Places to Go in Shoreditch: A Guide to London’s Coolest Neighborhood
I just can not believe that I have never devoted an article to my favorite neighborhood in East London: Shoreditch! I have actually been there dozens of times. When I lived in London , I was there every week to find, to go to the food market, to shop, or to meet up with friends. Today I’m sharing my very best tips on all the best places to go in Shoreditch.
The History of Shoreditch
Shoreditch is located in East London, traditionally seen as the workers’ part of the city. Traditionally, the neighborhood is rougher and more dingy than the chic West London. While the rich in clean West London enjoyed their comfortable life and afternoon tea, their employees went to East London from early in the morning until late at night. Because the quays and ports were here, it mean a huge rise in factories and warehouses.
But the history of Shoreditch goes back far beyond what you would expect. In Roman times, the current Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road were part of a famous old trade route that ran from London to York. Nice to think that you may walk in the footsteps of the Romans if you walk these busy streets. But there is not much known about the Shoreditch before the 16th century, except that there was a priory between the 12th century and 1539 (which no longer exists). Furthermore, this area was probably not really built up because it was outside the City of London.
The first buildings that took place in Shoreditch were theaters, which at the end of the 16th century wanted to be outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, but close enough that they were easy to reach. That liveliness attracted other people, especially the lower classes, who were also less welcome in the City of London. The neighborhood was bursting with drunks, beggars, and brothels.
That changed when wealthy traders settled in the neighborhood in the 17th century, and started their factories, which then created work. Workers began to settle in the neighborhood, but when the factories slowly moved away again at the end of the 19th century, and unemployment took the government, the neighborhood collapsed.
The neighborhood was a dark, dark place where the smog of the factories colored the sky and poverty and crime went hand in hand. It was also the hunting ground of the world’s most famous serial killer at the end of the 19th century: Jack the Ripper. In short: you did not want to live here.
During the Second World War, East London, with its factories and port, suffered heavily during bombing. In the decades that followed, the neighborhood was no longer as criminal as ever, but by no means a very flourishing place to live with its many empty factories and dark alleys.
Until the students and artists settled in Shoreditch in the nineties because of the low rent. They brought creativity, liveliness, art and activity with them. There were nice vintage shops, cool exhibitions, and the large amount of immigrants in the neighborhood (who also lived there because of the low prices) opened up tasteful restaurants. The neighborhood suddenly became hip, lively place to live.
In the past 20 years, the neighborhood has gradually been taken over by the creative industry, the hipsters, and the rich who wanted to live in the center of the action. Meanwhile, Shoreditch is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in London, and an apartment can easily one million pounds. This of course brings with it a lot of criticism, because original residents are driven by rising rents from the neighborhood and the neighborhood is losing its original character more and more. But for visitors the neighborhood is still very nice to visit.
Best Places to Go in Shoreditch
The oldest building in Shoreditch is probably this church, with the official name “St. Leonard’s Church.” The most used name is just “Shoreditch Church.” It dates back to 1740 and is the cemetery of many important people from the Tudor period. There may have been a church on this site in the previous centuries, but the first mention of the church dates back to the 12th century. After the original structure collapsed, the current building was built in 1740.
In the middle of the rougher Shoreditch with its warehouses, you turn into a side street and suddenly stand in front of a row of stately mansions. Chances are you are in Princelet Street. These 18th century houses were built to rent out and sell to French Protestant refugees (Huguenots), who tried to escape the persecution of the Catholic regime. In the upper floors of the Georgian buildings, they started silk weaving, and on the lower floors they housed the employees of those weavers. Also in this street was one of the first synagogues of London (in the garden of house #19).
Old Spitalfields Market
One of the nicest indoor markets and a beautiful example of Victorian architecture in London is Old Spitalfields Market. A market has been held at this location since 1638. Back then “Spittle Fields” was a rural area on the eastern edge of the city. In 1887 the market was covered, and from that time comes the building that you now see. Nowadays, no more fruit and vegetables are sold. You will find a number of restaurants, nice shops, and stands that sell clothing, jewelry and art. Here’s where I bought my winter coat :)
One of the most important things to see in East London is street art. This is the stronghold of graffiti artists. I have regularly wandered around the streets, looking for the coolest pictures. But you can also follow a street art tour. Most street art can be found on Brick Lane and its side streets.
Hanbury Street has the famous crane, which has become the icon of Shoreditch. Normally, Belgian artist Roa only paints animals that occur locally in the places where he paints. But in this case, at the urging of local shop and restaurant owners, he opted for a crane, an important animal for the many entrepreneurs in this street coming from Bangladesh. A nice tribute to the multiculturalism that makes London special.
Dennis Sever’s House
On 18 Folgate Street you will find the Georgian house of Dennis Sever. Sever was an American who moved to this dilapidated house in 1979. Gradually he began to redecorate all ten rooms of the house, in different historical furniture styles from the 18th and 19th centuries. Originally, Huguenots lived in this house as silk weavers. Unfortunately Sever died in 1999 at the age of 51 from cancer. The house can now be visited as a museum and is seen as one of the most unique museums in London.
Village Underground Metrowagons
One in the category of: did you notice this? On top of the Village Underground building are four subway carriages that are cheerfully decorated with graffiti. The wagons are used as studios for artists. Village Underground itself is an “event space” where you can enjoy performances, club nights, exhibitions, and theater. I have never been inside myself, but I always have to smile when I see the subway cars. Now you know that you really are in Shoreditch.
Brick Lane Market & Petticoat Lane Market
A real classic is to go to the food market on Brick Lane on Sunday. Here you will find cuisine from all corners of the world, vintage clothing markets and music. A part of it is just along the street side, but you will also find a lot in the covered Sunday Upmarket and Backlane Market! Go there with a hungry stomach :-).
Another traditional market? The Petticoat Lane Market. Clothing has been sold here for decades. Petticoat Lane is not the official street name, that is Middlesex Street, but the nickname that is now so much better known than the real name that everyone uses it.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Where do people get flowers on Sundays? From the Columbia Road Flower Market of course! If you get there a little early, then the most beautiful forests are not sold out yet.
The Old Truman Brewery
The back of The Old Truman Brewery is one of the best spots in Shoreditch, because it is just hidden from the busy Brick Lane. You will find a number of nice food stalls and street art from Banksy. The Old Truman Brewery has its own special history. At the end of the 19th century, this was one of the largest breweries in the world!
Vintage shopping on Brick Lane
Move over Camden, the epicenter of vintage shopping is really on Brick Lane. If you like vintage pieces, then you will be able to shop and find some real gems.
When you get off Shoreditch High Street you will immediately notice the black and white container right next to the station. This is Boxpark, one of the hippest places to shop in London. The containers are full of small shops, cool brands and temporary pop up shops. There are also a number of restaurants. I always love to peep in at the shops here.
Best Tours in Shoreditch
Street Art Tour
As I said before, there are few better places in London to see so much street art together. But yes … for an untrained eye, what are you looking at? The last time I was in London I followed a street art tour, learning everything about the artists who are responsible for the most famous works of art in East London. Interesting!
I followed the free tour of Free Tours by Foot with guide Jessica. (Well almost free. Don’t give a tip!)
Jack the Ripper Tour
The most famous resident of Shoreditch is of course one of mythical proportions: Jack the Ripper. This serial killer wandered through East London in the 19th century and murdered and mutilated prostitutes in dark alleys. There are now about 70 (!) Jack the Ripper tours a day in Shoreditch every day. I also did one and found it really super interesting to learn more about this dark piece of history from Shoreditch!
East End Food Tour
Shoreditch is one of the best places to eat in London. The large amount of immigrants in the neighborhood have brought a variety of restaurants that are incredibly fun. If you want you can follow a food tour that takes you past the best places to eat.
Free tours by Foot also offers a free food tour where you only pay for your own food, and a tip for the guide.
If you prefer to go out and taste the best of Shoreditch … then I’ve gathered some of the nicest restaurants in Shoreditch below! Tasty!
