Although part of Essex and, in turn, Greater (East) London, the urban neighbourhood of Stratford is small but not subtle. Growing from a relatively unassuming origin, it’s now one of the most bustling and vibrant of the London areas; a cultural, social, and economic hotspot.
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Brimming with authenticity and a quintessentially British charm, Stratford is the kind of place where getting lost is the best possible thing to do. But, if you’re not up for a blind dive into the streets of Stratford, luck is on your side.
This insider’s guide to the best things to do in Stratford London will quickly become your closest companion. With it in hand, you can rest assured there won’t be a stone left unturned as you discover everything the area has to offer.
But don’t let your discovery be limited to just one day. Unlock everything in Stratford by spending a few days there. And don’t stress about where to stay in East London; you’re spoilt for choice.
Situated in the Lower Lea Valley in East London, Stratford is about 6 miles east-northeast of Charing Cross Station. More commonly, locals and regulars to the area know it as a part of the London Borough of Newham.
Stratford borders the River Lea and falls well within Essex as part of the metropolitan conurbation. Right across the river opposite Stratford is Bow in Middlesex.
Fun Fact: Historically, Stratford was constituted of two separate towns, Stratford Langthorne in Essex and Stratford-atte-Bow in Middlesex. Each on opposing sides of the River Lea.
In the past, Stratford has been famous for a variety of reasons. It served as a rural area during its origin and the majority of its existence. Farmlands with produce and livestock thrived and prospered in the location of Stratford.
As time went by, though, due to the rapid pace of economic and urban development in and around Greater London, Stratford had to keep up or fade out.
And thankfully, we are blessed that the area decided to keep up with London. With a significant rejuvenation process starting in 2010, Stratford today is a far cry away from its humble beginnings.
As Stratford International Station opened in 2009, the pace for development was set. Westfield Shopping Centre (the biggest in London) was constructed soon after in 2011. And then, as a crowning jewel, Stratford hosted the 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium.
With this extensive list of the best attractions in Stratford, you can rest assured that you’ll have quite the full itinerary while in the area. Great entertainment venues, deliciously tasty food at top-notch restaurants, drinks at the best pubs, and so much more await you.
Once an industrial wasteland, the massive 560-acre Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is now a world-class attraction. Constructed for the 2012 Olympic Games, the grounds are now home to various highlights, including the best East London walks for a day outside.
At the heart of the park is the London Stadium (formerly known as the Olympic Stadium).
This iconic arena has become a famous concert and sporting venue since the games—with a seating capacity of 80,000, it is one of the largest in London. Get yourself a London City Pass to make your tour of the stadium easy and convenient.
And if you’re a football fan, the stadium is the home ground for West Ham United. On match days, a buzzing sports atmosphere takes over the grounds—it’s one of the most fun things to do in Stratford.
Location: London E20 2ST
Built as an eye-catching addition to the Stratford skyline, ArcelorMittal Orbit is, without a doubt, a striking monument. Designed by international artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond, the bright red structure stands at a whopping 115-metres tall.
It’s the tallest metal structure in the UK, and for good reason. Finishing construction to coincide with the 2012 Olympic Games, the tower offers unparalleled panoramic views of the Olympic Park and the London skyline.
While touring the tower for epic views is a good idea, the real fun is to be had on your way down from the top. This can be done in numerous ways. You can choose to walk down the 455 steps. Or, for a more thrilling trip, abseil your way down the side for a top-notch Stratford activity.
But, if you’re in the mood for some real adrenaline-rushing fun, take the ‘slide’ down. ArcelorMittal Orbit is the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide, featuring 12 loops as you speed down its length. This is a surefire thrill-seekers highlight.
Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 5 Thornton St, London E20 2AD, United Kingdom
While you’re at the Olympic Park, not dipping your toes in the London Aquatics Centre would be an injustice. Being the host venue for all things aquatic during the 2012 Olympic Games, the Zaha Hadid-designed centre is now a public space.
Since the games, the public spectator stands have been replaced with large glass windows, turning the venue into a stunning public pool. The centre is visually spectacular and famous for its wave-shaped roof, which you can easily spot from a distance.
It features two 50-metre swimming pools and one 25-metre diving pool. Some of the most famous swimmers in the world still train here, so you might just spot your favourite while you’re here.
There is also a fully equipped state-of-the-art gym which is open to the public (at a fee, though). And, once you’re done sweating or swimming, the centre is home to the London Aquatics Centre Cafe, which serves up some of the best meals in Stratford.
Location: London E20 2AQ
Another highlight of the Olympic Park is the striking Lee Valley VeloPark. Acting as the tracks and trails host for the 2012 Games, the park is any cyclist’s heaven. Architecturally built with a modern and distinct style, the venue re-opened in 2014 after extensive upgrades were made.
The VeloPark is now filled with every type of track imaginable. These include the premier BMX track, a mountain bike track, a road cycle circuit, and even one of the world’s best cycle workshops. Beyond that, the VeloPark features a bar and café to quench your thirst and hunger.
If you plan to become a regular here (which is highly recommended), sessions are available at £2 for club cyclists and £4 for individual riders.
