Shoreditch and Spitalfields, London Travel Guide
Shoreditch and Spitalfields Summary
- Urban art scene includes some of Banksy’s finest work
- Speakeasies, pop-up shops, and on-trend bars abound
- 17th-century Old Spitalfields Market for bargains and posh bites
- Nicholas Hawksmoor-designed Christ Church
- World-class Indian food on Brick Lane
- Great street food, particularly at Dinerama
- Old-school holes-in-the-wall still exist -- for now
- Gentrification is in full effect and taking away some of the edge
- Not a traditional tourist haunt
What It's Like
Full of contrasts, the neighborhoods of Shoreditch and Spitalfields can sometimes seem to roll into one in urban East London. For now, Shoreditch still retains its reputation as East London’s hipster hangout. It's also the more on-the-radar for tourists. Walls are seen as blank canvases for graffiti (with some works by street-art god Banksy), old brick warehouses have been transformed into funky loft bars and apartments, and pop-up bars seem to -- well -- pop up overnight. However, gentrification has softened the edge a bit, and these days Shoreditch's main crowd is young professionals looking for a short commute and vibrant nightlife.
The bar and dining scene is diverse throughout the neighborhoods. Street food and coffee shops form the staple eateries in Shoreditch, but there are members-only restaurants alongside 24-hour bagel shops, rooftop bars, literary salons, and watering holes that revolve around indoor games like ping-pong and darts. Around Old Street Tube station, there are some classic London speakeasies, but they can’t rest on their reputation. Trendy new bars open here all of the time. This is to say nothing of Box Park, which is a collection of shipping containers filled with small shops and cafes. Dinerama is another go-to destination. It's a smart but edgy street-food emporium set in a former armored truck depot. A few minutes’ walk south from Shoreditch toward Spitalfields, Brick Lane is London’s most famous street for Indian restaurants, and is packed with delectable spots to suit all budgets.
Spitalfields has a more traditional East London vibe, but alongside the cockney pubs and pie-n-mash stalls, there’s also a slick and modern neighborhood emerging. Old Spitalfields Market still serves as the heart of the area. This covered market has occupied the same site for over 350 years -- through times of severe poverty, overcrowding, and Jack the Ripper. Today, it’s a diverse market and the surrounding cobbled streets play host to boutiques and cafes. Also in Spitalfields, the Nicholas Hawksmoor-designed Christ Church is considered a fine example of English Baroque architecture. It can best be seen by walking down charming Brushfield Street from Bishopsgate.
Where to Stay
Places to stay in Shoreditch are centered around Shoreditch High Street. There are plenty of restaurants with rooms, artsy townhouses hotels (like the Ace Hotel London Shoreditch), and hip warehouse conversions. Toward Spitalfields, there are a couple of trendy value options and historic hideaways.