London has so many great areas to visit across the city, it’s huge! From the dinosaurs of South London to the ornate palaces dotted all across the city, London is a place that’ll take you years to explore. That being said, focusing on neighbourhoods makes it much more manageable, especially when visiting larger areas like East London. Now, with such a vast area to explore, you’re going to fill your time with heaps of the best things to do in East London, so plan your trip well!
To make it a little easier, I wanted to share some downright gorgeous gems that you have to include when you visit London. After previously living in the area for many years, I’ve come to know it like the back of my hand… and totally love it!
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in East London. Have a great time in the city!
1.) Brick Lane area
The Brick Lane area of East London is one of my favourite spots to visit for a delicious lunch and vintage shops!
Also, If you’re popping over to East London on a Sunday, make sure you visit the Brick Lane Market (at the Old Truman Brewery). It has everything from antiques, collectables, Art and clothing – anything you can imagine and it’s always changing. Plus, with hundreds of stalls, you’ll easily find a few treasures to take home.
Not only that, but you’ve also got the Vintage Market (usually on a Thursday and Friday) and Beyond Retro (my fav) for some thrift store goodies!
For some delicious local food, head to the Upmarket. Here, they host a delicious food hall with around forty vendors that are all vying for your attention. You’ll find every type of food you can imagine.
Oh, and don’t forget to grab some of the tastiest buttermilk fried chicken from Mother Plucker. These lots know their stuff when it comes to good chicken – their cluck buns are everything!
Finally, you can’t visit Brick Lane without grabbing one of the best curries in London. This is probably London’s most famous area for curries, with a heap of independent restaurants to choose from. A favourite has to be Aladdin Brick Lane, they have the tastiest king prawn pathia.
2.) Museum of London Docklands
Based within a 200-year-old warehouse, the Museum of London Docklands is one of London’s many free museums you can explore.
Highlighting the history of the River Thames and the stories surrounding it, the museums showcase the stories of the river and traces its changes over centuries.
With permanent galleries on; slavery, empire and the Blitz, it’s really worth a visit, especially if you’re already in the Canary Wharf area.
3.) Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
Being the UK’s only curiosity Museum, Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities is one of the best things to do in East London if you want a totally unique experience.
Filled with over 50,000 various oddities, from skulls to two-headed kittens, it’s the kind of museum you visit and have no real clue what you’re going to see!
Dedicated to its strange and surrealist vibe, the museum, also known as the Last Tuesday Society shop, holds artwork in a dedicated section on the first floor, as well as serving tasty cocktails and wine. Be sure not to miss this one if you’re looking for a truly different experience in East London.
Plus, you can easily partner this with a visit to the Columbia Road Flower Market, too.
4.) Emirates Air Line and the O2
Being London’s only cable car, the Emirates Air Line will carry you across the Thames (from Royal Victoria Dock to North Greenwich) in around 10 minutes.
Offering a unique view of the city, the Emirates Air Line is kinda fun and pretty convenient when hopping over the river to visit the O2 for a concert or to scale the roof of the dome with Up at the O2.
5.) Denis Severs’ House
Denis Severs’ House is one of the most unique spots and one of the best things to do in East London if you’re into your history of the area.
You see, once you step inside, you’ll get to travel back in time to see what life was like for a silk weaver’s family in the 18th century.
Each room you pass through offers more insight, from the kitchen with half-eaten food on the table to the dedicated smoking room. As you walk through the house, take in the lingering smells, the heat from the hearth, or the books lying on the floor in this still-life drama. It’s totally unique and almost as if time has stood still here.
6.) Whitechapel Gallery
Founded in 1901, Whitechapel Gallery was one of the first art galleries in London open to the public and space you can’t miss when visiting Whitechapel.
One of the best places in the city to take in contemporary art, the Whitechapel Gallery is a must-see for all art lovers visiting London. Best of all, like lots of galleries and museums in London, admission is free of charge. Though, you may want to donate or visit paid-for temporary exhibits.
Over the years, Whitechapel Gallery has focused its attention on up-and-coming artists and even hosted previous exhibitions from Frida Kahlo (in the 1980s), David Hockney (1960s) and Jackson Pollock (1950s).
Afterwards, head across to explore more of the things to do in Whitechapel and spot the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Although recently closed, this was where the bells of Big Ben and Liberty Bell (in the US) was cast!
7.) Old Royal Naval College
With centuries of history, the Old Royal Naval College is totally stunning to visit; especially for the Painted Hall which is almost like London’s Sistene Chapel! It’s that beautiful. After heading in the hall, be sure to spot the underground skittles alley that’s hidden beneath the building themselves – who knew!?!
For a little stroll, keep walking towards the Queen’s House, explore the Maritime Museum and chill at Greenwich Park, too. It’s a full day or weekend trip that’s so much fun.
Getting peckish? Stroll on over to Greenwich Market and grab a bite at one of the foodie vendors that serve up everything from grilled cheese to Ethiopian dishes. Plus, you’ve got the Greenwich Grind just a few doors down for brunch.
Finally, if you want another unique East London experience, head down the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that crosses underneath the River Thames itself!
Connecting the south bank’s Greenwich with the north bank’s Millwall, it’s totally unique. I mean, how many times can you say you’ve walked under the River Thames!
8.) God’s Own Junkyard
Perched within an industrial estate, not too far from Walthamstow Central Station, God’s Own Junkyard is an iconic spot in East London to visit.
This colourful exhibit showcases the personal art collection of famed artist Chris Bracey who was known for his neon pieces. Bracey’s work has been used in popular movies from Eyes Wide Shut to Captain America.
Complete with bar and café, God’s Own Junkyard has an incredibly cool vibe that you can’t find anywhere else.
9.) ArcelorMittal Orbit
Nestled right within the 2012 Olympics Park (now named the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park), the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a huge art installation that’s considered to be the UK’s tallest.
Created by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, you can head to the top for some incredible views across East London. Though, my total favourite is the slide that runs straight down the middle! It’s got to be the tallest in all of the city! So much fun.
It’s a great place for a later afternoon visit, seeing all the street art and popping into the bars for a few tipples.
Also, don’t forget about nearby Spitalfields Market (around 10-minute stroll from Shoreditch High Street Station). Here, you can explore take a wander around the local stalls, see some boutique fashion spots and grab some of the best chips at Poppies.
Their chips are my total favourite (with lashings of vinegar, of course).
Not too far from Hoxton Station (and Shoreditch High Street Station), Columbia Road Flower Market is a hive of activity! Not for the hayfever sufferers amongst us, this market is filled to the brim with stalls selling all types of freshly-cut flowers, plants and vintage curiosities to take home.
We love it and it’s easily one of the best things to do in East London if you’re visiting on a weekend!
12.) V&A Museum of Childhood
I know I keep harking on about London’s free museums but I really do think they’re so special to visit! Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood is no exception.
Great for kids (and big kids too), the Museum of Childhood has thousands of collections and interactive exhibits that are perfect to visit if you get caught on in the rain. Though that’s not the only reason why you should visit, it’s incredible.