Ten Free and Cheap Things to Do in Stratford

Becky Matthews

Stratford has undergone a huge regeneration in the past few years, largely due to being the home of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. From checking out the legacy of post 2012 facilities to culture and open spaces, here’s our pick of ten free and cheap things to do in Stratford.

Walk, run, cycle or swim at the Olympic Park

Photo by Tomasz Dunn used under CC

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was the home of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since then, visitors and residents alike come to Stratford’s largest park in high numbers. And there are plenty of things to do there. It’s absolutely huge, covering 560 acres (that’s roughly 300 football pitches) of land.

Want to take things at a leisurely pace? Walk around the vast green spaces like the meadows, stroll through tree-lined promenades, and enjoy the colourful wildflowers. You can also check out Olympic landmarks like the Stadium, The Velodrome, The Aquatics Centre and The Copper Box Arena.

But if you’re feeling more active or sporty, then take advantage of Olympic-grade facilities at a decent price. A fiver will get you a swimming session at The Aquatics Centre. It’ll also cover a pay and ride session on the ride circuit at The VeloPark (£12.00 if for bike and helmet hire). And if you’re more of a runner, just take your pick of one of the many running routes all over the park. Check our our guide for more active thrills around London.

 Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford

Address:Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 5 Thornton Street, London E20 2AD, UK
Hours:Park open 24 hours, facilities vary

Take a boat tour along the Lee

Things to do in Stratford river lee
Photo by Clive G used under CC

The River Lee runs through the Olympic Park. Boat company Lee & Stort runs both 45-minute and two-hour guided river cruises from April until early October each year. Boats are available for private hire all year round.

The shorter 45-minute tours run at weekends, and you can just turn up and book at the park. The extended tours take in the iconic Olympic venues, as well as the landmark ArcelorMittal Orbit, through Carpenter’s Road Lock, Lee Navigation and St Thomas’ Creek.

The shorter tour is a nice way to see the park from the water at a leisurely pace. And you can even bring your dog!

 Stratford Waterfront

Address:Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Pontoon at Stratford Waterfront, by the London Aquatics Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, E20 2ST
Phone:0845 116 20120845 116 2012
Hours:From 12pm, April-October

Visit Roof East

Roof East Stratford
Photo by Roof East

The people behind the beloved Bussey Rooftop Bar have set up shop atop the Stratford Shopping Centre. Roof East is a bar, event space, open-air cinema and community space. It’s open from April through until just before Christmas.

Once a rooftop car park, these days the only cars parked up top are three old ones filled with plants and trees. The venue is home to three rooftop bars, as well as VR Foosball, London’s only baseball batting cages, and lanes for games like bowling and curling.

Over the summer, you can also work off your stress at Roofop Yoga or silent disco workouts, and there’s plenty of street eats too.

 Roof East

Address:7 & 8 Stratford Multi Storey Car Park, Great Eastern Rd, London E15 1BB, United Kingdom
Phone:07436 25318007436 253180
Hours:Wed–Thu 5 pm–11 pm, Fri–Say 12 pm–11 pm. Closed Sun–Tue.

Get lost in the mega-mall aka Westfield Stratford City

Westfield Bridge
Photo by ZRyzner

This huge shopping mall chain is home to more than 200 shops, and around 70 food places to eat and drink, and plenty of regular offers.

But you can come to Westfield Stratford City without spending a ton. It also hosts events throughout the year including The London Job Show in September, which is free to attend. And if you have some spare clothes, particularly warmer layers, bring them over to the outdoor clothing donation point where recycled gear can be redistributed to homeless people across the UK.

One of the biggest draws is probably the whopping 17 screen cinema, with plenty of room to watch a Marvel Movie while taking advantage of the Vue chain’s low ticket prices (£6.99 at all times, sweet). If you don’t get lost in the vast halls of commerce first, that is.

 Westfield Stratford

Address:Montfichet Road, Olympic Park East London LONDON E20 1EJ
Phone:+44 20 8221 7300+44 20 8221 7300
Hours:Mon-Fri 10am - 9pm, Sat 9am-9pm, Sun 12pm - 6pm

Inspire young minds at Discover Children’s Story Centre

Photo by Reuben Juarez

If you’re looking for something to keep kids entertained, head over to Stratford’s Cultural Quarter. It’s home to The Theatre Royal, Stratford Circus Arts Centre and Stratford Picturehouse. The Discover Children’s Story Centre is the UK’s first Story Centre for children aged 0-11 and their families.

The centre has two-floors of immersive play spaces called Story Worlds, as well as a garden and cafe. Kids can wander around sensory light displays and cave spaces, find hidden shops. Aspiring thespians can also put on their own performances at the puppet castle.

There are also regular events, exhibitions, storytelling workshops and activities to keep your kids (and you) from getting bored.