Location: Abercrombie Rd, London E20 3AB, United Kingdom
Stratford loves sports, and sports fanatics love Stratford. But what makes Stratford such a special place is its equal love for the arts. The Yard Theatre is at the top of the list of venues showcasing this love.
Contemporary and fringe art and artists are what you can expect from this Theatre. It sets the scene for some of the most progressive and edgy stage productions to be featured in the UK.
Many of these productions have become primetime television series and headliners at larger venues such as the National Theatre.
Check the performance schedule well in advance, as a spot at The Yard is an unforgettable experience. If you’re looking for a great night out clubbing, The Yard is host to some of the best weekend clubs around.
Location: 2A Queen’s Yard, London E9 5EN, United Kingdom
Keen to immerse yourself in nature or escape from the loud city life of London? Well, Hackney Marshes is the perfect place to do just that. The area is an extensive open grassland that features many football pitches.
On any given day, you can expect at least one or two local clubs to be playing a game there.
The River Lea runs through Hackney Marshes, and the park features numerous walking trails. These allow you to find some serenity while catching views of various wildlife.
Of particular note is the bird hide, a scenic retreat where you can peacefully go bird-watching while you stroll through the grounds. The perfect cherry atop this cake is a modern roof terrace bar with epic views of the marshes.
Hackney Marshes is not just a picturesque haunt in Stratford. It also has a Green Flag Facility award, making it one of the best green spaces in the UK.
Location: Homerton Rd, London E9 5PF, United Kingdom
Any type of therapy is good therapy, but there is something about proper retail treatment that, as it turns out, money can buy. The largest urban shopping mall in Europe, Westfield Stratford City, is a pilgrimage site if you love shopping.
Described as a lifestyle destination, the massive retail space is home to more than 250 shops and 70 restaurants. You can bet on needing at least a day or two to explore everything there is to see here fully.
Above and beyond its regular retail highlights, there are countless other things to do in Westfield Stratford City. It is also home to Vue Cinema, hailed as one of the largest and most innovative all-digital cinemas in Europe.
Next on the list is All-Star Lanes, a luxury bowling alley that takes inspiration from 1950s America and blends it with modern twists.
Inside you’ll also find the Aspers Casino, a benchmark 6,038 square metre casino with an 80-seat restaurant and two exclusive bars.
Location: Montfichet Rd, London E20 1EJ, United Kingdom
First opened in 1997, the Stratford East Picturehouse is a four-screen cinema set within a stunning Art Deco-style complex. During its lifetime, it has won numerous awards, not solely for its contribution to the cultural hub of Stratford. The building has also won multiple architectural awards.
Showcasing a range of films, including mainstream blockbusters, Indie films, arthouse productions, and foreign films, there is something here for everyone. The venue also includes a stylish and vibrant café and bar.
Location: Stratford Picturehouse, Salway Rd, London E15 1BX, United Kingdom
One of the most legendary community theatres in UK history, the Theatre Royal Stratford East is a staple venue for stage productions. Established in 1884, the stage has been graced by the best in music, performing arts, and comedy.
If you’re looking for a grand time in the most theatrical way possible, you can expect every season at the venue to hit home. Regular performances of vibrant and fresh takes on satirical and social ideas and themes dominate the line-up.
World-class directors have helmed the best the theatre has offered. To this day, up-and-coming writers, actors, and producers put on their works there to the delight of thousands of visitors.
Besides catching a memorable performance, the theatre is also the home of the Theatre Workshop Company. So, while you’re here, be sure to enquire about how you can get involved.
Location: Gerry Raffles Square, Theatre Square, London E15 1BN, United Kingdom
Sometimes the best thing to do in Stratford is act like a child. And doing so at ZAPspace is definitely recommended. The three-storey building has every nook and cranny dedicated to jumping, flipping, dipping, and falling.
At ZAPspace, there’s a trampoline or foam pit for every taste. Some require a minor amount of skill, while others are simply ridiculous. Paying for an hour gets you unlimited access to a world of fun. Bring your friends and challenge them to bouncy dodgeball, or head out and freestyle jump your way through ZAP.
There are a number of specialised games and challenges for the entire course, and the exercise fanatics, they also offer fitness classes focused on trampolines.
Location: 369 High St, London E15 4QZ, United Kingdom
Although very much part of the Olympic Park, Copper Box Arena is in itself an all-in-one sporting destination. The arena is a standout with a robust yet beautiful design and construction. And aptly named—it literally looks like a copper box.
Visitors to Copper Box can look forward to access to a world-class gym and a massive state-of-the-art sports hall. The sports hall is equipped to allow you to take part in a mind-numbing number of different sporting types. You’re in for a workout from basketball, handball, badminton, and gymnastics.
But you don’t have to head to Copper Box just for the classes. The venue hosts heavyweight boxing matches, league basketball games, and even pop concerts from time to time.
Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London E20 3HB, United Kingdom
Roof East Cinema is one of the places to go in Stratford for fantastic views of the neighbourhood and surrounding region. It’s also conveniently one of the best outdoor cinemas in London.
