This guide has something for everyone and is filled with the top things to do in East London.
East London is one of the most popular areas of the city. It has a unique charm, with colourful street art and funky establishments lining the streets. It also has a hip and artistic vibe that attracts the creative type.
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Its London’s very own hipsterville.
Diverse markets, a cool cafe scene, and a diverse range of eateries are just some of the attractions that this area is more well-known for. But what makes the East End so intriguing is its hidden gems.
This guide has something for everyone in East London and it’s filled with some of the top things to do in London. Whether you’re spending one day in London, or one month, it offers countless activities to entertain you.
Top Places to Visit In East London: Markets & Shopping Centres
The shopping and market scene in London is top-notch. You’ll find a wonderfully diverse range of options as well as some of the best street food areas in East London.
If you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs, or just window shop, here are the top places in the area.
Old Spitalfields Market
For over 350 years, the Old Spitalfields Market has been home to numerous retailers, restaurants, and street food vendors. All of the stalls are contained under one very large Victorian market roof.
You’ll find a great variety, with everything from tourist t-shirts to jewellery, not to mention mouthwatering food options.
The market is open seven days a week, so add it to your London itinerary whatever time suits you best.
Some of my favourite places to grab a bite are the Jamaican (hey I have to support my fellow countrymen), the Ethiopian stall does really nice vegetarian dishes and for a sweet treat, I get a warm apple pie from Humble Crumble.
Broadway Market is a bustling Saturday market with an eclectic mix of stalls. Over 100 vendors sell things like vintage clothes, books, flowers, and coffee.
This is one of the best places in East London to spend a calm morning.
Make sure to come hungry as there are also plenty of food options. You’ll be able to choose from a huge selection of artisanal foods and street food options, including fresh-baked bread and cakes, high-quality cheeses, meats, and fish.
The Old Truman Brewery
The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane is the former home of East London’s iconic Truman Brewery.
Today, the massive building operates as a market and offers a wonderful mix of local pop-up shops, art galleries, and street food. It also hosts fun events throughout the year.
Visiting the market is one of the top things to do in Brick Lane. When you’re done, you’ll be in a prime position to wander around and enjoy East London’s street art scene.
For more on Brick Lane read my guide to Brick Lane market in London.
Petticoat Lane Market
Petticoat Lane Market is a popular clothing market in the East End’s Spitalfields neighbourhood. It’s made up of two adjoining street markets.
Wentworth Street Market is open from Monday to Friday. On Sunday, Middlesex Street Market opens up and stretches out onto the surrounding streets. You’ll find thousands of clothing items here at competitive prices.
Columbia Road Flower Market
The Columbia Road Flower Market is one of the most visually appealing East London tourist attractions.
Every Sunday you’ll find a beautiful range of plants and flowers for sale at affordable prices.
Head to Columbia Road flower market early if you want to avoid crowds.
Boxpark Shoreditch is a street food market and pop-up shopping outlet in one. The variety caters to all spenders.
Whether you’re looking for clothing items, homeware, souvenirs, or sunglasses, there are countless options to browse.
After you’re done perusing the shops, you can grab a drink and a bite to eat. Choose from meat dishes, plant-based options, sweet treats, and more.
Westfield Stratford City
Westfield Stratford City is the most popular place to shop in East London. With roughly 250 shops and 70 places to eat, it’s one of Europe’s largest shopping centres. Westfield is the kind of place where you’ll find whatever you’re looking for and more.
The stores cater to all budgets, from affordable to high-end, and the same goes for dining choices.
You’ll even find fun entertainment options, like bowling, karaoke, and a cinema. This massive mall has so many attractions you could easily spend a whole day exploring it.
Best Tours in East London
If you’re looking for fun activities in East London you can enjoy in a group setting, a guided tour is a must.
Below are a few options that focus on more specific aspects of the district’s culture and history.
East End Street Art Walking Tours
For those who are after fun activities in East London that include a bit of culture, an art walking tour is just what you need.
An East End street art tour lets you explore the art scene around Shoreditch and Brick Lane, two of London’s trendiest areas.
Around almost every corner you’ll find colourful murals, alternative sights, and urban graffiti by the city’s talented street artists.
You can read my guide on the best Shoreditch Street Art Walking Tour.
If you’re feeling creative, you can also book a street art tour with a spray painting session and produce your own masterpiece to take home with you.
East End Food Tour
An East End food tour is a fun way to discover the area through its cuisine. You’ll visit popular food markets, pubs, and restaurants.
Enjoy eight different food tastings, including a bacon sandwich, fish and chips, and English cheeses.
Between your tastings, you’ll be taken to some of London’s historical sites, like a Roman burial ground, historic synagogues, and Georgian-style mansions.
Jack The Ripper Walking Tour
If you’re into murder and mystery, a Jack the Ripper walking tour will be right up your alley. Follow in the footsteps of one of London’s most notorious serial killers and learn about the infamous unsolved cases.
You’ll visit the murder sites around the Whitechapel district and play detective for a couple of hours.
Secret London Tour by Bike
A bike tour of East London and the surrounding area is a fun way to explore the city. You’ll pedal past some of the city’s top sights and cover way more ground than you would on foot. Visit the East End Docks and trendy Brick Lane.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the tour also takes you by Diagon Alley and the Leaky from the Philosopher’s Stone movie.
Lastly, you’ll cycle over London’s iconic Tower Bridge. A bike tour is a fun activity to add to your itinerary when you visit East London.
Gangster London Walking Tour
Learn about the mean streets of East London on a gangster walking tour. Your guide for this excursion will be actor Vas Blackwood who played Rory Breaker in the gangster classic “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. You’ll travel to some of the filming locations from this film and other popular gangster movies.
Learn about London’s most feared gangsters from the 1950s and 1960s, like The Krays and Mad Frankie Fraser.
This tour might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something different, it does a fascinating job at showing a different side of the city.
Where To Go In East London: Cafes & Restaurants
One of the best ways to explore a new place is through its food scene. As far as cafes and eateries go, these joints in East London are a cut above the rest.
The Shoreditch Grind
As far as the best coffee shops in Shoreditch go, this cafe is hard to beat. In the morning you can stop by for a high-quality cup of Joe, fresh juice, or brunch.
At night, the cafe turns into a cocktail bar. The drinks are reasonably priced, and they also offer sharing plates of food if you get hungry. There’s seating inside and outside and the atmosphere is friendly and social.
Kahaila Limited is a charity-run coffee shop in the centre of Brick Lane. They use ethically-sourced coffee and their pastries come from independent London businesses.
Their sense of community is strong and you’ll notice a friendly local vibe as soon as you walk through the door.
If you’re a fan of red velvet cake, they make the best in town. They also offer plenty of vegan food items and plant milk.
Brick Lane Beigel Bake
Brick Lane Beigel Bake is a popular 24-hour bakery offering fresh Jewish-style bagels. The salt beef and smoked salmon are their most popular options, but it’s the kind of place where everything on the menu is tasty.
You’ll be able to see this bakery before you read the sign. As soon as you round the corner, it’ll be the place with the queue outside the door.
City Spice, Brick Lane
London is famed for its mouthwatering curries. City Spice on Black Lane is where you’ll find arguably the best curries in the city.
This award-winning Indian restaurant features classic dishes, creative creations, and plenty of plant-based options.
Everything is fresh and well-spiced. The portion sizes are generous, and the prices are reasonable. What more could you ask for? Whether you’re a meat-eater or a vegan, you’ll leave happy.
Top Outdoor Activities In East London
If you’re looking for things to see in East London away from all the buildings and bustling crowds, the area has a nice selection of parks and green spaces.
Below are a few places to check out to enjoy a quiet break from the hectic city life.
The beautiful Victoria Park, also known as the People’s Park, is one of the city’s most alluring green spaces. Located in the heart of East London, it offers many things to see and do.
For active travellers, there are football pitches, tennis courts, sporting facilities and miles of paths for running, walking, and cycling. There are also two playgrounds for kids and two cafes you can order drinks and food from.
You’ll also find a scenic lake with boats for hire. Or, if you’d rather just relax and take in the peaceful ambience, there are plenty of benches and shaded areas.
Hoxton Square is a public green space in Shoreditch. It provides an airy environment to relax and take a break from sightseeing.
It’s near plenty of restaurants and cafes; if you’re feeling hungry, pick up some food and enjoy it picnic-style on the grassy lawn.
Spitalfields City Farm
If you’re looking for family-friendly places to go in East London, Spitalfields City Farm is fun for all ages. Just a short distance from Brick Lane, this quaint country farm provides wholesome entertainment.
The farmyard houses animals of all sorts, including sheep, pigs, chickens, cats, and more. There’s also a cafe, a picnic area, and a farm shop where you can purchase some tasty treats to enjoy during your visit.
