found cycling alongside the double deckers in London's East, where she frequents her favorite weekend markets and local cafes. She freelances from her office overlooking the Regents Canal, pausing from her work to check out other people's dogs more often than she should be.;
What to see and do in Shoreditch?
1. Explore the shipping containers that make up Boxpark
Made of 60 recycled shipping containers, the two-storey complex that is Boxpark is definitely worth checking out. 40 containers make up the lower floor on the street level, which is a quirky kind of pop-up shopping space.
Global and international brands can take residency in the containers for a period of time, meaning it’s an ever-changing offering of things ranging from funny giftwares, fine jewellery, outlandish doughnuts and progressive new clothing brands.
The 20 containers above make up the upper floor – a fun space with different food stalls and three large seating areas to accommodate the thirsty customers of the Boxpark bar.
2. Get lost down the side streets as you go graffiti spotting
East London is known for being a bit on the grungier and dare-I-say hipster side. With Shoreditch pretty much being the capital of the eastern neighbourhoods, it’s here that you’ll find some of the best galleries, studios and… street art.
Almost every street you go down or alleyway you peek into is guaranteed to have some kind of graffiti or street art in it. Take pictures of your favourites, and don’t forget to check if there’s a name at the bottom somewhere.
Who knows, you might come across your new favourite artist, or even someone that’s quite well-known. You may have heard of a guy called Banksy? Head down Rivington Street to see if you can spot one of his works.
You can also do a guided tour through Shoreditch to learn a little more about the area and its public art.
— Therese Detje
3. Spend an afternoon meandering down Brick Lane
This Shoreditch hotspot is home to some of East London’s most iconic things. On the top end you’ll find the two rival beigel (not bagel) shops – remnants of the large Jewish community who once populated the area.
Since then, the beigel shops have welcomed other institutions along the Lane, including tiny cafes and bars, vintage stores, and a humongous selection of curry houses.
A market springs up along Brick Lane every Sunday where you might be lucky enough to score some rare vintage finds.
4. Take a look at the Old Street Roundabout – AKA “Silicon Roundabout”
While the roundabout is not really anything special, the story that surrounds it is worth noting.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron called the spot “Silicon Roundabout” in a speech in 2010, referring to the countless web and tech companies that have made the area their home.
While it’s not as vast as Silicon Valley, the term has stuck. You’ll see why once you start noticing the amount of digitally-centric businesses that have sprung up within the radius of the roundabout.
5. Sit in the sunshine at Hoxton Square
Away from the busy streets and hullabaloo of the Shoreditch hotspots lies Hoxton Square.
This grassy garden space is said to be one of the oldest public squares in the capital, and it’s still beloved by London residents who frequent the spot on their lunch breaks or to read a book when the weather’s nice.
Bring a picnic and find yourself a good spot for people watching – no doubt you’ll be able to spot the tech developers and creative designer types that work in the area, as well as a few locals taking their French Bulldogs out for a walk.
When the sun goes down, head in to one of the many bars or eateries that line the square.
6. Indulge all your senses at a unique kind of yoga class
Think yoga, but in an immersive setting that uses coloured light, sound and scent to give you a totally multisensory experience.
As “Shoreditch” as it gets, Chroma Yoga attracts people from all over who want to combine the therapeutic benefits of yoga with a unique kind of experience that combines sport with art.
The combination of light therapy and sound therapy while practising yoga is meant to be all sorts of good for you, but it’s also just a really cool thing to tell your friends about after.
7. Smell the roses at the Columbia Road Flower Market
Every Sunday, the quaint Columbia Road just outside of Shoreditch becomes a colour explosion of blooms. No matter the weather, the market is open year-round, meaning the flowers are seasonal and always worth a sniff at.
As well as flowers, stalls overflow with plants in pots you can bring home, and despite how busy they are, vendors are always happy to advise you on how not to kill your new fronds.
Go early to avoid the crowds (it opens at 8am) or head over when it’s closing - usually around 3pm - to score a bargain on the last of the bouquets.
— Therese Detje
8. Don’t let the chickens escape at Hackney City Farm
Not far from Columbia Road is the Hackney City Farm, a community space that’s loved by kids and adults alike.
Chickens roam around your feet as you walk around the farmyard where you can find goats, pigs, donkeys and sheep roaming around the paddocks.
If you’re lucky enough to be there in the springtime, make sure to peep into the barn enclosures in case there are baby goats running around in there. You might even be able to hold one! Oh, and it’s completely free.
9. Stroll down “Pho Mile” on Kingsland Road
Taking you out of Shoreditch directly to the wonderful Regents Canal and everything that lies further north is Kingsland Road.
