While most visitors to London spend the majority of their time in West London, East London is about to be put in the spotlight with the Olympics coming this summer. But East London is more than just the Olympics. It has a fascinating history and if full of a wide range of experiences.
East London historically has been home to the working class immigrants starting around the 19th century working in the factories and docks in the area. During World War II, it was devastated by the Blitz, with the area targeted for the docklands and railways. This is also home to the Cockney rhyming speak. But in the last few decades, the area has undergone a dramatic change, starting with Canary Warf and the O2 Arena and now continuing with the Olympics.
A good place to start to get a feel for the East End is in one of the excellent markets in the area. Spitalfield, London’s oldest market dating to 1666, and Brick Lane markets among the best, offering a variety of eclectic good that can be bought as well as ethnic food from around the world at a reasonable price.
Perhaps East London is now most known for its association with Jack the Ripper. There are numerous walks given by companies that will take you along the very streets that Jack the Ripper and his unfortunate victims walked. With the tours given at night, it adds a creepy layer to the experience. I took the London Walks tour and would highly recommend it.
Exploring the new glass skyscrapers of Canary Warf is a different experience in a London you might not expect. The new business district in London features London’s tallest completed building, One Canada Square (which will be surpassed by the Shard this summer). One of most overlooked museums in London is the London Museum of Docklands, detailing the history of London as a port from Roman times through the days of pirates up until the present rebirth of the docklands. It’s on the Isle of Dogs near Canary Wharf.
There remain a few great pubs on the Thames in East London, including the historic pubs the Prospect of Whitby (claiming to be London’s oldest riverside pub) and Grapes, a former haunt of Charles Dickens (which was recently bought by Limehouse resident Sir Ian McKellan).
If you are coming for the Olympics, make sure to check out these and other East London sites. And for a great place to stay while in town, you can try one of these East London apartments.
Just a short walk from Spitalfield Market, this spacious one bedroom vacation rental in Hackney, London (LN-436). It’s not far from Old Street with its many bars and entertainment options.
This beautiful contemporary two bedroom vacation rental in Hackney, London (LN-978) has a balcony overlooking the Regent’s Canal.
Close to Canary Warf and many riverside pubs is this beautiful modern two bedroom vacation rental in the Docklands, London (LN-375). It provides easy access to the Olympic Stadium as well as the many sites in East London.
Related apartment rental posts from New York Habitat: