East London Attractions

By Stuart Bak

East London may well lay claim to being the city’s coolest quarter, thanks to its proliferation of urban art, bleeding-edge galleries, buzzy markets, global street food and hipper-than-thou cocktail bars and speakeasies. It’s also where you’ll find landmarks including the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Walthamstow Wetlands, and Whitechapel’s haunting, haunted lanes, which have retained the best of their Victorian character. Take a walk with us as we explore some of the finest attractions East London has to offer...

Brick Lane

The good news is that, in spite of the area’s ongoing gentrification attempts, Bangladeshi and Jewish influences continue to dominate along Brick Lane. You’d still be hard-pressed to find a better curry or bagel anywhere else in London, and that’s reason enough to visit this characterful kaleidoscope of cultures, in our humble opinion. But there’s so much more to see and do along these iconic cobbles. We’re talking flea markets that fairly heave with retro fashions and vintage vinyl; supermarkets brimming with exotic fruits and spices; tiny antique stores and bouji indie boutiques; plus some of the best street art this side of NYC. Heck, there’s even a bowling alley. Something, in other words, for just about everyone.

ArcelorMittal Orbit

Britain’s largest piece of public art, a looping, swirling behemoth designed by Turner-Prize winning artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is the centerpiece of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. Ascend to the viewing platforms 260 feet up for views across Olympic tracks where records were set and broken at the 2012 games. And that’s not all: you can also see a great many more London landmarks from up here, including the Shard, Big Ben and the 02 Arena. Thrillseekers who fancy experiencing the quickest route back down to terra firma can take on the world’s longest and tallest slide, an epic 12-loop monster designed by German artist Carsten Höller that twists and turns its way down for 40 seconds of pure fun. Or terror, depending on your constitution.

Dennis Severs’ House

Tucked away on a quiet side street a stone’s throw from Spitalfields Market, Dennis Severs’ House is a mesmerizing throwback to a bygone era; the kind of out-of-time oddity you only really tend to find in East London. Step inside this Georgian townhouse, where Severs spent the last 20 years of his life painstakingly recreating the 18th-century lives of a fictional Huguenot family. Preserved since his death in 2000, the house is, in effect, a theater set that’s alive with period décor and furnishings hawked from market stalls, and is at perhaps its most evocative around Christmas, when rooms are decked out with festive candles, trees and decorations. The Guardian called it “a three-dimensional historical novel written in brick and candlelight” while Severs himself described it, rather more prosaically, as a "time machine".

Columbia Road Flower Market

Tucked between Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, Columbia Road is a pretty colorful place to visit at the best of times, all independent delis and bakeries, tiny art galleries and cool boutiques where rummaging for vintage clothes and retro records is practically a way of life. But it’s on Sundays that it really bursts into full technicolor life, thanks to a blooming marvelous flower market that runs the gamut from £1 bedding plants to ten-foot-tall banana trees, and just about every conceivable plant in between. Come for the colors, stay for the sweet scents and chilled Sunday morning vibes.

Jack the Ripper Tour

The characterful cobbled avenues and neat brick houses of Whitechapel, one of East London’s most visited attractions, exude Victorian charm. But they weren’t always this pleasing to the eye – or this safe. Jack the Ripper remains big business around these parts, his legend drawing thousands of amateur sleuths every year, all keen to unravel this infamous murder mystery. Take a walking tour with expert guides, who will transport you back to the East End of the late 19th Century, visiting dimly lit alleys and recounting bloodcurdling tales of the Ripper’s murders as well as seeking out some of the regular haunts of his victims, and the notorious murder sites. Chilling, thrilling stuff.

ABBA Voyage

And now for something a little more... light-hearted. ABBA Voyage is a musical extravaganza that takes place in the (purpose built, no less) ABBA Arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Using four avatars of the original members of the band as they appeared in their 1979 heyday – all velvet suits with flared trouser hems, floaty kaftans and brightly coloured glitter suits – the show takes fans on a musical journey, with a live band providing the enthusiastic backing to iconic hits including Voulez-Vous, The Winner Takes It All and, of course, Dancing Queen. Look out for the space-age neon ‘ABBAtron’ outfits. A strong look in any era.

