London is such a huge hub for international flights so whether London is your destination or you’re headed elsewhere in Europe or the world, it’s worth spending at least 24 hours enjoying London’s eclectic vibes.
Of course if it’s your first trip to London and you only have 24 hours you must visit the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Westminster (Big Ben) at the very least. If you want a post on this – comment below and I’ll make it happen!
But if you’re lucky enough to have a repeat experience (whether here for business or pleasure) visiting this amazing city and want to see the city as a Londoner, this post is for you! Whatever your interests and budget – there is a place in the city for you.
Personally, I love London’s East End. It’s currently the hipster area: full of markets, quirky independent shops and styles and amazing food. But this area has a rich and varied history – once a working class area of London, where the Cockney rhyming slang was created. It was an area where both crime and social reform occurred, an epicentre for the London WWII bombings and a Bangladeshi community that moved here from the 1960s bringing with them flavourful and rich foods to the now famous Brick Lane. This eclectic history is embedded deep throughout each of the East End boroughs and makes this area so colourful.
In this post I’m focusing on the East End boroughs of Shoreditch and Hackney – we only have 24 hours after all! This is based on a couple of my most recent trips to London and reflects my and my friends’ (the amazing Londoners who’ve shared their favourite bits of London with me) preferences. I hope you find it helpful for your next trip to the city.
First thing in the AM – take a dip at London Fields Lido
Start your day with some cardio at the outdoor heated pool in Hackney. It’s open all year round (6:30 am – 9pm Monday-Sunday) in London Fields and is a 50 metre Olympic sized pool that even offers swimming lessons as well as swimming lanes. If it’s a warm, sunny day dry off in the sun before heading for breakfast.
A quick swim will only set you back £4.80 adult/£2.85 child.
Breakfast at The Breakfast Club – Shoreditch
First of all, I just love the name. It makes me think of fist pumping into the sunset, bologna sticking to the ceiling and the nerd picking his nose with his pen while existentially asking himself, “Who am I?” If you don’t get these references, please watch the 80s teen classic, The Breakfast Club, before you go here for breakfast.
Be prepared to queue for your food here especially if you arrive after 9:30 am, but once you’re in this cute quirky venue with a retro nod, the food is worth it. There are pancakes, English breakfasts, smoothies and more. You’ll want everything. I enjoyed their berry smoothie with bee pollen and the Veggie English Breakfast, which you can bespoke to your preferences. The service is also friendly and accommodating – something that unfortunately isn’t always the norm when it comes to British customer service.
If you’re in the East End on a Sunday, head to the Columbia Road Flower Market, which is actually in the borough next to Hackney and Shoreditch – in Bethnal Green.Flowers and greens fill the street from 8 am until around 3 pm but to get the best flavour of the market, visit early. The vendors are shouting out prices to passersby and the street is full of amazing colour and fragrance.
Even if it’s not a Sunday when you visit, it’s worth strolling down to see the beautiful Victorian row of shops selling antiques, art, vintage clothes, jewelry, furniture, food and more.
Just passed the flower market is the Hackney City Farm. See pigs, donkeys, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks, sheep and geese in the middle of London. The farm has been around for 20 years and offers events such as pottery classes and also allows locals to purchase monthly vegetable and/or fruit boxes. It won’t take you more than 15 minutes to visit but is a great little oasis in between visiting Hackneys great shops.
Stroll through Brick Lane, Shoreditch Spittalfields market
Brick Lane just vibrates energy. There are food trucks, cafes, vintage shops and people selling items out of their suitcase. Carry on further down the street and there you’ll arrive at a row of Indian restuarants. You can either have dinner at one of the restaurants here – make sure you haggle with the hosts who will greet you outside the restaurants and offer you a “special deal”. Or head to the recommended restaurant listed below. Before you leave Brick Lane, make sure you head to Dark Sugars Chocolate. The displays are beautiful and they’re even more delicious than they are artistically presented.
Once finished meandering Brick Lane, head up to the markets, stalls and indie shops of Shoreditch High Street and then to the gentrified Spittalfields Market to see the vintage and new clothes, accessories, gifts and food on offer. If you’re looking for fresh fruit and veg the markets on Shoreditch High Street have some great offers. Keep a look out for the great street art throughout Shoreditch.
Dinner at Dishoom
Dishoom is a restaurant that has put in as much effort in its branding and design as it has its hearty and flavourful food. It pays homage to the Irani immigrants who moved to Bombay, India and created a welcoming and glamourous environment for all anyone from students to businessmen and taxi drivers. It reached its hey day in the 1960s and now only a handful still exist in Bombay.
Head to Dishroom’s Shoreditch restaurant. Whatever you get will be amazing but you can’t leave the restaurant without ordering their okra fries. I dream about them. I also had the paneer tikka, a delicious vegetarian option. I can’t wait to return and just found out that they have an Edinburgh restaurant. It’s definitely one of my favourite restaurants. Make sure you phone ahead or make an online reservation a day or two earlier to avoid waiting in a queue.
Start your night at this chill sports bar on Shoreditch High Street. I love the place for it’s low maintanence and friendly clientele. Grab some friends and head to the basement to play some table football (aka foosball to Americans). Once you’re ready to move on, walk down Shoreditch High Street to find another bar that suits your vibe that night. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
Hangover brunch at The Dorchester
If you’ve done your night out in London right, you’ll have a hangover. Wear it like a badge of honour and treat yourself to a delicious brunch at the posh restaurant The Dorchester. This is out of the East End but after a night and day out in the East End, sometimes it’s nice to be spoilt in your tender state.
So put on the aviators or Jackie O sunglasses, through on a chic, effortless #iwokeuplikethis outfit and Uber over to The Dorchester with friends. The environment is extremely relaxed with plush furniture. The piano is playing relaxing music and you’re served an English Breakfast complete with a massive plate of croissants, pain au chocolat and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. You’ll be in hangover heaven and ready for an afternoon nap. Embrace it.