It’s no big shocker to proclaim that London is amongst the world’s coolest cities. It’s vibrant, always happening and, apart from some hangups involving expensive rent, a pretty great place to live. I can confirm that first hand, as London was once my home and every time I go back to visit I am reminded of why people like it as much as they do. London is a highly diverse city with different boroughs and neighborhoods that can differ vastly from one another. Notting Hill or Mayfair have quite a different vibe to Shoreditch or Brixton. But that’s the beauty of it all, there is something for everyone, you simply have to find out where you best fit in.

regent's canal hangout

I’ve long subscribed to the East London tribe, there simply is no denying the awesome lifestyle of the Hackney Hipster: short on cash, high on life. While there really are a ton of great places to hang out and have a good time at, I’ve assembled 10 of my favorites, all of which I’ve visited during my last weekend trip there back in July.

 

1. Southplace Hotel

God knows the arrival of a design hotel in East London was long overdue, so the opening of the Southplace Hotel, just behind Liverpool Station must have come as a relief to many. It certainly did to me, finally having an answer for the people who seem to constantly ask me for a good hotel in London (there are of course many great hotels in London, but none of them seem to be in my preferred neighborhood of Shoreditch).

southplace

The Southplace has all the amenities I love when I travel. Big comfortable beds, huge windows, a fancy bathroom and lots of cute design features. While it’s a great place to stay when visiting London, my favorite parts of the hotel are actually those ones that are accessible to the public. One is the rooftop terrace, a lovely spot to enjoy after work drinks or to go for dinner. The restaurant’s interior is killer, so don’t think twice about sitting inside if the weather is less than perfect.

southplace terrace

If it’s not the rooftop that can lure you here, surely the all you can drink Bloody Mary’s, Bellinis and Mimosas available for Sunday Brunch must be. I love a good brunch and god knows I have spent time looking for the best one in East London and this one actually is a winner.

southplace 3 south place hotel brunch

 

2. Borough Market

Everyone who comes to London has heard of Borough Market. In the year I spent living in the British capitol countless people kept going on and on about how fun this place was and still I NEVER went. It was only during my recent trip that I finally stayed on board the bus to London Bridge in order to witness what the hype was all about.

borough market umbrellas

Every Saturday the crowds gather to buy fresh bread, cheeses, meat, fish, fruit and so much more. It’s all about food and just the finest of it. The beauty lies in the international flair, the German Bratwurst, the French baguette, the Spanish chorizo stand – they all gather here to exchange, sell, share a bit of what they love. Food is  and always has been a way to bring people together and Broadway Market celebrates just that.

borough market

 

3. London Fields

Potentially the number 1 hipster Mekka but still so irresistibly easygoing are the notorious park landscapes of London Fields, the green centerpiece of many a pub. During the summer months and especially on weekends you’re hard-pressed to find a free piece of lawn and who cares if you don’t, chances are no one will bat an eyelash if you simply join one of the large groups sitting here all day and all night. If in doubt just bring a few beers, those are guaranteed to make you a welcomed guest anywhere.

london fields park

Part of the beauty of London fields are the many bars, pubs and restaurants scattered all around the park. Some of my favorites are listed under point 6 and within walking distance.

best hangouts in east london

 

4. Regent’s Canal

I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for any publicly accessible body of water. Lakes, rivers, oceans – i’m not fussy. East London is blessed with the lovely Regent’s Canal which in recent years has seen quite a few cool restaurants and bars opening, especially after more and more fancy apartment buildings have sprung up on one side of the canal. Grab your rubber boat, canoe or float to go on a relaxing ride down the canal with a friend or 5, just like these guys.

regent's canal

Anyone not so lucky to have access to a boat can still enjoy the calm of the canal by sitting in one of the bars here. Shining star amongst the top options is Waterline bar, with impressive high ceilings and lovely interior design. There is room for improvement as far as their cocktails are concerned but the wine selection is very nice. Waterline also serves food.

cafe by regent's canal in east london

 

