East London is undoubtedly the capital’s coolest area, full of industrial architecture and hipster bars. Of course, cool credentials come with rising prices, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy it with Culture Trip’s pick of the borough’s best budget hotels.
The graffiti-filled streets of East London are home to some of the city’s funkiest shops, busiest bars and most lauded restaurants. So, it’s no great surprise the area has become one of the hottest in town, evident today in its long list of upmarket hotels. But for the frugal travellers among us, there are (thankfully) more than a few budget-friendly hotels that allow you to stay in the heart of the action without breaking the bank – leaving more money to splurge on things to eat, drink and do.
The mantra here is to offer guests everything they need and nothing they don’t. This translates to subtly done-out rooms that don’t dabble in pomp and circumstance but provide all the facilities you need for a comfortable stay. Hypnos beds, TVs, hairdryers, waterfall showers and fast wifi are all included. A stay at this hotel also gives you free access to the DW Fitness First gym, plus a number of discounts at local bars and restaurants. At the Hawksmoor steakhouse, for example, you’ll receive a free round of drinks – though you’ll need to pay for the steak.
If you’re after a budget-friendly stay that doesn’t compromise on character, then Qbic Hotel London City might not be a bad place to start. Its location at the top of Brick Lane puts it at the heart of the East London scene. Rooms are vibrant, with quirky touches such as junkyard-style looped cable lights and giant high-res photos of top tourist sights on the walls. There’s also a huge focus on sustainability, with eco-friendly showers, organic mattresses and a free drink for those who opt out of housekeeping service (thereby saving water). Don’t miss the breakfast buffet (complete with a DIY waffle station) to fuel up for the day ahead.
Historic Whitechapel always feels like an exciting place to be, which you get a sense of in the New Road Hotel. This former textile factory, owned by three brothers whose father worked there in the 1960s, has plenty of original features, such as exposed brick walls, large windows and traditional signage. Rooms come in different sizes, with the smaller Warehouse rooms having huge beds nestled in cosy booths. Dining options are a treat, too. Mr White’s English Chophouse, from celebrated chef Marco Pierre White, is as satisfying as you’d hope, while the bar is a great place to gather with friends.
Conscious of your impact on the world? Good Hotel’s profits not only go back into its business to help unemployed members of the local community with training and work but also to various social causes around the world. The hotel itself is unusual – it’s a floating shipping container-style creation with a light-up sign that stands out against the concrete of the nearby buildings. The interior decor is minimalist, while the rooms are small but cosy with blankets and plush carpets.
Ever wanted to go on a cruise but don’t fancy endless days on the open water? This converted ship, moored at the Royal Victoria Dock, makes you feel as though you’re on a cruise liner. With all the authenticity of a real cruise but none of the pretension, it always remains safely anchored, as it doesn’t have an engine. However, the crystal chandeliers, cabin windows and waterfront views could have you fooled. There are plenty of modern features to keep you firmly in the 21st century, too, including iPads in the rooms. Be sure to enjoy an after-dark drink at the hotel bar – the combination of old-world glamour and exceptional river views make for the perfect nightcap.
In this busy metropolis, one building can often be indistinguishable from the next. The M by Montcalm, however, is one that’s bound to catch your eye. The angular shape and mismatched windows are in keeping with the modern interior. A focus on tech means tabletop iPads in reception, high-speed wifi throughout and in-room units to control everything from the temperature to coloured mood lighting.
Dorsett City London keeps guests entertained all evening, and its late-night restaurant, VQ, is good for a midnight snack. There’s also a 24-hour gym if you want to burn off the calories. Start your evening sky gazing from the 14th-floor Jin Bo Law Skybar, which offers sweeping views of skyscrapers and city spires. Rooms are lavish, with rich textiles, golden touches and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the city – perfect for watching the world go by below as you sit in bed with a mug of fresh coffee.
This hotel lies in the heart of Bethnal Green, right opposite the Tube station where the Central line will take you anywhere in the city you want to go – it’s the East End’s busiest junction. Rooms are monochrome in style, with wooden accents, modern artwork and shades of taupe. The in-house restaurant serves up an epic full English, and with a wide selection of craft beers on tap, it’s also the perfect place to fuel up before a big night out. Wine lovers are in for a treat, too – one of the city’s best wine bars, Sager + Wilde, is right behind the hotel, next door to the craft-beer paradise Mother Kelly’s.
A homely 1970s vibe welcomes you at Mama Shelter, an eclectic urban hideaway in the backstreets of East London. Mismatched patterns and furniture are the norm here – all brought together to create a quirky space often lacking in budget hotels. The rooms are also full of character, be it Looney Tunes masks slung over mirrors or suggestive toiletries in the bathrooms (“Mama wants to cream you up,” reads the hand cream provided). And no stay would be complete without getting up on stage at the on-site karaoke lounge, where you can belt out your favourite song into a retro microphone.
You might not have known that the Whitechapel sits on the site of a former textile factory, but once you’ve explored inside, you might start to wonder about its industrial past. The Crittall windows, brick exterior and sleek, metal-accented interiors bring a factory-like style to the building, with the pops of red perhaps a reference to the London buses and telephone boxes of today. With Brick Lane and central Shoreditch right around the corner, a stay here means you’re never more than a short stroll from the many highlights of London’s bustling East End.
Z Hotel Shoreditch is half the price of many hotels in this neighbourhood, yet a stay here doesn’t feel like a compromise. Sure, the rooms are relatively low-key, but each has a wet room and scores extra points for comfy mattresses and pillows made from natural materials. The building itself is very grand; built in 1898, the Alexandra Trust Dining Rooms provided cheap meals for locals. Today, it’s been soundproofed to keep out the noise from nearby Old Street Roundabout.