It’s packed with Vietnamese restaurants including a mix of hip new ventures as well as some family-run joints that are unashamedly stuck in the 80s (in a good way). The Shoreditch end is home to some fun little bars to visit too.
10. Join the entrepreneurial crowd at Campus London
If you’re looking for a space to get some work done for a day or just want to spend a few hours with access to fast Wifi without feeling guilty for spending too long at a cafe, make Campus London your destination.
The co-working space is owned and run by Google, and is one of few Campus locations around the world. Keep an eye out for special events, though the buzzing energy coming from all the people working on their startup ideas might be all the inspiration you need.
It’s open Mondays to Fridays and you’ll just need to sign up (don’t worry, it’s free) before you visit.
11. Pop into the Old Spitalfields Market
This charming covered market has supposedly been a trading site for over 350 years.
Nowadays, the old Victorian building has been spruced up and is host to a range of stalls where local traders sell handmade artisan goods, boutique fashion and niche arts and crafts.
The space also hosts some well-known brands, meaning the adorably quaint Chanel store could be neighbouring an up-and-coming fashion designer one day, and a juice stand the next.
Don’t miss the Vinyl Market every first and third Friday of the month, as well as the Antiques Market every Thursday.
— Therese Detje
12. Visit the boutiques along Redchurch Street
This short but sweet street is a design lover’s dream. With fashion boutiques that are sah trendy, as well as some really, really nice homeware and interior design stores, you could easily spend a few too many pounds here if you’re not careful.
The shops have a kind of Scandi-feel to them, though you’ll also find well-loved international brands like Aesop and T2 along the strip.
This also includes Le Labo – where you can make your own perfume, candles and lotions. If you get thirsty on the way, there are a few nice little cafe and pubs who will most definitely have whatever you’re looking for.
13. Catch a movie on a rooftop at the Queen of Hoxton
During the warmer months, the rooftop of this Shoreditch institution transforms into a cinema – complete with director’s chairs to sit in and blankets to snuggle under for when the sun dips below the horizon.
You can expect Hollywood classics, cult favourites, as well as all the latest blockbusters. Screenings usually start at 9pm (once it’s dark enough to project onto the screen), but you’ll probably want to get there early to enjoy a pre-screening tipple overlooking Shoreditch below.
Don’t despair if you’ve missed cinema season – the rooftop hosts a cosy Moroccan Medina in the wintertime.
14. Marvel at the Rivington Place building
This visual arts centre opened in 2007 and is Britain’s first permanent public space dedicated to reflecting and promoting cultural diversity in the visual arts.
The strikingly postmodern building was designed by Ghanaian British architect Sir David Ajaye, and is the type of building you want to photograph from many different angles.
Head inside to the Autograph gallery (it’s free) for photographic exhibits centring around issues of identity, human rights and social justice.
15. Discover that there’s more than beer at the Old Truman’s Brewery
Tucked away along Brick Lane, this former brewery (in operation from 1666 to 1989) is now a bustling creative quarter. The vast would-be derelict structures have been transformed into hipster territory.
While there is an annual craft beer festival, expect to see more art fairs, craft markets, fashion festival events and food stalls on the grounds. The brewery itself has since been revived in a new location in Hackney Wick.
16. Check out what’s on at the Hoxton Arches
All over London, railway arches have been transformed and repurposed in many brilliant ways. This space is no exception, with the gallery and venue-for-hire space making it an art spot that is always changing.
The original bricks of the railway arch have been left exposed, making the Hoxton Arches one of the most unique-looking gallery spaces around. Art shows, pop-ups and public events have all been hosted there, so it’s worth checking out to see what’s on.
17. Jump in a ball pit (or two) at Ballie Ballerson
Be a baller at this Instagram-friendly venue centred around – you guessed it – ball pits.
With one million balls (take my word for it or count them yourself), you can dive into a number of different pits – the biggest one has a 70 metre revolving UV-light mural surrounding it.
You can jump into the balls from a swing and marvel at the ball waterfall, but don’t wear high heels or shoes that might easily come off your feet unless you feel like crawling along the bottom like a human pool cleaner in search for them.
There’s also a pretty extravagant bar, but it goes without saying that drinks aren’t allowed anywhere near the ball pits.
18. Go with the flow at the Nomadic Community Gardens
This still relatively hidden green arts space is not your typical garden.
With certain ‘psychedelic’ influences that attract a very chilled-out crowd of locals, it’s worth wandering through to look at the unusual art that’s been formed out of metal scraps, or to listen to local musicians who aren’t there to collect money, but rather just to contribute to the vibe of the place.