5. Street Fairs and Festivals

These happen on and off so we cannot quite give you the full list of go-to’s but it’s worth checking out this site for a rough overview. During my weekend there in July I happened to be around for the first ever Hoxton Street Fair, basically a bunch of stalls selling great homemade food and goods alongside street performers doing their thing. While researching this post I came across Street Feast London, a night market in Dalston that works along these lines – excellent food guaranteed.

hoxton street fair 2 hoxton street fair

 

6. Pubs

To say that pubs are a must-do when in London is like say that the queen lives in Buckingham Palace. It’s a total no brainer – OF COURSE  you have to go to the pub! There are many classics here and every time I go back my friends relate their most recent “pub of the hour” to me that we check out for either just beers or dinner. One of my favorite things to do in London is going to a pub for Sunday Roast. My top choices include but are not limited to Prince Arthur, Prince George, The Hunter S and the Spurstowe Arms.

pubs east london

 

7. Columbia Road

There are many reasons to go to Columbia Road on any given day, it’s among my personal top 3 neighborhoods in the whole of London. During weekdays it bears a strong ressemblance with some sort of tow town with lovely little specialty shops, cafes and pubs. Most people come here on Sundays for the flower market, a wonderful place to come and smell the roses, so to speak or pick up a bunch. It gets super crowded and even though I like a bit of hustle bustle I usually prefer just to sneak into the many side streets where one can often find little 5-stall pop up flea markets. Shops are usually open too.

columbia road flower market

During my last exploration here we stumbled into an adorable cafe and bakery called Lily Vanilli which serves the most incredible cakes. We had the carrot cake and almost died, that’s how good it was. As sweet as the baked goods are the girls who work here, somehow they each look like descendants of Helena Bonham Carter with their big eyes and curly hair. Vanilli’s is one of those definite must do’s when coming to London.

vanillis london

 

8. Hackney City Farm

Another place I managed to always walk past during the time I actually lived in London. This time however it was my journalistic instinct (Travelettes had not been born back in my East London days) that made me walk in for the first time. I’m not exactly sure what I thought Hackney city farm actually was, but it is, well, a farm. Complete with pigs, chickens and ducks who run around freely for everyone to see and enjoy. This place is obviously a great choice for families with children but anyone who loves animals should have a good time here.

hackney city farm

Apart from running their vegetable garden and maintaining the animals they also offer courses and engage in a number of projects, mostly run by volunteers. Those evolve around themes like yoga, biking or beekeeping and generally aim to promote greener living. For a full list check out the farm’s website.

hackney city farm cafe

Finally, Hackney city farm comes with a cute cafe that dishes up some seriously mean homemade cakes. They’re located at 1a Goldsmiths Row.

cakes at hackney city farm

 

9. Stoke Newington High Street

If I were to move back to London now I would almost definitely want to find a place in Stoke Newington, a neighborhood that was just recently announced to have the highest density of coffeeshops in the whole city! God knows I love coffee, so combine this argument with a laid-back crowd of grown-up creatives and some still affordable rents and you have a winner.

Stoke Newington High Street in particular has seen a lot of cool new shops and restaurants opening in the recent years. The Mint is a great place for Vintage, as well as Beyond Retro. The latter doubles as a coffeeshop (surprise, surprise) and is everybody’s favorite n it comes to purchasing second hand clothing.

mint vintage stoke newington beyond retro stoke newington

Needless to say that lots of bars, restaurants and pubs are located here, so just go for a stroll and pick your personal favorites.

 

10. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Similar to Hackney City Farm the Garden is an effort to promote a more ecological lifestyle within the city of London. In 2010 architectural collective Exzyt got together to build this green oasis, a space for events, workshops and gatherings. It’s open every day from 11am to 8pm, occasionally longer when certain events (concerts) are on. There are various art and gardening workshops on for kids and opportunities for volunteers with a green thumb.

dalston garden

It’s located at 13 Dalston Lane and anyone is welcome to visit. Their summer garden cafe offers a wide range of cold and hot drinks as well as cakes. If you prefer to bring your own food, you’re invited to do so and have a little picnic.

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Which spots in East London would you add to this list?

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