It’s easy to poke fun at Shoreditch. The area is a curious blend of hipsters and suits that has seen a lot more chains arriving in recent years. But it’s still a place where creativity and tech thrives—where start-ups, independent shops, eateries and bars fight to fend off the corporate takeover.
Here are ten things to do in Shoreditch without the need for a hedge fund.
1. Check out street art
You could easily spend the day looking at Shoreditch street art. There’s plenty to see just by wandering close by Shoreditch High Street Station (Overground), but Whitby Street, Brick Lane, Princelet Street, Seven Stars Yard and Redchurch Street are all worth a look too. There are other more ‘off-the-beaten-track’ places too like Allen Gardens.
2. Hang out at The Book Club (day or night)
By day, The Book Club is cafe across two floors in a old Victorian warehouse with a ping pong table and temporay exhibitions. It’s worth popping in at night though, there is always something going on including short films, hip hop club nights, spoken word, life drawing, and sex talks with ranging from free to around £12.00.
3. Go to Dennis Severs’ House
Folgate Street, just off Spitalfields has plenty of fancy-fronted houses, but no. 18 has all its treasures behind closed doors. There is no sign up, but there is a sturdy, black door and some red shutters that make it stand out.
This is not your average museum experience, folks. Dennis Severs was an artist who intended his former home to live on as “still-life” drama (as he put it) and portrait of the lives of a family of silk weavers from 1724 until the turn of the 20th century.
Visitors are guided through a spooky, atmospheric tour of the home’s 10 rooms with sounds and smells to tease the senses. You’ll need to plan a visit, as tours only run on Sunday and Monday afternoons, with the odd evening tour, which is conducted in silence—so soft shoes only and shhh!
4. Browse vintage shops and markets
For thrifty threads, head to the streets around Brick Lane and Shoreditch High Street. There you’ll find secondhand clothes and bargains at places like East End Thrift Store.
Brick Lane is home to vintage chain Rokit Vintage, where among the colourful shades and 80s denim are recycled accessories made from old materials. Talk wander down Cheshire Street, and you’ll come to Beyond Retro with everything from 70s vintage to old military get-ups.
If you prefer market stalls to shops, then Brick Lane Vintage Market is open seven days a week for you to peruse anything from 1920s hats, befeathered capes, vintage wedding gowns and sharp suits.
5. Peruse books at Libreria
If you need a rest stop for your feet, and some fuel for your mind cogs, visit Libreria bookshop on Hanbury Street. It’s run by Second Home—a big, orange coworking space across the street. But you won’t find laptops and lattes here, the vibe is cosy, minimal-ish and quiet, soft lighting, light wood interiors and snug reading nooks.
6. Watch bands at Rough Trade East
The original Rough Trade is in Portobello, but the one in Shoreditch—Rough Trade East—is the bigger of the two stores. Here, you can catch regular music gigs, which are either free or free with purchase of the act’s record.
The store had to temporarily stop putting on shows in 2008 after a free Radiohead gig drew enormous crowds. But most bands are on the smaller-to-medium end of the fame register with plenty of lo-fi, indie and electronic gigs.
7. Shop, eat and drink at Boxpark
Boxpark is the world’s first pop-up mall where independent shops and brands sell their wares from old shipping containers. There’s plenty of street food from the likes of east London pizza favs Voodoo Ray and Piemiister, and Black Bear Burger among others—and craft beer too.
8. Head to the rooftop at Queen of Hoxton
Londoners love a good roof garden in the summer, making Queen of Hoxton on Curtain Road is a Shoreditch staple with a roof terrace and city views. Head over early, as it gets pretty rammed and you may have to queue to sip under the fairlights of this cute little Bedouin bar. Summertime is also the season for the Rooftop Cinema Club where you watch a film with wireless headphones, and cosy up on director’s chairs.
9. Grab street eats and drinks at Dinerama
Dinerama is open on Wednedays to Saturdays all year round, and free to enter until 7 pm (£3.00 cover charge after that), but you can pop in anytime time from 5 pm until midnight.
Downstairs is a small yard with a few food trucks (tacos, Taiwainese buns, pizza), but upstairs has more space and brilliantly named bars like Can Hatch, Big Bar and German Sex Dungeon.
10. Go to Brick Lane Beigel Bake
This Brick Lane institution has been serving up bagels since the 70s. Beigel Bake is open 24 hours a day and serves up the baked goods with no nonsense (though they have more recently started doing rainbow bagels). Round off your Shoreditch day with a late-night snack you won’t need to part with much dough for!