It’s easy to poke fun at Shoreditch. The area is a curious blend of hipsters, suits and the weekend stag and hen do crowd 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 some things to do in Shoreditch without the need for a hedge fund.
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. To find out more about the artists and the stories behind the art itself, you can join a walking tour.
Hang out at The Book Club (day or night)
By day, The Book Club is a cafe across two floors in an old Victorian warehouse with a ping pong table and temporary 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.
There are few offers throughout the week too. On Wednesday nights you can grab pizza for a fiver, and Thursday night is good for gin lovers, with £5.00 double G&Ts.
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 the 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-up.
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 a “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!
Link: Official website
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.
Libreria has a decent events programme too, and has previously hosted talks and q&as with authors including Bernadine Evaristo, Leone Ross and Johnny Pitts.
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.
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, Pasta Evangelists, and Black Bear Burger among others—and there’s craft beer at the Beat Box bar too.
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.
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!
Explore London life at Museum of the Home
There are so many interesting museums and galleries that are free to visit in London. But one that examines our city’s most personal stories is the Museum of the Home (formerly known as The Geffrye Museum). It has had a big renovation – the large space is dedicated to the concept of home from 1600 to present day. Wander through regency-era parlours to post war houses, 1960s living rooms and see snapshots of London through the lockdowns. Visit during spring and summer to appreciate the beautiful gardens too.
Dive deeper into cinema at Close Up
Close up is a cinephile’s paradise. It’s a small arthouse cinema and library that has over 20,000 titles and specialises in early cinema, world cinema, classic titles and documentaries. There are interesting screenings in the 40-seater cinema, expect to see retrospectives from directors including Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, and François Truffaut as well as experimental film, shorts and films by underrepresented filmmakers. The cafe-bar area is cosy too, and it’s a great place to take a cine-literate date, mate or treat yourself to an afternoon or evening of cuppas and cakes, and browse shelves of films and books.
Go for Vietnamese food on the “pho mile”
Although not quite as well known as Brick Lane or Chinatown, but Kingsland Road is home to several Vietnamese restaurants, hence its nickname “pho mile”. Pho is naturally on the menu at restaurants like Cây Tre, Sông Quê Café and Bún, Bún, Bún, but you’ll also find plenty of curries, banh mi and grill dishes from across Vietnam. Grab a quick lunchtime bite or bring a group of friends for convivial times and excellent flavours.
Bonus: Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson
If bouncing around in a ball pit with free flowing bubbly and pizza tickles your fancy then look no further than Shoreditch’s own Ballie Ballerson. Their brunch is £30.00 per person and available Saturdays and Sundays – see our article on best brunches in London for full details.
Originally published May 2019, Last updated Sep 2022