Walthamstow Wetlands

Europe’s largest urban wetlands can be found a short walk from the Tottenham Hale Station on the Victoria line. This awesome 500+ acre site encompasses 10 reservoirs and a whole host of colorful bird and insect life. A busy program of talks, walks, tours and kids’ activities helps reveal some of the reserve’s most interesting visitors, among them breeding birds including gray herons, tufted ducks and little egrets, wintering waterfowl such as pochard and gadwall, and kingfishers and peregrines that swoop and dive for their supper. Depending on the season, you might also spot damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies, bats and amphibians.

Whitechapel Gallery

Tucked away on Whitechapel High Street, this wonderful gallery has been quietly wowing punters for over a century, thanks to its wide-ranging (and ever-changing) exhibitions of modern and contemporary masterpieces. The gallery even exhibited Picasso’s Guernica, one of the most powerful anti-war statements ever committed to canvas, back in 1938. Step inside for free art shows and installations that are all but guaranteed to expand your mind.

Victoria Park

Victoria Park (or Vicky Park as it’s known to locals) is perhaps East London’s best-loved green space, chock-full of walking trails, playgrounds, cafés and interesting monuments. Look out for the Grade II-listed drinking fountain designed by Henry Darbyshire and the famous Dogs of Alcibiades statues. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even spot some stone alcoves from the original London Bridge tucked away in the park’s northeast corner! There’s a cool food market with live music every Sunday and the V&A playground is a boon for all parents of energetic toddlers. Come back in summer for a whole host of live entertainment, including major music festivals such as All Points East.

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Aerial view of the London, UK skyline at night

