The undisputed home of the East End cockney, Bethnal Green has come a long way since its days as one of London’s poorest slums. Wander the streets today and you’ll find independent brunch spots, vintage vinyl stores and trendy cocktails bars aplenty - it’s a veritable playground for young professionals without losing its traditional, unpretentious feel.
With not only more bars/restaurants/cinemas/East End boozers than you could ever need, but also excellent transport links and cheaper than average east London prices, it’s no surprise SpareRoom frequently has 600+ ads for rooms in the area.
Want to know the best spots for a Ruby or where to head for a kitchen sink ‘rand the East End of town? You’ve come to the right place - take a butcher’s at our handy guide to Bethnal Green.
How do I get there?
On the Central line. It might be a commuters hell come the summer months, but the trusty red line is one of London’s most important, with 260 million journeys made on it every year. Taking just 13 minutes from Bethnal Green to Oxford Street, going central couldn’t be easier.
E2 also boasts its own overground station, perfect for dropping you right into the center of town at Liverpool Street, or further out when you're Essex-bound.
As for buses, they’re just about as regular as can be. With 9 routes going both into the centre of London and further out, E2 is basically public transport heaven.
What is there to do?
Recapture your youth at the V&A’s Museum of Childhood. Housing the UK’s collection of child-related objects (that’s a lot of Lego…), the museum features everything from 19th century zoetropes to vintage Barbie dolls and is brilliant for losing yourself for an afternoon. For optimum nostalgia, take a parent - or better still, a grandparent.
What about one for the culture vultures? Rich Mix on Bethnal Green Road, which boasts three cinema screens and plenty of exhibition and performance spaces, hosts everything from gigs and dance performances to comedy and spoken word, with plenty of workshops thrown in for good measure. It really is the richest of mixes.
For a feast for the senses, Columbia Road Flower Market is not to be missed. Arguably one of London’s most aesthetic streets on any given Sunday, this market showcases bucket upon bucket of every floral delight you can imagine. For more shopping opportunities, Broadway Market is your go to - check out their new interactive map for a taste of the delights to be sampled.
And if it all gets too much? Take a trip to the countryside without ever leaving Zone 2 at Spitalfields City Farm. A community space that relies on the help of volunteers, this slice of greenery promotes a sustainable lifestyle whilst also bringing together the community. Don’t forget to make a purchase at the farm shop before you leave.
Where do I eat?
Where to start!? If it’s a proper East End greasy spoon you’re after, family-run E Pellicci is your spot. Famously frequented by the Kray twins, this Grade II listed building serves up charm - and fantastic fry-ups - by the bucketload. For a somewhat more gentrified, but certainly no lesser brunch, the understated Hackney Bureau fits the bill. Go in the mornings to fill all your poached-egg-and-avocado needs or book a table for the evenings to sample their fresh seasonal menu.
The Gallery Cafe in the community space of St. Margarets House serves up delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes at low costs, perfect for less meaty hungover brunch or tasty lunch. Be sure to get one of their antioxidant packed juices for what feels like a full body detox.
What about date night dinner? Hidden away down an understated backstreet lies the epitome of east London chic, the brick-walled warehouse turned elegant European restaurant that is Bistrotheque. Go for modern takes on delicious classics, strong cocktails and an extensive wine list.
And of course, it would be in trendy Bethnal Green that you’d find a row of restaurants hiding away under repurposed railway arches. Go to Resident of Paradise Row, a light, airy high ceiling-ed dinner destination for a seasonal modern-European menu, roomy patio and killer Sunday roasts. Alternatively, Arepa & Co next door serves up the finest Venezuelan food. And what, you ask, is that? Go and find out.
And the drinks?
The Star of Bethnal Green is a traditional East End boozer with a twist; hosting everything from 90s karaoke nights to a weekly Harry Potter quiz, it’s the perfect spot to grab a pint and unwind. As for the food, they host regularly changing pop-up kitchens, so no two trips are the same. Oh, and did we mention it’s where we host our Speed Flatmating event every Tuesday? Come down and say hi - you might just meet your future flatmates.
Beer aficionados, this one's for you. New York inspired Mother Kellys is another under-the-arches delight, boasting 23 beers on tap as well as a ridiculously large selection of bottled beverages. Sample one of their sharing boards while you sip; choose from meat, cheese or the somewhat unconventional chocolate board.
What may sound to the innocent outsider as some kind of bizarre sacrificial cat event, Satan's Whiskers is in fact one of east London’s coolest cocktail bars. Don’t be put off by the taxidermy animals lining the walls; this watering hole serves up devilishly tasty cocktails from a daily-changing menu.
For a truly eccentric night go to Bethnal Green's Working Men’s Club. A genuine East End working men’s club since 1887, this Bethnal Green institute hosts all variety of live music, comedy and burlesque against a quirky, old-school backdrop. Go for one of their legendary throwback club nights.
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