There are plenty of spaces to chill, with most of the furniture being made out of repurposed timber. Set along the railway tracks, the Nomadic Community Gardens used to just be a patch of nothing until locals transformed it into the unique kind of oasis it is today.
19. Go for a hole-in-one at Junkyard Golf Club
Popular as a date spot but also somewhere that’s a lot of fun for groups, this tucked-away mini golf venue in an underground bar setting always attracts a crowd.
There are four differently-themed courses to choose from: one amidst a wild jungle, another a creepy carnival theme, a movie-themed course and finally, the original car junkyard setup.
Each hole has its own punny name and is not lacking in amusing paraphernalia that is impressively incorporated into the courses.
There are small bar stations throughout each course to keep you hydrated as you swing or to take a break while you wait for the next hole to free up.
Doors open in the late afternoon and things wind down at around 11pm most nights, meaning this is definitely more of a place for playful adults than kids.
20. Learn about the area’s history at Shoreditch Town Hall
Opened in 1866, the hall was back then considered one of the most prestigious and grand Vestry Halls around. It was used as a place to serve citizens of democracy up until the 1960s, before oddly enough becoming a venue for boxing matches.
It was somewhat neglected from the 80’s on, before it was refurbished and turned into the events space and arts hub it is today. Throughout the building, you can spot the Shoreditch crest, accompanied by the motto: “More Light, More Power”.
It is believed this refers to the days when the building generated electricity and provided the borough’s street lighting.
21. Check out an Indie flick at Rich Mix Cinema
A hub for both local and global offerings, Rich Mix is a place that has become a platform for a diverse range of independent artists.
The cinema plays everything from blockbusters to hotly requested cult films, as well as international and home-grown film festivals.
You’re bound to discover something new here.
You’ll also find live events including theatre, music, comedy and spoken word performances. Monday is the discount day, and locals can get in cheaper on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
22. Browse through records at Rough Trade
Located in the Old Truman’s Brewery, this gem of a spot is stuffed full of records from all over the world. Staff can recommend all the best new sounds and will help you track down that album you’ve been searching for since forever.
An institution since 1976, this record store is more than a retail space – don’t miss special music events and even your favourite artists popping in to do signings. Blur and Queens of the Stone Age are among other legends who have performed here.
23. Get a chop at Jack the Clipper
The infamous Jack the Ripper committed his gruesome crimes in the streets of East London, and if you don’t have the time to take a tour of the murder sites, at least indulge your strange fascination with the legend with this punny barber shop.
Get a cut, a beard trim or a shave – if you dare. Even if you don’t need a trim, the store’s creepily cute facades at the Brick Lane or Spitalfields’s locations always make for a good photo op.
24. Try your hand at shuffle boarding at the London Shuffle Club
If you’re looking to try something fun and competitive that you’ve probably never done before, then this could be the place for you.
Shuffle boarding, a kind of cross between ten-pin bowling and curling that’s usually more popular among the senior crowd, has been introduced to Shoreditch at this permanent floor-based shuffleboard club.
There are six indoor lanes and two outdoor lanes, which you can book by the hour. There’s no per-person fee, so the more people you bring, the cheaper it’ll work out.
25. Go window-shopping for your dream house around Princelet Street and Wilkes Street
Close to the Old Spitalfields Market lie these two streets which boast some of the most beautiful Georgian-era architecture around. It’s said that the intersecting streets are home to the largest collection of early Georgian terraced houses in London.
Real estate prices along here are more often than not a couple million pounds, and the stunning brickwork and painted shutters help you see why.
Charming, gorgeous, and each dwelling holding on to generations of history, let your imagination run wild as you gaze up at the beautiful old windows.
26. Creep through the curiously theatrical Dennis Severs’ House
An immersive kind of historical museum, the Dennis Severs House is decked out to look and feel like it would have centuries ago.
The ten rooms of the old Huguenot house have been decorated and furnished to replicate what life for a family of silk-weavers would’ve been like between 1724 and 1914.
Tours are conducted in silence so that you can fully embrace the carefully designed sounds, smells and sights of the restored home displays.
Candles burn, food is left on the table and things like broken tea cups on the floor make it seem like you’ve only just missed the inhabitants moments before.
27. Don’t stop smiling at the Museum of Happiness
An adorable initiative run by volunteers, the Museum of Happiness is not your typical museum.
There’s no walking around looking at artefacts and reading about them on plaques, it’s more about the events and classes you can attend to truly discover the science of happiness.
Through workshops and interactive experiences, visitors will learn about how to channel more positivity into their day-to-day lives.