15 fun things to do in London at night

When the sun goes down, London really comes to life. Check out our guide to things to do in London at night, including: Museum Lates View from the Shard Theatreland Dine out See a film Ceremony of keys Night cruise The Late Debate The London Eye London is a city of night owls, and rightfully so. The city streets, the crowds and its bridges illuminated in the evening are things you have to see to believe, especially in the summer months. A 24-hour Tube service operating at weekends on some major lines, and night buses all week make traveling around London after dusk pretty easy. But where to go? Explore the many fun things to do in London at night – from sleepovers in museums to spectacular views from iconic buildings. ✈️ Buy The London Pass® ✈️  1. Museum lates Many of London’s most famous museums and galleries are open late on selected days, including the British Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery and London Transport Museum. Often busy during the day, these spaces are quieter in the evening, allowing you to take your time and explore them at your leisure. And, if you can't quite bear to leave, why not have a good, old-fashioned sleepover (who says kids should have all the fun?). Dino Snores at the National History Museum is anything but a snooze — it allows you to roam free, just like a dinosaur, taking in the galleries and temporary exhibits. It also offers a three-course feast, live music, a movie marathon, science shows, comedy, drinks... and insect tasting! It's a uniquely entertaining experience. 2. View from The Shard Standing 95 stories and 310 meters to the tip, The Shard is the tallest building in Europe. Experience some of the best views of London from The Shard's open-air sky deck and you'll see a glittering landscape of lights at night. There are restaurants and shops spread throughout the floors. And — hear us out but — don’t forget to use the toilet. The restrooms are 244 meters above London, and with floor-to-ceiling aerial views, trust us when we say they're the most spectacular toilets in London.  3. Experience the magic of Theatreland Head over to London’s West End, also known as Theatreland, for an evening performance. With a huge variety of plays, musicals, cabarets and more, there's something for everyone. The Soho Theatre is known for its late performances running up to midnight – a perfect after-dinner treat. 4. Grab a bite to eat As the sun sets and your stomach starts to complain (and the insect tasting at the National History Museum didn't quite hit the spot), check out some of London’s quirkiest restaurants. Renowned for its huge diversity of food, the city never fails to deliver for dinner ideas. If you're feeling fancy, have a James Bond-esque evening at Park Chinois, a 1930s-style Shanghai lounge in Mayfair. Or, if you want to channel your inner Peaky Blinder, Bistro Union allows you to experience British food at its best and sample traditional dishes. 5. Movie night After a busy day of sightseeing, sometimes all you want to do is sit down and watch a movie. Curzon cinemas are dotted throughout London, some with spacious seating and licensed bars. Ideal for a relaxing night with the family or a romantic evening with your partner. With their quirky yet plush interiors, these cinemas are perfect for taking the weight off your feet. Naturally, our favorites are the Soho, Mayfair, and Bloomsbury branches. 6. The Ceremony of the Keys This nightly event is so painfully British, we wouldn't be surprised if someone popped up and slapped fish and chips into your palm as you watched proceedings. This historical evening activity that’s fun for all the family can be found at the Tower of London. The famous Ceremony of the Keys is part of the process of locking the Tower up for the night. A centuries-old tradition, it involves secret passwords, large rings of keys, Beefeaters, and military music. You'll need to book this one in advance. 7. Late debates Want to see some of the inner workings of the Houses of Parliament? Visit the public galleries and listen in to a debate. The MPs (Members of Parliament) often end up working late, so take a seat and get ready for some serious mental acrobatics. Entry is free. 8. Ride the London Eye From its central vantage point, the Lastminute.com London Eye allows you to take in the city’s most iconic sights. Too busy during the day? Check the closing times, which can vary depending on the date. A ride at sunset can be magical. 10. Wine and dine on the Thames Fancy cruising down the River Thames with a glass of champagne in hand? Enjoy a night cruise on London’s famous river, with a four-course meal, jazz, and an iconic skyline. Glide past some of the world’s most striking buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, Big Ben, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge. 9. Night tours If you're a true crime fan and want to follow in some seriously grimy footsteps, take a unique night-time Jack the Ripper tour through the eerie backstreets and secret alleyways of East London. 11. Late night shopping Were you being such a cultural vulture that you forgot to get your retail fix? Fear not, lots of shops are open late Monday to Saturday. Shopping malls such as Westfield Stratford (near Stratford station in east London), and Westfield White City, (right by Shepherd's Bush Tube station in west London) are open until 9pm. On Thursday nights, the shops on and around London’s famous Oxford Street also stay open until 9pm, so make sure your wallet is ready. 12. Have a pint in a proper British boozer Need a drink after a long day of walking and eating? London's pint glass runneth over with a variety of different bars and pubs. From cozy cocktail bars to bustling traditional pubs, the choice is yours. If you’re a solo traveler looking to meet some new people, sign up for a pub crawl to experience a few more of London’s finest pubs. 13. Hit the clubs If you want to have a boogie or rock out, London is full of nightclubs that are open until the early hours, providing a range of music genres and experiences. Head over to Shoreditch in east London for late-night bars and clubs, fabric in Spitalfields near Holborn, or stay central with Heaven in Soho or the legendary Ronnie Scott's. Head north to Camden for KOKO's, live music venues such as the Jazz Cafe, the intimate Spiritual Bar, or Electric Ballroom. Whichever corner of London you're in, you'll find a music venue to chill or raise the roof at. 14. Giggle at a comedy club If a local asks, 'Are you 'avin' a laugh?' you can say yes! You will be in any one of the great comedy clubs throughout London that offer free comedy nights all week. Head over to the likes of The Top Secret Comedy Club on Drury Lane (in Covent Garden), the Soho Theatre, or the nearby Soho Comedy Club to see some of the latest comedians strutting their stuff on stage. And if you're feeling especially brave, sit in the front row! 15. See the lights at Piccadilly Circus If you’re enjoying an evening stroll around Soho or Piccadilly, head in the direction of Piccadilly Circus to see the beautiful light display in the evening. Over a hundred years ago, Piccadilly Circus hosted the first display of electric lighting, and it now attracts over 100 million visitors a year. Experience everything London has to offer with The London Pass®  Where will you go in London for an evening out? With The London Pass®, you can explore big-name landmarks, local hotspots and epic tours, all on one pass, all for one price. Not only that, but you'll enjoy savings of up to 50%, compared to buying individual attraction tickets.   ✈️ Buy The London Pass® ✈️ 
Vanessa Teo
The Shard London skyline

Did You Know? Top Facts About The Shard

Dominating the London skyline, The Shard is one of the most recognised buildings in the world. Since opening in February 2013, The Shard has quickly become one of London's most popular attractions. The View from The Shard is the city's highest vantage point, with unparalleled panoramic views of the London skyline. But, do you know exactly how tall The Shard is? Or how many glass panels make up the exterior? Read on to find out some of our favourite facts about The Shard. What is The Shard? The Shard is a 72-story skyscraper modelled after a shard of glass, located in Southwark, London. Designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, The Shard is part of The Shard Quarter development and has become one of London's most iconic landmarks since its completion. Visitors can enjoy 360-degree views of the city from the indoor viewing gallery on the 69th floor, or the open-air Skydeck on the 72nd floor. How tall is The Shard? The Shard is 306 metres tall. However, if you measure all the way up to the tip, it's 310 metres, easily making it Western Europe's tallest building. The viewing platform at The View from The Shard ascends to 244 metres, offering unparalleled views over London that stretch for up to 40 miles. Is The Shard the tallest building in the world? Now, if you were asking if The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the answer would be yes. Alas, The Shard is not the tallest building in the world. It stands at an impressive height of 309.6 metres (1,016 feet). But how does The Shard measure up to other tall buildings around the world? While it may not be the tallest building in the world (that honour goes to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at a towering 828 metres or 2,716 feet), The Shard still holds its own. In fact, it is the fourth tallest building in Europe and the 96th tallest building in the world! How many glass pieces is The Shard made out of? Seeing as The Shard was designed to represent a shard of glass, it's only natural that it's made of glass - 11,000 panels of it, to be precise. The total area of the glass facade adds up to 56,000 sq. metres, the equivalent of eight football pitches!  What is The Shard designed to represent? In addition to its impressive height, The Shard is also known for its unique design. The building features a distinctive glass facade that reflects the changing colours of the sky and surrounding cityscape, creating a stunning visual effect. What are the other names for The Shard? The Shard wasn't always known by this name. It was previously called the London Bridge Tower. Nowadays, alternative names for the building are Shard of Glass and Shard London Bridge, but almost everyone refers to the structure as The Shard. What's inside the Shard? The View from The Shard is spread across the 68th, 69th and 72nd floors, featuring an indoor viewing gallery and interactive exhibits tell the story of the Shard's construction and design. The open-air Skydeck on the 72nd floor features state-of-the-art telescopes that provide close-up views of the city's famous landmarks, including Tower Bridge, the Tower of London (not the same thing!), St. Paul's Cathedral, and the London Eye. Feel the wind in your hair and take in the sights and sounds of the city from above. The Shard is also home to a variety of restaurants, bars, offices, and even a hotel, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike How fast is the lift at The Shard? The average lift speed in The Shard is 6 metres per second. This makes it a smooth and speedy journey to the top. You might even feel your ears pop! It's the same speed as the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock in New York. Who's Romeo the fox? Back in 2011 while The Shard was under construction, a fox was found living on the 72nd floor. The animal, nicknamed Romeo by the staff, entered through one of the stairwells. He then made his way up the building, surviving on scraps of food left by the neighbouring buildings. It took the council two weeks to safely capture and release Romeo onto the streets of Bermondsey.  Romeo is now a mascot of The Shard and miniature plush versions of him can be bought at the gift shop, with proceeds supporting a local charity. Five quick-fire facts about The Shard in London The Shard stands at 309.6 metres tall and has 95 storeys, making it the tallest building in the UK and the fourth tallest in Europe. The Shard has 11,000 glass panels and 44 lifts.  The builders of the Shard were environmentally conscious, and 95% of the building materials used were recycled.  The Shard has its own combined heat and power plant (CHP) to meet the building's energy needs.  The Shard's public gallery, The View from The Shard, is located on the 72nd floor and offers unparalleled panoramas of London. Experience everything London has to offer with The London Pass® So, whether you're looking to take in the breathtaking views from the observation deck, enjoy a meal at one of the building's many restaurants, or simply admire its striking architecture from afar, The Shard is definitely worth a stop on your London itinerary. Planning your London trip? With The London Pass®, you can explore big-name landmarks, local hotspots and epic tours, all on one pass, all for one price. Not only that, but you'll enjoy savings of up to 50%, compared to buying individual attraction tickets. ✈️Buy The London Pass®✈️
Vanessa Teo

Valentine’s Day in London

Valentine’s Day in London isn’t just for the loved up. It can be for those in couples, sure. But it’s increasingly a day that caters to those looking for love. And those giving love the cold shoulder this year, tired of dating and the hype and the ceremony of it all. Those who say things like, “Valentine’s Day was just invented by greetings card companies.” Those who don’t. If you take it seriously, red heart balloons and all. Or if you go round popping said balloons. There’s something for you this Valentine’s Day in London. So dig into our guide on what to do this Valentine’s Day in London, including... Romantic Thames cruises for couples An evening under the stars, straight out of the movies A couple of unique twists on traditional speed dating, for those looking for love A murder mystery evening for those who are looking for a suspect And much, much more... The View from The Shard The View from The Shard are hosting a super special Valentine's Day event this year. Book as a couple and head up to London's highest viewing platform to catch the sunset, taking in incredible views across the city. Enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne to the soothing sounds of a live harpist. You'll get a souvenir digital photograph and a single red rose too. Outside of special event times, a trip up to see the View from The Shard is included with The London Pass. Click the button below to discover how you can see The View from The Shard with The London Pass, along with many, many other top London attractions. The View from The Shard, 32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG. For more details and to book, head HERE. theviewfromtheshard.com[/caption] Valentine’s Day Thames River Cruises with City Cruises For plenty of people, a Thames River cruise on Valentine’s Day is as romantic as it gets. Getting out on the water, seeing the city’s most famous landmarks pass by, drifting off into the sunset. It’s hard to think of a more classically romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day in London. City Cruises are offering three different cruise options on 14th February. Take it slow with an afternoon tea cruise, enjoying sandwiches and cakes to a soundtrack of smooth, smooth jazz. Or treat one another to a three course dinner with a live band for company. Finally, the evening cruise is the best option for those looking to dance off into the sunset together. Interested in a sightseeing Thames River Boat Cruise without the Valentiney twist? 24 hour access to City Cruises’ main services is included with The London Pass. Find out more about Thames River Boat Cruises available with The London Pass below. 14th February. To find out more about the three special Valentine's Day cruises run by City Cruises and to book, head HERE. citycruises.com[/caption] London's Rooftop Bars For many, there’s nothing more romantic than a rooftop bar. Cocktails and heights just do it for lots of people. You can survey all those beneath you, say, “Look, there’s my office,” and watch the sun go down. They’re usually pretty swanked up. For places lucky enough to have roof space, it’s good London real estate worth spending a penny or two on. Have a read of our article on the best rooftop bars in London to find your perfect date location for Valentine’s Day in London. Valentine’s Evening with the Stars, Royal Observatory Greenwich Ross and Rachel and the juice box. The two jazzed up lovers in La La Land. That scene in Manhattan. Planetariums are romantic, guys. Head up to the Royal Observatory Greenwich for a romance themed planetarium show, the chance to see space through an 18-tonne Victorian telescope and some time holding hands across the Greenwich Meridian. These special lates take place on February 8th and 14th, with tickets costing £24 for adults. To visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich during normal opening hours, get yourself The London Pass. Entry to the attraction, and many more of London's finest, is included with the pass. 14th February. Royal Observatory Greenwich, Blackheath Ave, Greenwich, London SE10 8XJ. To find out more and to book, head HERE. [caption id="attachment_6260" align="alignnone" width="1000"] rmg.co.uk[/caption] London Valentine’s Speed Duetting Night Find someone you can truly harmonise with at this unique speed dating event. You’ll be split into groups, then paired up in a private karaoke booth to have a go singing a classic duet. It might go a little flat and fail to hit the high notes, or it might be the moment you find the Sonny to your Cher, the Simon to your Garfunkel. If you’re looking to take a chance doing something completely different this Valentine’s Day in London, this could be the show-stopping event you’re looking for. For daters aged 24 to 38. Lucky Voice Holborn, 84 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1DL. For more information and to book, head HERE. [caption id="attachment_6261" align="alignnone" width="1000"] luckyvoice.com[/caption] Valentine's Vegan Speed Dating at Fortnum's Find love under the guidance of an eggless Eros at this vegan speed dating night. Another twist on the speed dating format, this event seeks to pair up like-minded meat and dairy-free singles. If you get beyond chatting about how long you’ve been a vegan, and start coming up with your favourite London vegan restaurants for a possible second date, you’ll know you’ve met your meatless match. Fortnum and Mason provide the perfect finger food accompaniment to this evening of green romance. 11th February. Fortnum's Bar and Restaurant, The Royal Exchange, The Courtyard, London EC3V 3LR. For more details and to book, head HERE. Love Letters Live This special take on the Letters Live series sees a host of famous faces and voices read out love letters sent by some of history and popular culture’s most interesting and important thinkers, artists, revolutionaries and lovers. From professions of love to confessions of heartbreak, interrogations of love and odes to its power, the letters read here approach love from every direction, offering new perspectives on the lives and thoughts of those who penned them. Letters Live has previously seen the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Colman and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie read letters written by David Bowie, Che Guevara and Maya Angelou. This special event is raising money for the charity Help Refugees. 14th February. Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old St, Hackney, London EC1V 9LT. For more information and to book, head HERE. [caption id="attachment_6262" align="alignnone" width="1000"] letterslive.com[/caption] 'Cooking With Cupid' Valentine’s Cookery Class What’s on the menu tonight? It’s love, of course. With a side of green beans. This couples cookery class is designed to add a bit of spice back into the kitchen. People flirt with food. A date at a fancy restaurant. Planning a romantic meal where you cook that one thing you know how to cook. But cooking with and for your partner can quickly collapse into a question of who’s going to boil the pasta this evening and who forgot to get the milk and why did you put the carton back in the fridge if it’s empty and fine, just forget it, let’s get a takeaway and for goodness sake can you just make up your mind where you want to order from and it not take an hour and a half. This Valentine’s cookery class is looking to change all that. And it includes bottomless booze. Which is sure to turn even the most reluctant cooks into accomplished, artistically minded, flamboyant chefs. For the night, at least. 14th February. The Avenue Cookery School, 3 Enterprise Way, Wandsworth, London SW18 1FZ. For more information and to book, head HERE. [caption id="attachment_6263" align="alignnone" width="1000"] theavenuecookeryschool.com[/caption] Valentine’s Heart in a Jar Class Tired of the ephemerality of love? Jaded by the over-commercialisation of romance? Into taxidermy? Stuck for Valentine’s Day gift ideas again this year? Then this heart pickling class is for you. Spend the afternoon learning how to dissect and preserve an animal heart, then take your very own specimen home with you in a glass jar. Give it to your partner. If they love it, you were meant to be together. If they hate it, well, they can always regift it come Christmas. 16th February. The British Academy of Taxidermy, Islington Arts Factory, 2 Parkhurst Road, London N7OSF. For more information and to book, head HERE. Anti-Valentine’s Day Murder Mystery in the Sky Head up to the London Sky Bar for this inventive antidote to Valentine’s Day: a murder mystery evening set in a Prohibition era speakeasy. The bar’s proprietor has been found murdered. It’s your job to piece together all the evidence, interrogating suspects and working together to get to the truth. Find out who did him in, on Valentine’s Day of all days. When you’ve closed the case, take in the views from this wonderful vantage point, 29 floors up and overlooking the Thames. 14th February. London Sky Bar, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4QP. For more information and to book, head HERE. Right, that’s your lot. However you spend your Valentine’s Day in London this year, we hope you have a swell time. And let us know of any alternative ideas you’re cooking up in the comment box below.
Matthew Pearson

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