Hackney’s quirky character and hip reputation is best experienced by night, in one of the neighbourhood’s many great bars and pubs. Whether you’re after a New York-inspired dive bar or a bustling beer garden, Hackney has the watering hole for you.
The bar at this cabinet of curiosities features a lengthy cocktail menu, with a whole section devoted to absinthe. It’s not a place for the easily spooked, though, as it is stacked with an eccentric collection of items, which range from the absurd to the macabre. Downstairs you’ll find mummies of cats, human skeletons, preserved animals, dodo bones and many more fascinating objects – all arranged in a deliberately haphazard manner. Once you’ve had your fill, head upstairs for the project artichoke or shrunken head cocktails (far more appetising than they sound) surrounded by yet more oddities.
This pub on the edge of Hackney Downs is a true local favourite. Its whimsical decor includes big, colourful murals, a central bar shaped like a fairground carousel and, of course, a huge, lit-up star. With local DJs taking over the decks on weekends and regular get-togethers – including group “singarounds”, where participants take in turns to sing or play a song – this is a venue with community at its heart.
This spacious, quirky bar is a Dalston institution, with weekly comedy nights, basement poetry slams, and late-night dancing every weekend. It’s located in a former 1930s-era dance studio and spread across two floors, with the downstairs bar reserved for dancing and upstairs offering a more relaxed vibe.
This venue, dating back to around 1729, is one of Hackney’s most famous and popular watering holes. Downstairs is a traditional pub while the top floor, reachable via a spiral staircase, is a plush cocktail lounge and restaurant. It underwent a revamp a few years ago, which saw the shabby chic decor updated with exposed brickwork, vintage mirrors and mismatched furniture in keeping with the aesthetic of its Broadway Market surrounds. It also serves up a mean Sunday roast (book ahead to avoid a long wait), and its prime position opposite London Fields means it’s always buzzing – particularly on a summer’s day.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, French, American, German, Belgian, $$$
Located under a retro cinema sign that frequently features different slogans, this dimly lit basement cocktail bar in Dalston is the perfect place for a romantic date. The bar is 1920s-themed with distressed walls, antiques and reclaimed furniture. In classic hipster fashion, its ever-changing menu of tasty cocktails are served in original 1940s milk bottles and old tin cups, and there are also plenty of craft beers on offer.
Modelled after a bar in New York’s East Village, this place has recreated a slice of the Big Apple right on Broadway Market. The red walls and curved bar give this small but cozy venue a welcoming, neighbourhood dive-bar feel. With live jazz downstairs and friendly staff serving delicious cocktails and Mexican street food, Off Broadway is a great combination of East Village meets East End.
People’s Park Tavern in Victoria Park has one of the best beer gardens in London. The colourful outdoor space, which has plenty of seats beneath strings of twinkling lights, is always bustling, and the in-house microbrewery produces some delightfully original beers. Previously known as the Britannia, this pub is a must-visit during those long summer nights. There’s crazy golf, BBQs, quiz nights, music and board games to keep you entertained.
Housed in a huge, striking building is this bar/restaurant/gallery hybrid, an achingly cool venue in the heart of Hackney Wick. Its sizeable outdoor terrace sits directly on the canal, while inside, live music and DJs spinning everything from disco to electro attract a hip young crowd.