Top Things To Do in Bethnal Green London | Attractions, Restaurants & More
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Bethnal Green is a trendy neighbourhood in London with a wonderfully unconventional vibe. It’s located in the East End and is chock full of little local gems that are a nice change of pace from the typical London attractions.
From a street full of flowers to a cafe with cats and a museum that celebrates all things unusual, the eccentric vibe here is really something. There’s really something for everyone.
This is your inclusive guide on things to do in Bethnal Green and the surrounding area. It contains everything from unique museums to free attractions and tour options.
There are also some venues to enjoy a night out, as well as the best restaurants in Bethnal Green to indulge in a delicious meal.
Where is Bethnal Green?
Bethnal Green is a neighbourhood in the heart of East London. It’s part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and is just 3 miles from Charing Cross.
Set right next to the neighbourhoods of edgy Shoreditch and eclectic Spitalfields, it’s in one of London’s most creative and culturally diverse areas.
What is Bethnal Green Famous For?
Bethnal Green has a fascinating history, which makes it famous for a few things today. At the end of the 1800s, it was one of London’s poorest slums. Jack the Ripper was known for stocking his victims at the western end of Bethnal Green and in the nearby Whitechapel district.
During the second world war, Bethnal Green was one of the targeted areas during The Blitz. As a result, many houses and buildings were destroyed. The tube station was also the site of the UK’s largest single loss of civilian life during the war.
Today, Bethnal Green is a melting pot of different cultures. The area has seen many new waves of immigrants, from the Huguenots in the 16th and 17th centuries to the Asian community of today. Currently, over a third of the neighbourhood’s residents are Bangladeshis.
One last thing to point out about Bethnal Green is its renovated railway arches. This distinctive line of arches contains all sorts of business tucked inside.
They have an industrial-chic aesthetic that makes a great setting for a cold pint, a glass of locally made wine, or a tasty meal – but we’ll get into more about that below.
What To Do in Bethnal Green
You won’t have a hard time finding fun things to do in Bethnal Green, East London. Although it’s close to London’s top sites, the area has a lovely local vibe and a nice list of unique attractions. No matter the time of day, you’ll find something exciting going on.
Stroll Around the Beautiful Columbia Road Flower Market
Columbia Road Flower Market is one of London’s vibrant street markets. But rather than selling your usual London souvenirs and street food, it’s full of plants and flowers. As you stroll through the street, your senses will be treated to colourful sights everywhere you look as the smell of sweet scents fills the air.
Whether you’re looking to buy flowers, take creative Instagram photos in London, or just admire the lovely atmosphere, you’ll be in for a real treat.
Pick up everything from small houseplants and colourful bouquets to succulents and fresh herbs.
The Columbia Road Flower Market takes place every Sunday from 8:00 to 14:00. If you want to avoid the crowds, try to arrive as early as possible.
If you’re visiting during another day of the week, it still makes a nice stop, as the road is outlined with a lovely mix of cafes, craft stores, and vintage shops.
Feel Like a Kid Again at the Young V&A
Young V&A, previously known as the V&A Museum of Childhood, is for the young and young at heart. It offers a nostalgic walk into the past, with exhibits that showcase old children’s toys. See items like dollhouses, board games, teddy bears, action figures, and much more.
Some of the toys date back as far back as the 1700s. You can see just how much playthings have changed over the years and perhaps relieve some of your childhood memories. Spend hours exploring the different areas and letting your imagination run wild.
If you’re visiting with young ones, there’s also a sensory area and a sandpit for little kids to play in. General admission to the museum is free; however, there is a cost for the special exhibitions.
Wander Around the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities is one of the most interesting and unique London attractions. It celebrates all things bizarre, showcasing an assortment of unusual objects, from occult artwork to a two-headed lamb and condoms used by the Rolling Stones.
The museum also has a natural history section with displays including things like extinct bird feathers, taxidermy, shrunken heads, and Tribal Skulls.
Before or after your visit, make sure to spend some time at the museum’s on-site Absinthe Parlour & Cocktail Bar.
Enjoy a creative cocktail, glass of wine, or cider. There are also some small bites to munch on alongside your drinks.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday. And, unlike other museums in the city, they stay open until late; doors close at 22:00 or 23:00. So if you’re looking for something to do in London at night, you can pop in even after it gets dark – it might even be more fun this way.
Take a WWII Blitz Private Tour
During WWII, Bethnal Green was hit hard by a Blitz carried out by German bombing.
On this WWII Blitz Tour, you’ll visit several places in Bethnal Green and the surrounding areas connected to London’s WWII history.
Travel to an old air-raid shelter, see parts of the city affected by aerial bombing and visit the site of a V2 rocket attack.
You’ll also visit the Bethnal Green Memorial. This was the unfortunate scene of a horrible civilian disaster during the war. In March of 1943, a stampede of people rushed to shelter at the tube station here during an air raid. As a result of the charge, 173 people were killed.
History buffs will especially appreciate this closer look at one of London’s darkest chapters. And since your tour will be led by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll benefit from a more insightful experience.