St Katharine Docks
St Katharine Docks is a low-key attraction on the north bank of the Thames River, just a stone’s throw from the Tower of London.
It’s a quiet space where you can enjoy a leisurely wander while admiring the beautiful boats and yachts docked at the marina.
Grab a coffee-to-go from one of the nearby cafes and enjoy a quiet reprieve from the busy city vibe.
London Fields Lido
London Fields Lido is a beautiful park with a lot to offer. The main feature is the 50m Olympic-sized outdoor heated swimming pool. It’s open year-round for classes and casual swims.
If you’re visiting during the warmer months, the large sundeck is a great place to soak up some rays.
Or, if you’d prefer to keep dry, you can simply relax on the grassy lawn with a picnic or a coffee from the cafe. There’s lots of space and many shaded trees to relax under.
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a cosy community garden located on an old railway line. It’s a beautiful little sanctuary where locals are able to plant and grow their own food. The gardens are open to the public and provide a quiet place to connect with nature.
If you’re visiting in October, there are lots of carved pumpkins and autumn-themed activities in the lead up to Halloween.
Entrance to the garden is free, but if you’d like to support this little local garden, you can purchase a drink or snack from the onsite cafe.
WWT London Wetland Centre
WWT London Wetland Centre is an expansive wetland reserve geared towards wildlife watchers and nature lovers. It’s just a short distance from East London and provides a stark contrast to city life.
An abundance of animals flourishes here, including otters, ducks, geese, and other beautiful bird species. If you happen to have your own binoculars with you, make sure to bring them. Otherwise, you can rent a pair when you arrive.
There are plenty of scenic paths for exploring the area and daily tours are also offered. If you get hungry from all of the walking you’ll be doing, you can order something from the cafe.
East London Places To Visit: Art Galleries & Museums
London is famous for its large, world-class museums and art galleries, but the city’s smaller institutions are just as notable.
Here are the top art galleries and museums in East London that show a unique side of the city.
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
If you’re looking for more unique East London things to do, The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities is a must-see.
Browse an unusual range of quirky collectables, like taxidermied two-headed kittens, skeletons, occult artwork, and more.
There’s also a cocktail bar in the museum where you can enjoy a creative concoction before you admire the strange objects. The absinthe is especially popular for the brave-hearted.
Museum of London Docklands
The Museum of London Docklands is one of the coolest museums East London offers. It’s a place where you can learn about the history of the Thames River in a fascinating and engaging way.
It covers an extensive timeline, from the arrival of the Romans in London to the present day.
The museum is full of information, including interactive displays, historical photographs, videos, and more. And the best part is, the museum is free to visit.
Dennis Severs’ House
Stepping into the Dennis Severs’ House is like stepping into an 18th-century time capsule. Set up as a house museum, each room is furnished in the exact manner it would have been when the Huguenot silk weavers lived and worked here.
As you travel through the ten different rooms, you’ll be provided with an immersive experience.
Sights, sounds, and smells will guide your visit. Hear the sounds of a crackling fire, smell the dinner cooking, and admire a still-life setting of this interesting period of London’s history.
Sutton House is the oldest house in East London. It was built in 1535 for King Henry VIII’s principal secretary of state, Sir Ralph Sadleir.
Travel back to Tudor times by touring this historic red-brick manor home. It has been wonderfully restored and features a beautiful Jacobean and Georgian interior with original decor. See a Tudor kitchen, a Victorian study, and an Edwardian chapel.
The house is run by the National Trust and guided tours as well as self-guided visits are offered.
God’s Own Junkyard
God’s Own Junkyard is one of the funkiest East London attractions. It’s an art gallery full of colourful neon signs and bold posters from floor to ceiling.
Its unusual and vibrant aesthetic makes it one of the most photographed and Instagrammable places in London.
Just note that the use of cameras (DSLRs) or GoPro’s are not permitted. You can use your smartphone to take pictures, however.
Entry is free, and there’s a cafe on-site where you can purchase drinks or snack items if you’re feeling peckish. Alcoholic drinks are also offered.
Whitechapel Gallery is a public art gallery that has been welcoming visitors since 1901. In 2009 it doubled in size when it incorporated an adjacent building.
The exhibits are temporary and rotate frequently, so there’s always something new to see.
The artwork displayed is mostly contemporary with plenty of unique pieces that inspire creativity.
Everything is well-curated, making it a lovely space to spend an hour or two aimlessly browsing and letting your imagination run free.
Cool Things To Do In East London: Entertainment Venues
There are some pretty awesome places to visit in East London for live entertainment. Take a break from sightseeing and enjoy a show at one of these performance venues.
