Shoreditch’s rough-and-ready neighbour Bethnal Green has managed to remain an authentically East End ’hood despite the steady spread of gentrification. For every new coffee shop and cocktail bar that crops up in the area, you’ll find a family-run restaurant and a traditional boozer not far away.
The Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood is London’s most nostalgic museum, showcasing dollhouses, action figures, teddy bears and various other childhood objects dating as far back as the 1700s. Alongside its permanent collections, Bethnal Green’s toy museum hosts film screenings, workshops for kids and inspiring exhibitions. Admission is free.
Down the road from Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club is London Buddhist Centre, the perfect place to cleanse your chakra after all that debauchery. Offering drop-in yoga classes, meditation and mindfulness courses and even creative writing workshops and film nights, the centre is a tranquil respite from city living.
If you’re looking for bona fide East End grub, look no further than G Kelly. An acclaimed pie shop serving up jellied eels, classic meat pies and mashed potatoes, head here for hearty meals that will fill you up without emptying your purse.
This Bethnal Green comedy club is one of London’s best, biggest and longest-standing comedy venues, and is owned by British stand-up and TV regular Lee Hurst. Big names and bright newcomers take to the stage almost every night of the week, and customers are free to enjoy table football, ping-pong and board games. It’s the perfect place for a cheap and cheerful evening out.
A friendly, modern boozer that’s become a hit with E2’s bright young things, The Star of Bethnal Green is a must-visit for its Tuesday quiz night. With a boisterous quizmaster and extra points available for dancing during the music round, the quiz night is a regular on lists of the best things to do in London. The pub’s bottomless brunch and raucous karaoke room also draw in locals.
A legendary old boxing gym once frequented by the Kray twins, Repton Boxing Club allows visitors to learn about the history of boxing in the East End and get a first-hand insight into its modern-day significance. It’s housed in a Victorian bathhouse, and you’ll find walls adorned with boxing posters dating back to the ’50s, framed photographs, vintage punching bags and, of course, a huge boxing ring.
Of all the new cocktail bars opening in the area, Coupette is the slickest of the bunch. It was set up by former head bartender at the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar, Chris Moore. Expect immaculately concocted drinks using regional French liqueurs and a menu of classic French dishes, including confit duck leg and croque-monsieur.