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Top Alternative Things To See And Do In East London
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Top Alternative Things To See And Do In East London

Picture of Federica Signoriello
Updated: 9 February 2017
Your friend is coming for the weekend, and the idea of a walk among those standard tourist traps again is annoying you already… So rather than planning the phenomenal hundred ways to win the fight against the crowd in Piccadilly Circus, or avoid getting asked where Portobello Road is, try a refreshing, alternative tour along the scenic canal route in the East End.
An amazing view of the Limehouse Basin | © ThirteenthGreg/WikiCommons
An amazing view of the Limehouse Basin | © ThirteenthGreg/WikiCommons

The Limehouse Basin

At the crossway with Wapping and St. Katherine Docks, the Limehouse Basin (formerly the Regents Canal dock) is a huge surprise, and not only for those visiting London for the first time. A quiet and inviting lake village atmosphere, the Limehouse Basin was a place that only a few decades ago was seen as an area of workboats and dangerous slums. Now, after a total redevelopment that started in 1983, along with the construction of the Docklands Light Railway, new housing and boats are decorating this nice passage, starting with the hidden East-End canals. Head to the Husk Coffee and Creative Space just in front of Limehouse DLR Station for a Colombian ground coffee in a relaxed indie atmosphere, or look for the Moo Canoes centre for kayak excursions or boat hiring.

Husk Coffee & Creative Space, 649-651 Commercial Road Limehouse, London, UK, +44 20 7702 8802

Moo Canoes, 30 Pinnacle Way, Limehouse Basin, London, UK, +44 7879 909423

The Battle of Cable Street | © Peter Thwaite/Geograph
The Battle of Cable Street | © Peter Thwaite/Geograph

The Battle of Cable Street

Ahead of the many galleries, the East End also comes with outdoor masterpieces tucked away in unexpected corners of the Tower Hamlets neighbourhood. Shoreditch and Brick Lane may be the most significant and well-known hubs, but did you know that in the heart of Shadwell lies one of the most significant murals in London history? A few steps west of the waterways is Cable Street, named after the famous Cable Street fights, as well as the mural on one of its walls. ‘The Battle of Cable Street‘ was started by Dave Binnington in 1976 and then completed in July 1982 by Paul Butler – it’s a tribute to the effort of the anti-fascist demonstrators against the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley. This colourful, meaningful and touching mural is worth the walk into the heart of the Tower Hamlets borough.

St. George’s Town Hall, London, UK

The Wilton's Music Hall stage | © Wiltonsfan/WikiCommons
The Wilton’s Music Hall stage | © Wiltonsfan/WikiCommons

Wilton’s Music Hall

Situated in the heart of Whitechapel, the Wilton’s Music Hall is the oldest music hall and is proud of its 300-year history. Built originally as individual houses, the hall has seen various alterations and reconstruction over the years. But thanks to John Wilton in the 1860s, the place started its story of music and art. Today, Wilton’s Music Hall is a stunning location where theatre, opera, dance, music, cinema, circus, and other art forms are finding their natural home. Still reminiscent of the sights of the past, the charity currently managing the venue completed a restoration project to maintain its original charm.

Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London, UK, +44 20 7702 2789

Regent’s Canal (plus two great pubs)

Carrying along the canal pathway from Limehouse, the Regent’s Canal in Mile End offers a nice place either for a quiet walk, a bike ride or a run. Starting from Mile End Park, the first thing you need to do is stop by The Palm Tree, an old-fashioned jazz pub that offers live music performers every weekend. Good beer and high-quality music can transform a quiet night out into a buzzing and unforgettable one. Carry on down the canal and gaze upon fascinating pond boats docked along the canal and eventually you will stumble across a stunning view of Victoria Park, where a beer in the People’s Park Tavern garden at sunset will make for a relaxing end to a day of exploring.

The Palm Tree, 127 Grove Road, London, UK, + 44 20 8980 2918

The People’s Park Tavern, 360 Victoria Park Road, London, UK, +44 20 8533 0040

Burdett Coutts Fountain, Victoria Park | © John Davies/Geograph
Burdett Coutts Fountain, Victoria Park | © John Davies/Geograph

Matt’s Gallery

Beside the east entrance to Mile End Park there is a contemporary art space named after the dog of its founder. For more than 30 years, Matt’s Gallery has been the venue of some of the most important contemporary exhibitions in London. Opened in 1979 by Robin Klassnik, the site is an exploration of the creativity of Turner Prize-nominated artists and those exhibited at the Tate Britain. Becoming more brilliant every year, the gallery is now a reference point for the art of the East End.

Matt’s Gallery, 42-44 Copperfield Road, London, UK, +44 20 8983 1771

Columbia Flower Road Market | © GanMed64/Flickr
Columbia Flower Road Market | © GanMed64/Flickr

Columbia Road Flower Market

The last stop of this journey is in Bethnal Green, where the Columbia Road Flower Market offers the chance to brighten your house this winter with an impressive array of flowers. The street market, held every Sunday from 8am-3pm, transforms the area into a village for flowers lovers. Aside from the independent flowers stands, there are many coffee shops, restaurants and pubs that also make this an authentic and unique market.

Columbia Rd, London, UK