Wilton’s Music Hall
Wilton’s Music Hall is the oldest surviving Grand Music Hall in the world. The current building we see today was constructed in 1859 and continues to showcase its Victorian heritage.
It’s full of history and character, making it a fun place in London’s East End to see a concert or theatre performance.
The old-timey bar and restaurant serving pizzas and bar snacks complete the theatre experience. This London gem is sure to guarantee a fun night out.
The Hackney Empire dates back to 1901. It was originally constructed as a music hall that hosted world-famous entertainers, including Charlie Chaplin and Julie Andrews.
Today, it has a similar role; it’s an independent theatre for live entertainment.
From plays to comedy and cabaret, you’ll find a nice assortment of shows offered. The building retains its historic structure, with modern elements added for a more comfortable entertainment experience.
Right next to the theatre, you’ll find the Empire Bar. Arrive early and enjoy a pre-show meal or drink. This is one of those authentic East London experiences for both visitors and city-dwellers.
The Castle Cinema
The Castle Cinema is a small local movie theatre that screens independent films. It offers a more personalised entertainment experience, with just 80 seats, or rather, cosy plush armchairs. This is definitely one of the most fun places in East London.
The cocktail bar serves drinks (including alcoholic beverages) and snacks that you can take with you to enjoy while watching the movie. If you’re looking for a low-key night out in London, this is your place.
Unique Things to Do in East London
Of course, seeing famous London landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are important, but sometimes the real fun lies in exploring the unusual attractions.
Here are the best things to do in East London for a more unique experience.
ArcelorMittal Orbit is the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide. Travel up to 15 mph from the top to the bottom on an exhilarating ride you won’t forget. There’s also a viewing platform at the top that showcases London’s dramatic skyline.
Visiting this attraction is hands down one of the most fun things to do in East London.
Ballie Ballerson Shoreditch
Ballie Ballerson is an adult playground in East London. It’s part-ball pit – like the kind you remember from your childhood – and part-bar. You’ll have the most fun jumping in the pit and frolicking in millions of colourful balls.
At night, this venue has a hip vibe with energetic music playing and plenty of options for inventive cocktails.
But you can visit in the morning too. Swing by for one of their boozy bottomless brunches and start your day with pizza, pornstar martinis, and prosecco – the breakfast of champions.
As you can imagine, this London attraction also makes for some great photo opportunities. Make sure your phone is charged before you head in!
Historic Attractions In East London
London is the type of city where its past is on full display. If you’re a history buff trying to decide what to do in East London, here are the places you don’t want to miss when you visit this side of the city.
Wilk and Princelet Street
If you’re looking for free things to do in East London, make sure to visit Wilk and Princelet Street in Spitalfields. Lined with beautiful 18th-century Georgian homes, it’s an area of the city that seems frozen in time.
Back in the day, the neighbourhood housed many immigrants and French Protestants who came to England fleeing religious persecution. Today, it looks like something out of a movie set.
Number 4 Princelet Street is one of the most photographed houses on the block.
Its pinkish-red colour, crumbling facade and rows of old shutters makes a great backdrop for photoshoots.
Cable Street Mural
The Cable Street Mural in East London commemorates the Battle of Cable Street that took place in 1936. This historic event was led by Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists.
Mosley and his followers held a march to deliberately intimidate and antagonise East London’s Jewish population that lived in the area.
The mural was painted from 1979 to 1983. It depicts the events from the physical altercation that took place that day between the Fascists and anti-Fascist demonstrators.
This visual reminder shows an important part of London’s history in stunning detail.
Roman Ruins at The London Wall Walk
The Roman Ruins at the London Wall Walk is a great attraction for history buffs. The 1.75 miles (2.8 km) route leads from the Tower of London to the Museum of London.
The path follows what remains of the ancient Roman wall. Along the way, you’ll see Roman ruins and other landmarks.
East London Things to Do: Final Thoughts
As you now know, there is an insane amount of fun things to do in East London. This area is full of hidden gems and has something everyone will appreciate.
Whether you’re looking for historic places to visit, fun markets to check out, or unusual things to do in London, the East End is the place to be.
Hitting all of these stops during one trip might be a little hard to do, but each time you return to London you can pick up where you left off and continue checking off attractions.
Although some of them are so much fun you might want to visit them over and over again too!
To find out more about the beauty and adventure that London holds, you can browse the rest of my top things to do in East London content, beginning here;