Looking at the cinema and the general stylistic vibe of the venue, it’s hard to believe it was once just an ordinary car park. You can enjoy showings of classic cult films and new legends-in-the-making for the perfect night out.
The striking decor is highlighted by strings of lightbulbs that hang above the cinema. There is also an extensive bar and café, ensuring you’ll still have a good time even if you don’t watch a movie.
Location: Rooftop Film Club Roof East, Great Eastern Rd, London E15 1BB, United Kingdom
Hackney Wick Boulder Project is a truly unique outdoor experience. While similar to rock climbing, bouldering is what this place is all about. And if you’re scratching your head at the idea of “bouldering,” simply put, it’s rock climbing without ropes and harnesses.
But don’t fear that you’ll be left for dead should you fall. The low walls are all surrounded by some of the softest foam mats around.
This results in visitors not needing supervision while climbing, but safety personnel are on-site if the need arises.
The entire venue contains varying courses that come colour-coded, indicating the difficulty level. This is for sure one of the more ‘hands-on’ activities in Stratford. For a more in-depth experience, you can also sign-up for a ‘taster’ experience where you will be taken through each course during a one-hour session.
Location: 117 Wallis Rd, London E9 5LN, United Kingdom
In keeping with the upscale revamp of Stratford, the area is now renowned for its wide range of leading restaurants, cafés, bars, and pubs.
What could possibly make a day of exploring this part of London better? A tantalising meal and delicious craft cocktail, of course.
Situated in Hackney Wick’s Here East complex, Randy’s Wing Bar sits at the top of many a foodie’s favourites lists. With a menu aimed at the best in chicken dishes, everything that comes from the kitchen is a treat to the tastebuds.
What was once a street food concept, the now-famous restaurant is known worldwide due to its social media buzz. Thanks goes to its delicious food, edgy and distinct decor, and welcoming staff.
You have to try their headlining Buffalo Wings, which come served with several sauces, or opt for their ferocious Gangnam: Korean-fried wings. Adding to their US-themed menu are their standout chicken burgers.
Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 28 East Bay Lane, Here East, London E15 2GW, United Kingdom
Whoever thought to put retro arcade games, disco music, and cocktails together in one venue was a genius. Four Quarters East is the brainchild of that genius and is also set in Hackney Wick.
The cocktail menu is a collection of themed craft drinks based on the many games you can play while here. Think Sonic the Hedgehog, but with gin. With an enthusiastic staff that can exchange your pounds sterling for American quarters and keep your thirst at bay with excellent service, what’s not to love?
Happy hour is every night of the week from 5pm to 7pm when lagers cost as little as £3.50, and the cocktail prices drop to £6. Four Quarters is easily one of the best bars in East London if you’re looking for a wacky night out.
Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 8, Canalside, E Bay Ln, London E20 3BS, United Kingdom
If you’re in the mood for the best Brazilian BBQ in London, head to Cabana in Westfield Stratford City. Staying true to what you can expect from a restaurant aimed at the best in Brazilian BBQ, this is a must-visit.
The menu offers succulent skewers that are prepared on open fires, while other items include popular street foods. The kitchen staff knows how to season their dishes, so you’ll never be left wanting more. But, if you are, the front-of-house staff are more than willing to oblige.
Cabana packs a punch for an atmosphere that’s flushed with colour, sounds, and smells, all directed at giving you the best possible night of eating and drinking.
Location: Southern Terrace, Westfield Upper, Ariel Way, London W12 7GB, United Kingdom
Hands down, this café situated on The Street Westfield is an utterly bonkers concept that does everything right. The menu has items that are each dedicated to an element of football. Be it physical aspects of the sport or famous players and tactics. Each item is different and delicious.
Try their Home Team Burger or Messi Fries, both of which take classic British pub food and recreate it fantastically.
As for drinks, the café has a whimsical wine list featuring 20 different wines from more than ten foreign countries. Besides that, look out for the specially crafted CF Beer or signature cocktails made by the café’s expert mixologists.
Location: Westfield Stratford City, London E20 1EN, United Kingdom
This Swiss-inspired restaurant sits within Endeavour Square, right on the outskirts of Westfield Stratford City. Not that you’ll need much help in finding it, as Haugen in Stratford is an architectural marvel.
Much like the outside of the restaurant, which is a mix of curves and contours that are visually stunning, the menu is remarkable. À la carte main items start at £15, and the menu also has spectacular brunch options (with bottomless drinks as well).
Be sure to head to the rooftop bar that hosts live music and DJs every Thursday and Sunday night during the summer. Haugen always has something new and unique and is undoubtedly going to be your next East London favourite.
Location: 9 Endeavour Square, London E20 1JN, United Kingdom
Discovering the fantastic attractions, highlights, and nightlife that Stratford offers can make anyone easily forget its humble beginnings.
This vibrant, exciting, and buzzing area is home to some of the best things to do in East London and is now a cornerstone of life in London.
And if you’re ever stuck wondering what to do in Stratford in London, get peace of mind knowing that you won’t be stuck for long.
Although the list of highlights increases almost daily thanks to the ongoing revamp of the area, you can count on Stratford delivering great times and even greater memories.