 Children's Story Centre

Address:383-387 High St, London E15 4QZ, United Kingdom
Phone:+44 20 8536 5555+44 20 8536 5555
Hours:Daily from 10am - 5pm

Have a pie and a pint at The King Eddie

Things to do in stratford King eddie
Photo by Ewan Munro used under CC

If you want a taste of pre-regeneration Stratford, and respite from the crowds at The Olympic Park or Westfield, then head over to the King Edward VII pub. Known to locals as The King Eddie (even the pub’s web address goes by that moniker), it’s a Victorian public-house that’s been given a 20th century gastropub makeover. Fortunately, it’s not lost its old boozer charm. You can still enjoy the tiled walls, glass panel dividers, dark wooden booths and an open fire.

The menu is fairly stodgy. Expect Brit-grub staples like full English breakfasts, scampi and chips, bangers & mash and assorted pies (including veggie options). Most mains costs between £8.00 and £12.00

 The King Eddie

Address:47 Broadway, London, E15 4Bq
Phone:020 8534 2313020 8534 2313
Hours:Mon - Sat 11am - Midnight, Sun 1200-Midnight

Take the plunge on the world’s longest tunnel slide (ArcelorMittal Orbit)

Views of London
Photo by Martin Pettitt used under CC

The ArcelorMittal Orbit is a three in one attraction. The imposing, red, twisty metal creation is the UK’s tallest sculpture. It was designed by artist Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond. Standing at 114.5 metres-high, it’s also an observation tower for panoramic city views, where you’ll see landmarks like St Paul’s and The Shard.

But unlike most observation decks, this is one you can descend on a slide (the world’s tallest and longest, no less). You’ll go from the top to the bottom in a head-spinning 40 seconds, but for an extra few quid it’s a pretty fun way to get back down to the ground.

 ArcelorMittal Orbit

Address:Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 5 Thornton Street, London E20 2AD, UK
Hours:Thursday–Friday 11:00am–5:00pm, Saturday–Wednesday 10:00am–6:00pm

Bounce around at Zap Space

big empty trampoline waiting for children, lean place | Photo by Hakule used under CC

Zap Space is a three-storey trampoline park, inside the former Victorian Rex Theatre where adults (and kids) can bounce around.

Get a literal, and figurative lift with anything from freestyle trampoline bouncing to Zap Fitness, a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) trampoline fitness class. There’s even dodgeball if you feel like reliving your teenage inadequacies.

Zap Space also hosts Jump ‘n’ Jam on Friday and Saturday nights. Here you can bounce, chuck yourself down a drop slide, scramble up the ‘ninja nets’ or challenge your mates to a duel on the ‘Battle Beam’ where you attempt to knock your opponent into a spongy pit.

 Zap Space

Address:396 High Street, Stratford, E15 4QZ
Phone:020 8555 7029020 8555 7029
Hours:Mon-Thurs 10 am - 9 pm, Saturday 10am - 9pm, Sunday 10 am - 8pm

See a show at the Theatre Royal

Things to do in Stratford theatre royal
Photo by Ewan Munro used under CC

While the old Rex Theatre has gone, the 19th Century Theatre Royal is still bringing theatre to Stratford. It’s a grand old theatre with a rich red interior. But while its walls hark back to a bygone era, its productions are contemporary and international.

The theatre has a strong history of female creative leadership including acclaimed director Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. Now, it’s under the artistic direction of Nadia Fall. Theatre Royal programming includes a mix of new plays, modern adaptations of classics like Oliver Twist, dance, comedy and burlesque.

Shows start from around £10.00 and go up to about £35.00. So it’s definitely cheaper to see theatre in east London that over in the West End. There are quite a few free events on at the bar too.

 Theatre Royal

Address:Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford, London E15 1BN
Phone:020 8534 0310020 8534 0310
Hours:Mon-Thu: 12pm - 11pm Fri-Sat: 12pm - 12am Sun: 12pm - 10pm

Hang out at Here East

During London 2012, Here East was a broadcast centre and 24-hour media hub. Post Olympics, it’s become a space for creativity, entrepreneurship and education. It’s home to tech start-ups and university labs, but there’s plenty to see and do for the general public too.

Grab canalside food and drinks from independent places like Shane’s, eco-conscious eats from Mother or Italian food from Gotto Trattoria. And if you swing by Buck’s Barber’s, they’ll give you a free beer with your haircut.

There’s usually a decent programme of free events on too, ranging from fitness open days to education, tech and disability awareness.

 Here East

Address:Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 14 East Bay Lane, London, E15 2GW
Phone:+44 (0)77 1330 3966+44 (0)77 1330 3966
Hours:8 am- 8pm daily
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Filed under: Things to Do
Tags: Architecture, Drinking, Exhibitions, Featured, Food, Food Market, Historic Sightseeing, Theatre, Things To Do
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