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East London City Guide

City Guide
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I know I’m not the first to draw this conclusion, but exploring the various neighborhoods of London was eerily reminiscent of New York. Each borough has its own personality, and it’s challenging, if not impossible, to comprehensively experience it all during one trip. Thus, I have concentrated this city guide and my recommendations to the lovably gritty neighborhood of East London, which I compare to the Lower East Side/Williamsburg of the city.

Once you cross over to the East side of London, the polished cobblestones and posh high teas of Notting Hill and Chelsea are long forgotten. We’ve got Banksy here, people! Encased in protective glass and 24/7 security guards, nonetheless, but Banksy gives a community instant street cred in my book.

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My boyfriend, Andrew, and I hopped over the pond to visit our friend Mark, who recently moved to London from D.C., and it was to no surprise that our itinerary was jam-packed with quirky activities and underground bars. With his single-speed bicycle, vintage Lacoste cardigans, and propensity for ordering overpriced flat whites, he has fully embraced the East London hipster lifestyle, and he brought us along for the ride.

Here are my top picks for your next visit to East London:

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Booze and Bites

Buzzing Classic
Tayyabs: Chicken tikka masala is the official dish of London, and you’d be remiss to visit this great city without trying some Indian food. Tayyabs is a classic eatery serving Punjabi cuisine. The majority of the menu items are quite spicy and the lamb chops were a stand out. Be prepared for a wait unless you come for Sunday lunch while everyone else is enjoying a traditional roast at the “local.”
83-89 Fieldgate St, London E1 1JU, United Kingdom

Raise Your Glass
Lounge Bohemia: Like any good speakeasy, Lounge Bohemia has a cryptic website and is hidden from the public eye in Shoreditch. It’s located between two kebab shops through a doorway with a hallway covered in old newspapers. The imaginative cocktail menu is nestled between the pages of a book and includes incredible presentations such as the “Holy Smoke,” which is a craft cocktail served in a hollowed out bible. Call ahead to reserve a table; they are not fond of walk-ins.
1e Great Eastern St, London EC2A 3EJ, United Kingdom

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Foodie Fix
Dishoom: Still riding the Indian food train, Dishoom is an expansive Bombay cafe located in trendy Shoreditch. Its impeccable decor and cool vibe reminded me of a Stephen Starr restaurant. It’s perfect for a group dinner over bottles of red wine, and we ended up sharing a variety of small plates and items from the grill, family-style.
7 Boundary St, London E2 7JE, United Kingdom

Caravan Brunch

Bitchin’ Brunch
Caravan: Caravan is a funky cafe with a working coffee roastery in the basement located in trendy Exmouth Market. They take their coffee seriously and slowly filter your order with a fancy presentation. The classic Fry Up is perfect to tackle a hangover and any of the house-made baked goods are a must-try, such as the cornbread French toast. Our review is coming soon!
11-13 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QD, United Kingdom

Fancypants
Duck & Waffle: Located at the top of a skyscraper, with brunch offerings available all day and into the late night, this is a place to see and be seen. The namesake duck and waffles, a unique spin on the staple chicken and waffles, can’t be missed, but will set you back £17, or roughly $26.
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY, United Kingdom

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Nightlife
Off Broadway: Supporting my New York/London comparison, this lively pub was inspired by a classic East Village bar, Mickey’s Blue Room. The establishment touts itself as an “American-style” watering hole and features a secret bar in the basement that turns into a raging dance party with a DJ. We enjoyed a few pints on the benches outside for some great Sunday Funday people watching.
63-65 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH, United Kingdom

Raise Your Glass
Looking Glass Cocktail Club: Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s parallel universes beyond the looking glass, this speakeasy on Hackney Road features mixology-focused cocktails. The Cocktail Club gets wild later in the night, particularly behind the huge removable wall mirror that opens to a hidden room.
49 Hackney Rd, Hackney, London E2 7NX, United Kingdom

See and be Seen

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Microbrewery Love
London Fields Brewery: It’s no secret that craft beer is a hipster staple, and there are plenty of great microbreweries in East London, particularly in Hackney. We took a tour of London Fields brewery, where all of the beers are created, bottled, capped, and labeled in-house. The guided tour was intimate, and we were treated to rounds of humongous pitchers rather than the standard tasting flights.
365-366 Warburton St, London E8 3RR, United Kingdom

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Crate Brewery: Another recommended sight is Crate brewery for cold beers and delicious pizza in a warehouse near Olympic Park.
The White Building, Unit 7, Queen’s Yard, London E9 5EN, United Kingdom

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Flower Power
Columbia Road Flower Market: If you find yourself in East London on a Sunday, the flower market on Columbia Road can’t be missed. Peruse through hundreds of fresh bouquets and succulents sold by aggressively brash “barrow boys,” akin to a fish market. The market is open from 8 a.m. until “3-ish” so bring a few quid and a sense of humor.
Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG, United Kingdom

Independent Theatre
The Yard: To really up your hipster credibility, ditch the Broadway shows in Central London and check out The Yard, a 110-person independent theatre and bar that features quirky, offbeat acts in a restored warehouse.
Unit 2a Queen’s Yard, London E9 5EN, United Kingdom

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Farm in the City
Hackney City Farm: This hippie communal garden and farm is chock-full of chickens, donkeys, and other friendly animals. It’s perfect to stroll through with a hot coffee and get back in touch with nature, or at least take a few farm selfies.
1a Goldsmith’s Row, London E2 8QA, United Kingdom

Patch of Grass
London Fields: This relaxed “locals only” park in East London hosts pick-up cricket matches on the weekend and impromptu barbecues. It turns into a massive, communal cookout and day drinking locale, as everyone takes advantage of London’s lax open container laws.
London Fields West Side, Hackney, London E8 3EU, United Kingdom

Second Suitcase, Please

Vintage Finds
Spitalfields Market: This covered market boasts an impressive array of vintage shops, street food, and funky bars and coffee shops. It has been around for more than 350 years, is open seven days per week, and is still a prime spot to score some old-school threads, like Mark’s recently acquired alpaca wool sweaters.
16 Horner Square, Spitalfields, London E1 6EW, United Kingdom

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Farmers’ Market
Broadway Market: Sample some of London’s finest street food and fun trinkets at this Saturday market. Broadway Market contains an eclectic mix of tastes and cultures, tucked away into a little East End street between the Regent’s Canal and London Fields. Locals bicycle to the market for their weekly produce shopping to support their neighboring farmers.
Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ, UK

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On Trend
TopShop: I’ve had my eye on a classic Burberry trench for ages and assumed that it would be cheaper to purchase goods from this iconic British brand while in London. I was surprised to learn that due to the current exchange rate, it was more expensive to buy in London than New York, thanks to True Currency, an application that helps you find data on the best exchange rates when shopping internationally. However, True Currency informed me that TopShop was a steal in London, and I stocked up on silky blouses, patterned pants, and statement necklaces.
4/5 Dalston Shopping Centre, London, Dalston E8 2LX, United Kingdom

Bitch Tip

East London is prime pop-up territory, with underground parties and experiences that are in one month and out the next. If you plan your trip right, you may end up at an off-the-radar brunch in a plywood shack with a DJ spinning old Motown hits or a “blitzkrieg party” in a World War II bunker (true stories). Sites like The Nudge can help you discover the best happenings in unexpected locations.

When traveling internationally, check the exchange rates for luxury goods with True Currency right on our Bitches Who Brunch travel page.

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