No area of London has undergone quite such a dramatic change as Shoreditch. Up until the mid-1990s, the east London district was a shabby and run-down working class enclave that offered little reason to visit. What a difference twenty years makes. Today Shoreditch is hip and happening, with a global reputation for its vibrant arts scene, artisan coffee shops, vintage design stores, and public spaces decorated with eye-catching graffiti.
Needless to say, its bustling community of artsy types – commonly referred to as ‘hipsters’ – help ensure that there’s no shortage of unique thing to see and do. Whatever aspects of culture interests you, be it food, art, music, fashion or design, there’ll be something quirky and original for you to enjoy in Shoreditch. To help you navigate the options, we’ve picked out 12 of the best.
1. Dennis Severs’ House
Tucked away down an inconspicuous residential side street, most people walking past this unique attraction are unlikely to bat an eyelid. And yet lurking behind its unremarkable façade is a peculiar, thought-provoking home that transports visitors back to the 18th century. Billed as a “still-life drama”, the five-story house was created by the previous owner Dennis Severs and offers a historical imagination of what life would have been like for a family of Huguenot silk weavers. Wandering around its cramped, creaking confines is a truly sensory experience thanks to the hearth and candles burning – and one that leaves you with more questions than answers.
LOCATION 18 Folgate Street HOURS Weds & Fri 5pm-9pm Sun 12pm-4pm Mon 12pmp-2pm 5pm-9pm Closed Sat & Tues
2. East End Food Tour
The East End of London has a rich culinary heritage and visitors can learn all about it it on this fascinating tour. Hosted by Strawberry Tours, the trip offers the chance to sample a wide range of foodie treats that are steeped in East End lore, many of which reflect the multicultural nature of the area. Tuck into a salt beef bagel from a quintessential Jewish deli, sample a samosa from a Bangladeshi restaurant, and satisfy your sweet tooth with some West African chocolate. Tours are around 2.5 to 3 hours long and are free of charge. All you need to pay for is any food and drinks you buy along the way – and a token of gratitude to your humble guide should you consider them deserving.
3. Cereal Killer Cafe
If anything has exemplified Shoreditch’s hipster culture over the years it has been the opening of this eccentric café that serves more than 100 different varieties of branded breakfast cereals, designed to bring our childhood memories flooding back. The first cereal-themed café in the UK, it features a retro vibe complete with beds used as seating around tables, exposed brickwork and formica furniture. Among the decor are novelty cereal boxes, vintage milk bottles and other cereal related memorabilia. Topping off the old-school vibe is music from the 80s and 90s.
LOCATION 192a Brick Lane HOURS Sun-Thurs 8am-7pm Fri-Sat 8am-12am
4. Craft Beer Tour
It’s no surprise to learn that Shoreditch has a vibrant craft beer scene. And if you’d like to discover more about it, then this fully guided tour will be perfect for you. During the trip you’ll get to sample beers in funky drinking holes and traditional pubs, visit a microbrewery to learn about the beer brewing process, and take in the unique sights and sounds of Shoreditch along the way. You’ll sample 7 diverse beers across the 3+ hour tour, including smokey stouts, sour beers and smooth ales, so be sure to arrive with your stomach lined.
5. Callooh Callay
This award-winning cocktail bar is known as one of the most quirky anywhere in Shoreditch – and there’s some serious competition on that front. Decorated in distinctive but tasteful style, the bar has various nooks and crannies to explore, including a secret Palace of Humbug room that’s hidden behind a wardrobe. Adding to the idiosyncratic atmosphere, there’s also a toilet hidden behind a secret door in the wall. It all adds up to a truly unique entertainment spot where even the drinks’ names come with a creative and peculiar twist.
