Traditionally a working-class neighborhood throughout the 20th century, Hackney is now increasingly known for its instagrammable Sunday brunches, organic markets and hipster cafes. Yet you can still find its classic East London character when you stroll through the streets - listen to the voices, take in the diverse food stores, have a pint at the corner pub. Here are some of our favorite local spots that showcase a mix of the old and new:
Broadway Market, Broadway Market (Saturdays 9AM-5PM)
Broadway Market is one of our favorite London street food markets. With various stores and over 135 stalls selling everything from farm produce and artisan baked goods to vintage clothing, lingerie, and crafts from local designers, it would be hard not to find something special at this market. It’s also a great people watching spot.
London Fields, London Fields Westside
London Fields used to be where farmers pastured their livestock on their way to market in London. Now, instead of sheep and cows, you can find a heated lido, an outdoor gym, tennis courts and a stunning wildflower meadow. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the late summer sunshine.
Forman’s Restaurant, Stour Road
For a close-up view of London’s Olympic Stadium, take a trip to Forman’s Restaurant which sits just over the canal and opposite the stadium. Don’t miss their famous London Cure Smoked Salmon, which the H. Forman & Son Smokehouse invented and has been making since 1905. You can even take a look through the viewing gallery at how the smokehouse operates. Enjoy their riverside terrace and afterwards, stroll over to the Olympic Park.
Hackney Empire, Mare Street
Hackney Empire is a classic #BritishFamous institution. It was one of the first theaters to have electric lights, a built-in projector box and central heating, and continues to be at the forefront of innovation and entertainment today. Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong and Ralph Fiennes have all graced the stage at points throughout Hackney Empire’s history and the theatre’s vibrant and diverse programme reflects the local communities which it serves. From comedy and drama to dance and pantomimes, there’s something for everyone.
St Augustine’s Tower, St John's Church Gardens
As a Grade I listed structure and the oldest building in Hackney, St Augustine’s Tower is a long-standing symbol of the borough. The tower appeared on the cap-badge of the 10th Hackney Battalion during WWI and currently appears on Hackney’s coat of arms. The tower is all that remains of the early 16th century church of St Augustine, which replaced the 13th century medieval church founded by the Knights of St John. Visit the Tower on the last Sunday of every month when it is open to the public and you can climb the narrow staircase to the roof for a stunning view of Mare Street and the City beyond.
East London Tours with Alternative London
It won’t come as a surprise that London's graffiti artists collectively upped their game in Hackney. Our favorite way of checking out the work of some of London's most famous street artists is with affordable and guided walking or bike tours. Alternative London is an organization that offers tours of the coolest spots in London, often led by local artists and creatives. If you’re in to East London’s incredible street art scene, check out their street art tours and workshops. If you’re hungry, try their new food tour.
Cat & Mutton, Broadway Market
Cat & Mutton, a neighborhood institution for over 300 years, is a traditional pub downstairs and a cocktail lounge upstairs. Come for a pint and upmarket pub grub, and watch a mix of old-time locals, yuppies and hipster crowds fill this sizeable watering hole. On Mondays, listen to live jazz and blues, on Tuesdays take part in the pub quiz, fill up on Wednesday steak nights, and dance to live DJs on Friday and Saturday nights.
Columbia Road Flower Market, Columbia Road (Sundays 8AM-3PM)
Okay, so we know this market is technically in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. But it’s just off Hackney Road and it’s one of our favorite places, so we’re making a small exception. This famous flower market is open every Sunday from 8AM-3PM and has been running, in some form or other, since 1869. Many of the stalls were established over thirty years ago with generations of family members working together. Traders - or barrow boys - still yell their prices in hearty East End accents and the market is one of the best places to get affordable and multitudinous varieties of plants. Be sure to check out some of the brick-and-mortar stores and listen to street music on neighboring Ezra Street, when you’re done smelling roses. Visit early to avoid the crowds.
The Geffrye Museum is housed in a stunning collection of 18th century almshouses on Kingsland Road. The museum focuses on the history of the home in both a physical and conceptual sense, and is a journey through English style, fashion and taste. The meticulously curated period rooms span 400 years, leading visitors from the 17th century through to the present day. Be sure to visit the beautiful garden reading room. Stroll through the period gardens and the herb garden (open April-October) before finishing your visit in the charming café to enjoy some afternoon tea. If all that sounds too good to be true, get this - it’s free to visit.
Crate Brewery & Pizzeria, Queen's Yard
Situated right on the River Lea that runs through Hackney, you'll find Crate Brewery & Pizzeria which is usually packed on sunny days. The Crate Bar has its own microbrewery and the homemade pizzas are wonderfully original and inventive. While Crate offers monthly menus, past pizzas have included the Kashmiri Dahl pizza (mozzarella, spinach, dahl, cumin seeds, chili, crispy shallots, mango chutney, Greek yoghurt, coriander and banana) and Sage & Truffle (mozzarella, grated potato, crispy sage, parmesan and truffle oil). Sit inside the eclectic bar space where materials like bed springs, ladders and railway sleepers are incorporated into the decor or head outside where you can sit alongside the herb gardens, water and moored boats.
Posted in London
Cover photo: Crate Brewery and Pizzeria