Welcome to Shoreditch, an area in east London which has for centuries attracted immigrants from other parts of the country and also overseas. Due to its strategic location right next to the City, and near the river, this has always been an attractive area for people in search of work but also refuge. However, it isn’t till quite recently that Shoreditch has tranformed from a proper slum area in the Victorian era to the trendy hotspot that it is today. Here are my personal favourite tips for your diverse and exciting 24 Hours in Shoreditch!
You’ll need your energy to explore this diverse and vibrant area, and there’s no better breakfast spot to get your sugar levels going than breakfast bar Cereal Killer Cafe (139 Brick Lane). The name is a cheeky combination of this cafe’s specialty (cereals) and the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper who roamed the area over 130 years ago. Feeling bold? Then try to make your choice from the 100+ toasted, puffed or flaked varieties of cereals and your favourite type of milk, which is served in a cute little vintage school milk jug. After breakfast, head over to Jack the Clipper (yes, another witty reference) – voted as London’s best artisan barber shop – across the cafe to get your beard trimmed Shoreditch-style.
If you’d rather postpone your sugar rush till later in the day, head over to Beigal Bake (159 Brick Lane) to sink your teeth in an authentic Jewish bagel instead. This is one of the last surviving businesses from the 19th/20th century when Shoreditch was home to the largest Jewish community in Europe. This is an informal place without any seating, but they sell fresh bread, bagels and pastries for an incredibly low price. Expect a queue as Beigal Bake is a favourite amongst both locals and visitors, but you’ll be astounded by the speedy service.
Now your tummy has been all taken care of, let’s continue the explorations!
Start off with some culture at one of the many art galleries in the area such as Whitechapel Gallery, the biggest contemporary art gallery in east London. Just round the corner from there you’ll find StolenSpace Gallery which predominantly showcases works by urban artists. The streets of Shoreditch form one big open-air canvas for urban, street and graffiti artists so StolenSpace’s location makes perfectly sense. Spend some time to wander around Brick Lane and its side streets such as Hanbury Street to admire stunning street artworks by world-renowned artists such as ROA, Stik and Banksy.
Other (free) local contemporary art galleries include Raven Row, Calvert 22, Kate MacGarry, Pure Evil Gallery (run by street artist Pure Evil) and Flowers.
Make sure to make a stop at KK outlet. This combined gallery and bookshop is the London office of Kesselskramer, a brilliant Dutch advertising and design agency who not only work on high-profile communications projects, but also publish art books and put on gallery exhibitions such as (often bizarre) objects that are lost and found on public transport. (Found objects include fake teeth and prosthetics…)
Check the gallery websites before your visit for their opening times.
11am: Cats and a Cuppa
You should be coming down from your sugar high by now and in need of some caffeine or theine. You won’t have any problems getting you coffee fix in trendy Shoreditch as there are dozens of cafes serving artisan coffee, but why not try something different for a change?
Until Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium opened its doors on 152-154 Bethnal Green Road in 2014, I had never heard of ‘cat cafes’ before. The world’s first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998 and became extremely popular in Japan. Now you can also enjoy your cuppa tea and a feline cuddle in Shoreditch, but bear in mind that booking is essential!
12pm: Visit a ‘haunted home’
A few times in the week, including Monday afternoons Dennis Severs’ House opens its door to the public. This house was once the home of late American artist Dennis Severs. He spent years of his life recreating the home’s past and what it would’ve looked like in the time of its original residents, French Huguenot silk-weavers. While you might not see or hear ghosts on your visit, the house has an eerie vibe as it seems that the family has suddenly got up and left mid-meal. Each floor has its own atmosphere, stimulated by their own specific scents such as dried orange peel.
12.30pm: Shopping in shipping containers
After your culture fix, it’s time to start your shopping spree! Have a look at Boxpark, a pop-up shopping street with shops and cafes housed in shipping containers. The shops change constantly but expect to find a mix of fashion, art and lifestyle shops.
1.30pm: Lunch and boutiques on Redchurch Street
Yes, it’s food time again! Shoreditch offers a great variety of restaurants with different cuisines and two of my favourite east London lunch spots are on Redchurch Street. In the five years I’ve been living here I’ve seen this street transform from a run-down side-street to a trendy destination for fancy boutiques, swanky cafes and high-end beauty and lifestyle products. Pop in Franzè & Evans for a fresh and healthy pan-Mediterranean meal or Albion, a cafe that serves predominantly British produce and has an in-house bakery.
3pm: Dutch Girl in London tour
Hey, if I can’t plug my own Shoreditch walking tours on my own blog, where else then?!? Join me to hear insider stories and learn about the area’s multi-cultural history and find amazing street art in hidden corners just waiting to be found! My weekly tours are on Monday 3-4.30pm, but it’s also possible to book a private tour for groups on other days and times. Although I specialise in Dutch spoken tours, I also offer tours in English. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
The greatest thing about the area is that you’ll hardly find any of the high street stores here. Instead there are dozens of independent shops, high end designer boutiques and lots of vintage shops. Music and vinyl lovers should head down to independent record shop Rough Trade East in the Old Truman Brewery and book lovers definitely need to make a stop at Libreria.
At Spitalfields Market you’ll find stalls every day, selling anything from antiques to clothing, cupcakes, books and jewellery. Along the market luxurious fashion and make-up brands have shops, a sign of the nouveau riche now living in the area.
Trying to make a decision on where to eat in Shoreditch can be quite a task because there are just too many choices! If you want to go somewhere where staff isn’t pretentious or you don’t have to queue because the restaurant doesn’t do bookings (remember this is London’s über cool neighbourhood) then I’d highly recommend Pizza Pilgrims (BYOB) and Turkish restaurant Pera (you MUST try their bread!).
Continue your evening with a tipple in one of the many pubs in the area. You’ll find the most happening and buzzing boozers around Old Street, Hoxton Square, Great Eastern Street and Rivington Street. Also The Owl & Pussycat (no cats in here though) on Redchurch Street, The Water Poet near Dennis Severs’ House and The Ten Bells opposite Spitalfields Market are popular pubs amongst locals and visitors.
There are enough pubs around to make your Shoreditch pub crawl last till well into the night, but if you want some change of scenery, there are also plenty of options. You might want to pop in Rough Trade East for an in-store gig, or catch a movie at cultural venue and cinema Rich Mix. (Check the website for their special Monday offer.) Hang around members-only club Shoreditch House (near Boxpark) to see if you can spot some celebrities. (I’ve been told that Rihanna frequents this place when she’s in town.)
Dance along stomping beats at the club 93 Feet East or go to Village Underground for live music. While it may look like any average music venue from the outside, you’ll be stunned by its unique interior that resembles a grand underground cave. Also check out the painted trains on top of the building (which are actually offices) and the ever-changing mural on the venue’s outside wall.
It’s been an exhausting yet fulfilling day, but it’s about to catch some well-deserved zzzzzzz’s. From Village Underground just cross the street to the funky new boutique hotel CitizenM Shoreditch. Everything in this hotel reflects the cheeky and playful style of Kesselskramer, which isn’t a coincidence as the popular award-winning hotel chain is actually Dutch! Have a last drink in the hotel bar and sit yourself down in the comfy ‘living room’ whilst perusing through the books or vinyl record collection.
With the tablet in your room you can set different ambiances and control the lights (blue, pink, purple), thermostat, blinds and entertainment. If the extensive list of free movies doesn’t appeal, connect your iPhone to the TV and stream your own films and programmes.
After a good night’s rest and belly-bursting breakfast at th hotel you are all set for another 24 hours in Shoreditch as there is still so much more to explore…
This post was written in collaboration with CitizenM.