Places to Go in Shoreditch to Eat
An absolute classic in Shoreditch. You can find it on Brick Lane. You can score bagels here 24/7. The meat bagel is an icon in London, although they do a number of variations. It was started in 1974 and I think it looks just like it did back then.
Serves Indian street food with a classic twist in a trendy location. There are now a number in London, but there are always rows for those in Shoreditch!
This is a large food market in industrial style including roof top bar and all kinds of kitchens.
Go for the best hot chocolate here. They serve all kinds of variations, but I liked those with salted caramel.
One of the hippest pizzerias in London. Nice interior and delicious pizzas.
Barrio is one of my favorite bars in Shoreditch. They have a good happy hour (2 for 1), and tasty Mexican snacks. Personally, I always like to be in the Caravan haha.
Is table football really your thing? Then you have to be here. Again I have nice memories of evenings. Nice bar.
Queen of Hoxton
One of the hippest bars and clubs in East London. Has a very nice rooftop where they sometimes also show films!
The club in Shoreditch. Where most of the bars in London close at about twelve, this club will not open until 10 pm, and you will party to the best DJs for up to four hours.
The Breakfast Club
I remember that it was just open and there were always rows in front of the doors. Now that is no longer the case, except in the weekends for brunch. The Breakfast Club serves (among other things) breakfast dishes throughout the day, so if you fancy eggs or waffles in the evening, here you can go.
This is one of my guilty pleasures. They serve great burgers (the dirty chicken cheeseburger!), And crazy milkshakes (Russian White Vodka Milkshake).
Curry on Brick Lane
You can eat the very best curry of London on Brick Lane on a stretch of road called “Curry Mile,” where you have dozens of curry restaurants to choose from. Brick Lane Brasserie and City Spice are seen as one of the best.
One of my favorite pizza chains in London. Good sourdough soils and interesting toppings.
Vietnamese on Pho Mile
After “Curry Mile” you also have “Pho Mile” in Shoreditch, a part where you will find many Vietnamese restaurants. You can find this group of restaurants on Kingsland Road.
The Crown and Shuttle
One of the nicest pubs in London, I think. And also one with a lot of history: the pub already existed in Victorian times, although it has not always been a pub in the intervening period. Since 2013, however, the pub is open again, and the craft beer serves in an industrial design. Once it won a prize for the best place to drink when the sun shines, because of the wonderful courtyard.
My favorite spot in Shoreditch in the summer? That is the garden of Rolling Stock. A courtyard surrounded by walls with colorful graffiti where you drink good cocktails, and where live music can be found regularly.
The Water Poet
Another nice pub for a drink, near Liverpool Street. Funny, and perhaps not surprising, enough this pub is owned by the same owner as The Crown and Shuttle. This pub also has a nice courtyard garden, and serves a lot of beer from local breweries.
Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes
This bar with a strange name opened in 2001 and was one of the first hip hotspots in the neighborhood. The name comes from the bags and shoe sellers who once sat in this building and whose names are still on the façade. This is not only a bar, but also an exhibition space and a club.
This trendy chain has a number of locations in London. I like going there, although I am usually in London Bridge. The one in Shoreditch is the original location, and is since 2011 on the Old Street roundabout. An institute. During the day you drink good coffee and enjoy the tasty restaurants, and drink one of the cocktails in the evening.
Where to Stay in Shoreditch
This article is of course not complete without a recommendation for hotels in Shoreditch!
- CitizenM London Shoreditch: Here I slept myself. Super nice hotel in the heart of Shoreditch (on the spot where the monastery used to be). You control everything in your room via a tablet.
- The Curtain: Super hip hotel, with even a swimming pool on the roof. The room is decorated in an industrial style, and the restaurant seems to be very good.
- Ace Hotel Shoreditch: Right on Shoreditch High Street is the nice Ace Hotel. Downstairs you have a nice lobby where you can work, the food is delicious and the rooms look beautiful.
What are your best Shoreditch tips?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe.