5 years, 8 months ago
Last summer in London, something amazing happened. In fact, last summer, a number of amazing things happened. Beginning with the Queen jumping out of a helicopter a la James Bond and ending with Team GB coming in third on the overall medals table. Somewhere in between, London didn’t grind to a halt, commuters kept commuting, visitors got swept up in the Olympic spirit and best of all, it didn’t rain. Well, not much.
East London was already an up and coming area, but the Olympics injected some much needed urban regeneration, publicity and TLC. Now East London is an appealing bohemian mixing ground where old meets new, trendy meets traditional and international influences come from all over the globe. So one year on from the Olympics, what can visitors enjoy in East London?
East is East
The East End has always had its own unique personality. From its pearly kings and queens to the many immigrant communities that have settled there, this is a part of London that belongs to the people.
Nowadays, you’ll find East Londoners are a creative mix of folk who are deeply proud of the edgy scene that has developed there over the last decade. Independent shops, bars and restaurants continue to pop up, fuelled by the new post-Olympic popularity of the area with visitors and even West Londoners wising up to East London’s charms. Wander down Brick Lane to find street food and vintage bargains, discover pop-up shops and art galleries in “Stokey” (Stoke Newington) and set your alarm for Sunday mornings at Columbia Road flower market. Across the whole of East London you can also eat some of the best international food from curries to Caribbean, Cantonese to Korean. It’s fair to say you’ll never go hungry or bored in East London.
Live Music & Festivals
Thanks to festivals like LoveBox, East London is the new centre of festival fun in the capital. As well as live music, Victoria Park is home to a full calendar of food, sports, kids and culture festivals. Very soon the Olympic Park will also be used to host other festivals and across the whole area be sure to look out for high profile events like the East London Film Festival, East London Design Show and the East London Comic and Arts Festival.
Of course, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Olympic Delivery Authority (who are tasked with creating a lasting legacy) have world-class sports facilities at their fingertips and they want to maximise these. In just a few days, on 27th July, the first part of this, North Park, will open to the public. A large area of parkland, cultural centres and cafes and bars, North Park also includes a multi-sports arena with indoor sports and outdoor football and hockey courts. There’s also the Lee Valley Velopark which will provide bike enthusiasts with an opportunity to test out the Olympic BMX track.
It’s worth noting that due to the ongoing construction work the Olympic Park isn’t fully open to the public yet, but if you’re keen to have a look inside you can find out when the next public event is being held here.
Parks and Open Spaces
With the likes of Hyde Park and Regent’s Park dominating people’s go-to list of London parks, poor old East London’s green and open spaces rarely get a look in. Not that you’ll find local residents complaining. They treasure the lack of crowds in their well-kept parks and gardens, which include the historic Victoria Park, the vast Hackney Marsh and many smaller parks in Bethnal Green, Mile End and Dalston. The Olympic Village has only added more parkland to East London, with newly landscaped outside areas providing more playgrounds, more outdoor cafes and waterfront gardens along the canals.
Speaking of canals, the pre-Olympic regeneration of East London included the much-needed redevelopment of the historic waterway system. Now it’s one of the most relaxing ways to travel across London, from east to west. If you don’t have a canal boat to cruise on, it’s just as pleasant to stroll along the towpaths. We guarantee the only crowds you’ll have to push past are the locals gathering outside the odd canal-side bar and restaurant that they don’t want tourists to know about.
New (Holiday) Homes
The Olympic Village, where the athletes stayed, has been renamed East Village and ongoing work is turning properties into brand new homes for local residents. As a result it is anticipated that properties in East London are going to stay popular and more competitive in terms of value for money and what they can provide residents and visitors.
Even before 2012, all around the Olympic Park new homes popped up in interesting, modern-looking buildings beside canals and close to public transport like this room with a view over the Olympic Park.
Alternatively, staying in nearby Hackney, Dalston or Mile End gives you a chance to explore East London’s quirky coffee culture and creative scene, while also staying close to Central London. Stay in a cozy apartment by the canal near Victoria Park, or make your base in cosmopolitan Bethnal Green.
And much, much more…
It doesn’t end there. There are a handful of other highlights we haven’t mentioned like Westfield Stratford or Spitalfields Market for the retail addicts and Smithfield Market or Greenwich for the history heads. And now’s your chance to tell us what you like most about East London. What other East End treats have we not mentioned? And how much do you think the 2012 Olympics changed the area?
Featured image by Twareg.