Have a Picnic at the Bethnal Green Gardens
Looking for a nice Bethnal Green lunch spot in the fresh open air? Why not pack a picnic and head to the Bethnal Green Gardens.
This beautiful outdoor space features a spacious and lush lawn. It’s an ideal place to lay down a blanket, pull out some snacks, and enjoy a quiet rest in between sightseeing.
There are also some quiet paths where you can take a relaxing walk and plenty of benches to sit on and rest. If you’re travelling with kids, there is a small playground where they can burn off some of their energy.
Chill With Cats at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
Do you love coffee and cats? If so, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a must-visit. At this quirky cafe, rescue cats roam free across two Alice in Wonderland themed floors.
Guests are encouraged to walk around and interact with the cats — as long as they’re comfortable.
Or, just bask in the animal ambience and sip on tea, coffee, a soft drink, or an alcoholic beverage. There are also lots of tasty bites to nibble on, like sweets, toasties and cheese boards.
It’s recommended to book a spot in advance. It’s £15 to spend 90 minutes with the cats at the cafe. This price does not include food/drink items.
Party Hard at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
If you’re keen on a fun night out, the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club is the place to go. This historic nightclub hosts everything from live music and comedy shows to burlesque and cabaret. Many events feature local entertainment.
Unlike some of London’s other nightclubs, the Working Men’s Club has more of an intimate, neighbourhood feel, while still promoting an all-out party atmosphere.
The club is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 20:00 until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.
Have a Laugh at the Backyard Comedy Club
This Bethnal Green comedy club puts on stand-up performances and cabaret acts. It’s one of London’s best comedy venues, and both newcomers and big names take the stage regularly. Some of the biggest names in comedy have performed here, like Dave Chapelle, Russell Howard, and Harry Hill.
The venue has a casual vibe, and tickets start as low as £7.50. There’s also a full bar where you can order everything from beer and wine to spirits and cocktails. If you’re hungry, their pizza and light bite menu has options for everyone, from meat-eaters to vegans.
Last but not least, there is also table football, ping-pong and board games that guests can enjoy with friends.
Swing By Plant Warehouse Bethnal Green
Plant Warehouse on Cambridge Heath Road is a small little garden centre with the most charming atmosphere. It contains an amazing selection of plants, with everything from rare succulents to house plants – and they come in all shapes and sizes.
Pick up a small cactus for your work desk, grab a hanging basket to suspend from your ceiling, or just wander through the shop and admire the earthy ambience.
See a Movie at Genesis Cinema
Genesis Cinema is an arthouse cinema set in a renovated 19th-century building. It has an art deco feel to it and is a great place to go for some wholesome entertainment.
The cinema shows blockbuster hits as well as independent movies. The tickets are also very reasonably priced.
Before or after you see a show, visit Bar Paragon for a drink. It’s located directly above the cinema. You can also grab a meal at The Kitchen, which is next to the bar. They serve things like pie and mash, pizza, and nachos.
There is also a kiosk where you can purchase some snacks, like popcorn and sweets, to take into the theatre with you to enjoy during the show.
Things To Do Near Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green is a relatively small area of London, but it’s sandwiched in between some awesome areas that you should definitely check out. Here are a few nearby places to head to after you see Bethnal Green’s main attractions.
Go on an East End Street Art Walking Tour
Explore the nearby areas of Shoreditch, Spitalfields, and Brick Lane on an East End Art Tour. During this activity, you’ll discover London’s Street art scene and see some of the city’s most impressive urban art and graffiti.
Your tour guide will take you to see the works of art from dozens of street artists, and they’ll also give you more insight into the history of the East End.
Make sure to have your camera ready; around every corner, you’ll find unique photo opportunities. If you need a new profile picture for your social media platforms, the art-filled walls make an excellent backdrop.
Step Back in Time at the Museum of the Home
Museum of the Home (previously the Geffrye Museum) is set inside an 18th-century former Almshouse. Each room contains re-created domestic interiors that date back from the 1600s to the present.
See rooms decorated just as real London homes would have been back in the day. From a parlour from 1695 to a drawing-room from 1830 and a 1970s front room, they showcase quite the timeline.
There are also several gardens that reflect different time periods in the city, like a Tudor knot garden, a cottage-style garden, and a modern green roof.
The museum is free to visit and is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Shop at The Truman Brewery Markets
The Truman Brewery Markets is held every weekend. You’ll find a whole host of local vendors set up selling everything from street food and fresh produce to jewellery and homeware. If you want to pick up a souvenir, this is a great market to do so.
It’s also the kind of place you’re going to want to bring your appetite to. The food hall has about 40 different street food traders with cuisine from all around the world.
Choose from options like Ethiopian, Thai, British, and Indian. Make sure to save room for dessert, as the market’s sweet scene is top-notch.
Feel at Peace at the Hackney City Farm Yard
Hackney City Farm Yard is a family-friendly farm located right in the city. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll love visiting this urban green space, where you’ll get to see donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, and more.
