Published 15 Jul 2016
Area Guide for Tower Hamlets
There is a wealth of attractions close to home in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. Known for pushing the boundaries of food, art, tech and fashion, East London has long since been the edgy 'enfant terrible' to the West’s preppy ingénue.
From the extraordinary dining to the high concept shopping, opinion-dividing exhibitions to back-street locals – you can’t spend long in this part of town without falling in love with everything the East stands for.
The Victorian meets the East End
East London wears its chequered history like a heart on its sleeve – less a war wound and more a badge of honour. And it is of course this intoxicating mix of potent past and potential future that makes the area so rich in interest and intrigue. Try as you might, you can’t fail to fall for this place.
The Victorian era left the East End in disarray, overlooked by the rest of the capital and outshone by the West. But it was just this underestimation that bred what it is today – a rich populace of character and creativity, vibrant and utterly compelling.
A night out in the East End is just as potent as you might expect – the heady mix of spontaneous creativity and a heritage hard fought for makes this the home of the most intriguing nightspots London has to offer.
The food revolution
Whatever foodie trend you’re tracking in the capital, chances are it started in the East, with a new place to dine springing up every day, and each more imaginative than the last. Sample the eclectic menu at local fave E Pellicci, Bethnal Green Road, or grab a quick bite to eat down vibrant Brick Lane.
Close by, Shoreditch and its surrounds bear most resemblance to our transatlantic cousins, with the dawn of the food truck in Brooklyn mirroring that of the street food phenomenon here. The gastronomical elite have been seeking to push the boundaries more and more recently, and what better place to experiment than in London’s East End.
The result is a plethora of cheap eats, lavish gourmet affairs, single item menus and pop-ups, where local hangouts play host to monthly food residencies. Our favourite of these is still Bunsmiths at the Sebright Arms, moments off Hackney Road – the brioche buns are as glossy as you’d expect, and the fillings are sure you get your tastebuds dancing.
Foodies are well-catered for at Billingsgate Market near Poplar, offering the largest selection of fresh and frozen fish in the UK, and renowned Borough Market at nearby London Bridge. Borough Market attracts people from across the country and boasts a rich mix of high quality British and International produce, as well as several cafés and international alfresco dining.
East End weekend attractions
There are few places where you get the feeling that anything could happen – at any time – but with the imaginations currently being nurtured in the East of London, this is definitely one of them.
Not a day goes by without a gallery opening, installation launch or pop-up, well, popping up in the East End, and it’s just this sense of energy that is almost tangible wherever you go.
But where to start with all that time on your hands? We heartily recommend visiting Dennis Severs' historical Huguenot house, a fascinating recreation of an artist’s house from the period, and just a short walk from Spitalfields Market. If you fancy something a bit more sartorial, why not visit Milk, a concept boutique where you can pick up work from designers including Mes Demoiselles and Patrizia Pepe.
In East London, the rural charms of a working farm are never far away, and you can visit, pet and heck, even muck out to your heart’s content. Hackney City Farm is a popular destination located just across Goldsmith’s Row, and the open green spaces of Haggerston Park are adjacent.
Canary Wharf has over 240 shops, bars and restaurants, plus a programme of music, film, theatre, dance, art and fashion. Also nearby is West India Quay, with all the latest releases at Cineworld and an excellent range of restaurants. For shopping on a grand scale, Westfield Stratford City – Europe’s largest urban shopping centre – is close at hand.
Places to socialise
On the banks of the River Thames sits The Grapes, a gastropub that was historically visited by Charles Dickens, and where Ian McKellen is the leaseholder. Terence Conran’s exclusive riverside restaurants at Butlers Wharf offer a range of upmarket international cuisine, with the choice of bars, pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues at London Bridge, the Southbank and the City ample.
Perfect for families with young children, the Half Moon Young People’s Theatre offers an array of exciting activities for all ages from theatre and puppetry to art, poetry and music! For littlies up to big kids at heart, the Museum of London Docklands off West India Dock Road regularly offers exciting exhibits and events for the whole family to enjoy.
Out on the water
Take a trip on London’s canal network with Moo Canoes, based at Limehouse Basin. Primarily reserved for guided trips, their unique two- and threeseater Friesian cow-print canoes are also available for private hire, so you can take things at your own pace. Including a runthrough on paddling techniques and a safety briefing, as well as all equipment, the canoe trips are suitable for families or adult groups.
Alternatively, try one of their guided Thames trips, or for those passionate about the sport, you may be interested in taking one of their British Canoe Union accredited courses.
Crossrail is coming
Time is of the essence and the arrival of Crossrail brings central London even closer to your front door. Along with excellent transport links, the project brings a multitude of benefits to buying in neighbouring areas such as Limehouse Basin.
The new Canary Wharf station will provide brilliant commuting opportunities, plus a host of retail and leisure activities – four floors worth to be exact! The station boasts a gorgeous tropical rooftop garden, described as a “tranquil site in the middle of Canary Wharf” and a selection of bars and restaurants beneath it.
The overall impact of Crossrail on travel times will be huge – in some instances travel times will be halved. The journey to Tottenham Court Road from Canary Wharf for example will be cut from 21 to 11 minutes, while you could be at Heathrow Terminals 1-3 in as little as 39 minutes. Crossrail will be operational from 2019.
Property market data in Tower Hamlets
Have a look at the latest property market data provided by Zoopla. Here you can find the latest average values by property types and value trends.