LOCATION 65 Rivington Street HOURS Mon-Sun 6pm-1am
6. Last Days of Shoreditch
Originally a street food market, Last Days of Shoreditch has grown into a multi-purpose arts, music and recreation space. Fully heated and undercover, the venue offers live music and art exhibitions, with visitors invited to kick back and relax in the Enchanted Garden where you’ll find a tropical beach area, swinging hammock beds and even a tree-house. Staying loyal to its roots, there remain plenty of street food options too. During the summer months the venue is also available for private hire for mindfulness workshops and other activities.
LOCATION 288 Old Street HOURS Thurs-Fri 5pm-12am Sat 6pm-12am Closed Sun-Wed
7. The Museum of Curiosities
Not just one of Shoreditch’s most original museums, but one of the most unique anywhere in London. The museum of Curiosities is saturated with bizarre, esoteric exhibits including shells, skulls, taxidermy specimens and other assorted oddities. Among the strangest items are dodo bones, shrunken heads, two headed lambs and occult paintings. For those seeking some respite from the weirdness, there’s also a dedicated arts space in the first floor gallery featuring more mainstream works. The Museum also houses its own cocktail bar and hosts weekly lectures and workshops.
LOCATION 11 Mare Street HOURS Mon-Wed & Fri 4pm-12am Sat 4pm-2am Sun 2pm-10pm
8. Rough Trade East
The East End outpost of this independent music store that originated in Covent Garden continues to defy the online revolution. Throughout the day the store, which also doubles as a live performance space complete with a purpose-built stage, draws large numbers of music-lovers who come to peruse the vinyl or simply to relax in the on-site café. The venue itself was designed by David Adjaye, one of the brightest young star of UK architecture, and is considered a masterpiece in indie chic.
LOCATION Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane HOUR Mon-Thur 9am-9pm Fri 9am-8pm Sat 10am-8pm Sun 11am-7pm
9. Queen of Hoxton’s rooftop film club
On a balmy summer’s evening in Shoreditch, there are few better places to be than on the rooftop at the Queen of Hoxton bar and club. But people don’t just come here for the panoramic views across the city – it’s also home to one of London’s most popular outdoor cinemas. Dotted with comfy deckchairs, the venue hosts a nightly programme of movie screenings, with everything from cult classics to brand new releases. To help muffle any ambient outdoor noise, guests are given state-of-the-art wireless headphones while amplified speakers help immerse you in the viewing experience.
LOCATION 1 Curtain Road
10. The Magic Roundabout
There can’t be many entertainment venues around the world that are located in the middle of a major roundabout. This popular party venue can even be reached via the inside of Old Street station – that is if you can find the secret staircase leading you there. Once inside, you’ll discover a large dance floor, live DJs, three bars serving cocktails and craft beers, award-winning street food and – in the summer months – an open air terrace. There’s a regular programme of clubs nights, and private events are often held here too, including corporate parties, product launches, film and photography shoots.
LOCATION 16 St Agnes Well HOURS Wes 4pm-11pm Thurs-Sat 12pm-11pm Closed Sun-Tues
One of Shoreditch’s newest nightspots, Matchbox has gained a big reputation in a relatively small space of time. Featuring graffiti-style artwork, in many ways this is a quintessential Shoreditch entertainment space, but it is the quality of the cocktails here that set it apart from so many of its myriad competitors. The focus here is on top class mixology, with expert shakers and makers behind the bar able to concoct drinks from your wildest dreams. There’s also street-food platters, live DJs and live sport shown on large TV screens during the summer months.
LOCATION 135 Shoreditch High Street HOURS Mon-Fri 5pm-12am Sat 12pm-12am Sun 5pm-11.30pm
12. Arts For All
It’s fair to say that much of Shoreditch’s arts scene is not necessarily “family friendly”, typically involving spray cans and ladders propped up against derelict buildings. Except, that is, for Arts For All, which does what it says on the (paint) tin by offering a creative space for people of all ages and abilities to unleash their artistic spirit. The venue runs workshops and classes in a bright setting, with a strong focus on the local community and particularly underprivileged people.
LOCATION The Tab Centre, Godfrey’s Place HOURS Mon-Sat 9am-5pm Closed Sun