There’s also a lovely garden with an orchard, a bog garden, an herb garden, and a vegetable garden. It’s open to the public year-round.
Before you leave, visit the cafe for a drink and a light snack in a quiet setting. If you want to purchase something to take home with you, there’s also a small organic packaging-free shop selling things like nuts, different types of grains and pasta, eggs, herbs and oils.
Entry is free, but the farm is self-sustaining, so a small donation is very much appreciated.
Where To Eat Bethnal Green
This corner of London is a great place for foodies. Whether you fancy a healthy plant-based meal, some classic British fare, or tapas with a view, these Bethnal Green restaurants will satisfy every type of eater.
And for good measure, I’ve also included some of the best bars to check out after you’ve visited one of these places to eat in Bethnal Green.
E Pellicci features a menu full of hearty and tasty dishes. Choose between classic British comfort food, like a full English breakfast, homemade pies, or smoked salmon. Or, feast on a delicious Italian meal, like lasagna, cannelloni, and spaghetti bolognese — all made with homemade sauce.
The restaurant has been run by the same family since 1900, and the hospitality is as warm and friendly as it gets. E Pellicci is open from Monday to Saturday for breakfast and lunch.
Chiringuito – Bethnal Green
Chiringuito – Bethnal Green is a rooftop bar and eatery that serves Spanish-inspired tapas and drinks. Order some tapas and tacos to share with friends while taking in the lively atmosphere and views of Bethnal Green. There are options for all dietary preferences: vegetarian, gluten-intolerant, vegan, and meat-eaters.
Don’t forget to pair your meal with one of their signature cocktails, a glass of wine, or a sangria. If you want to stop in a bit earlier, they also have a separate brunch menu.
Gallery Cafe is a hip vegan eatery with a 100% plant-based menu. From healthy items, like a superfood breakfast bowl and avo on toast, to more indulgent meals, like banana pancakes and smoked “cheese” quesadillas, they have some mouth-watering options.
If you want to enjoy a guilt-free English breakfast, they put a vegan spin on this British breakfast staple. It includes homemade baked beans, garlic-roasted mushrooms, red onion and rosemary sausages, scrambled “eggs”, roasted tomatoes, wilted greens, and sourdough or gluten-free bread – yum!
Sager + Wilde Restaurant
Sager + Wilde is a modern British restaurant that provides a well-rounded dining experience. The interior has a rustic-chic aesthetic, with a railway-arch bar stocked full of fine wines and spirits. It’s the kind of place you’ll have to stay for “just one more”.
On a nice summer day, dine outside on the relaxing and airy terrace. Enjoy drinks and shareable plates off their a la carte menu, which has options with salad, fish, meat, and pasta. Or, select something from their customizable three-course set menu; it will leave you feeling just the right amount of satisfaction.
The Sun Tavern
The Sun Tavern is one of the coolest bars in East London. This brick-lined pub dates back to the 1850s. It has a down-to-earth vibe and a cosy and intimate atmosphere. Their expensive drink menu features local microbrews, poitín, classically inspired cocktails, wine, and London’s largest selection of Irish whiskey.
To accompany your drinks, the pub offers a small food menu. There are options like a cheese board, bread and olive oil, and hummus and breadsticks.
Renegade Bethnal Green
If you’re a wine connoisseur, Renegade Urban Winery and Bar will be right up your alley. This charming little wine bar makes its wine locally, and they’re set under Bethnal Green’s iconic railway arches.
Swing by for a glass of red, white, or sparkling, and enjoy the laid-back, homey atmosphere. If you’re not a wine drinker, they also offer beer and cocktails.
You can pair your drink with a cheese board, a selection of cured meat, hummus and pita, or other small snacks you’ll find on their menu. Make sure to check their online calendar for their monthly events. They regularly offer talks, tours, and wine tastings.
Satan’s Whiskers is a proper little neighbourhood cocktail bar set along the row of Cambridge Heath Road restaurants.
Their menu of drinks is constantly changing, so there’s always something new to try out. You can try one of their inventive creations, or, if you’d prefer to stick with a classic cocktail, those are available too.
The bartenders are known for being super friendly, too. If you’re unsure about what to order, they’ll make sure you get the exact drink you’re craving.
With chill hip hop playing through the speakers, dim mood lighting, exposed brick walls, and quirky taxidermy decorations filling the interior, there’s never a dull moment.
This weird and wonderful bar in Bethnal Green will be one of those places you’ll want to keep coming back to every time you’re in London.
Bethnal Green Things To Do | Final Thoughts
Bethnal Green might not generate as much hype as other London neighbourhoods, but it’s just as worthy of a visit.
This is especially true if you want to see another side of the city and discover some unique and low-key attractions away from the typical tourist sites.
From where to grab breakfast in Bethnal Green to places to go for a night out, you’ll easily be able to fill a whole day (or more) with fun stops. And when you’re done, you can continue on to exploring the nearby areas, like Brick Lane and Whitechapel.
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