For the love of East London! An Alternative Guide

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Joining the likes of David Beckham, Idris Elba, Alfred Hitchcock and THE Adele, our Junior Marketing Executive Sophie also hails from East London and she strongly believes that her part of the city is always overlooked when it comes to British tourism. Find out why she loves East side from the bottom of her heart with her ultimate love of East London guide, cockney style.   

A Life in London

As a Londoner born and bred, I never grow tired of my city. One of my favourite pastimes is rising up early on a Sunday morning and going for a stroll before the rest of the city has awoken from its slumber. I’m usually accompanied by a friend or two, and with every walk we stumble upon little cafes cooking their first batch of scrambled eggs and cosy pubs with log fires that I never knew existed, hidden away on cobble-stoned street corners in East London. 

East London is soaked in history. Charles Dickens’ novels about the mistreatment of the working-class most famously in Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend explicitly mention East London. Dickens was even a proud Patron of the Grapes pub in Limehouse (now part owned by Ian McKellen today.) And, of course, the news stories about eighteenth century murderer Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel gripped the world. 

You see, East London is different from the London that other parts of the world might see on adverts, or even flicking through pictures of your friend’s trip to Europe. In New York, it’s like comparing Brooklyn’s Bushwick to Manhattan’s Financial District. The two neighbourhoods and the boroughs that they are apart of are inherently different in their demographic and their architecture, which then affects factors like the cost of living in these areas. 

But I’ll let you into a little secret. I love East London more than any other place in the world. It’s full of promise, in a more honest and frank way than the rest of London. The job opportunities and start up businesses for young people to sink their teeth into are endless, from finance to banking to marketing, and the arts and theatre movements are more creative than ever. People aren’t scared to be different, they live for it. 

And that’s what separates East London from the rest. 

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Wait… so where can I find East London? 

In the East, funnily enough. It lies East (and North) of the River Thames, comprising of 6 of the 32 London boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering and most of Hackney. 

The best way to remember the area is by looking at a map of the London Underground – anything east of Liverpool Street on the Central Line (the red line) is considered East London. The end of the Central line starting from Chigwell is in Essex, hence why there are similarities between the Essex accent and East London ‘cockney’ accent. 

WHERE TO GO, WHAT TO DO

What are the most notable locations in East London? 

SHOREDITCH: Like Williamsburg in New York, Shoreditch has become the hub for hipsters, great street food, iconic graffiti and street art and vintage thrifting shop paradise. Visit Brick Lane food market every Sunday for all manner of delicious food around the world, including authentic Indian curry where you can negotiate the price of your grub, amazing Canadian poutine (approved by Canadians in BUNAC HQ) and obviously pie, mash and liquor – the local dish of East London. Make your trip a Kodak moment and stop by Rough Trade Photobooth. 

Closest tube station: Shoreditch High Street (Overground) Liverpool Street (Central Line) 

LEYTONSTONE: The hometown of David Beckham, and well, me - so I’m a bit bias to old Leytonstone. But trust me when I say, you won’t find a better pub with an immense beer garden than the Red Lion, the perfect place to chill with your mates on a summer’s night after a day at the office. Need gorgeous coffee and a croissant before work? Look no further than the Wild Goose Bakery. Leytonstone combines the art and edge of Shoreditch with a community feel.  

Closest tube station: Leytonstone (Central Line)

HOXTON: Known for its strip of Vietnamese restaurants, with my personal favourites being Bun Bun Bun and Pho House which are cheap and so, so satisfying. Watch the sunset as you lie on the grass of the Geffrye Museum Gardens (see picture), the cutest picnic spot there ever was. You can always rely on the Queen of Hoxton Rooftop bar or the Hoxton Pony for amazing nights out, too. 

Closest tube station: Old Street (Northern Line) Bethnal Green (Central Line)

DALSTON: Check out Dalston Roof Park for breathtaking views of London town. You’ll never be far from damn good Turkish eateries like Stone Cave or Mangal 1 Ocakbasi either. Wash that down by thought-provoking and visually outstanding theatre at the Arcola Theatre and you have your match made in heaven! 

Closest tube station: Dalston Junction (Overground) Dalston Kingsland (Overground)

Other locations not to be missed: Homerton, Stoke Newington, Whitechapel, Stratford, Romford, Walthamstow.  

If you want diversity and bravery in mind and spirit whilst on BUNAC’s Intern in Britain programme, why not say ‘allo guvnor to East London? We have so much more to show you than red telephone boxes and Tower Bridge. 

See you soon!