When tourists normally visit London, they usually end up visiting Central London and normally stay in one of the expensive hotels there. However, there is a LOT more London has to offer. I love how London is such a rich, diverse, cosmopolitan city of a mix of so many different cultures. This post will show you the gems that are in East London, for food, attractions and places to stay.
East London was traditionally an area of green open space away from the hustle and bustle on inner city urban life. It consisted of royal hunting grounds and soon became the industrialised hub of manufacturers in London. In fact, even today, you can see signs of Londons export industry in the Docklands area of East London (near to the cable cars and ExCel centre). It has always had a history of migrant populations being so close to the docs with Hugenot refugees in the 17th Century, to Bangladeshis in the 20th century. Recently, in the past 20 or 30 years, East London has seen a growth in different migrant populations making it a delightful mix of cultures, languages and traditions!
Is East London Muslim Friendly?
East London particularly, the Green Street, Stratford and Whitechapel areas are extremely Muslim friendly. You will be within 5 mins walking distance of any halal food places and also a mosque.
As these places have a high population of Muslims, wearing a hijab or a niqab also shouldn't be a worry.
Generally, us Londoners are a friendly bunch, we might stare at our phones on the tube the whole journey or fall asleep, but we usually keep to ourselves but are glad to answer any questions!
How to get to East London by public transports?
East London consists of lots of different boroughs and towns but it is well connected to Central London. Stratford is on the Central line and is only a short 20-30 min tube ride from central London.
Whitechapel sits on the outer edge of 'Central London' so getting to Whitechapel from Central London is even quicker. For accurate directions, check the Transports for London website.
Best Places for Shopping in East London
This area is a shopping heaven, but keep a note of these spots even if you don’t want to shop, walking around them is also fun!
Brick Lane has long been heralded the mecca of hipsters. Here, you will find quirky shops selling vintage clothing and memorabilia. Make sure to visit 'Dark Sugars' for a hot chocolate or a selection of raw chocolates that you may never have tried before. If you happen to be in London on a Sunday, I would recommend going there since all the Sunday market stalls are out and selling lots of cute things. It gets a little boring during the week.
Old Spitalfields Market
Just a 2 min walk from Brick Lane is Spitalfields. It is very close to Liverpool Street Station. It’s THE place to try out different food from different cuisines around the world. Spitalfields also has stalls and a small market of sellers selling hand made goods from skincare, leather purses and clothing to antiquities. Be sure to check their site to know which markets are running on which day.
Just outside Whitechapel station is this market of stalls selling mostly women's abayas and hijabs. You can get good deals of a variety of styles from 6 hijabs for £10 or for more recent styles 3 or 4 for £10.
Think of this as the Oxford street for Asians. The atmosphere here is incredible. Lined with restaurants, sari and Indian shalwar-qamees (traditional dress and trousers clothing) shops, abaya shops and even traditional Asian homeware shops. THE place to also come to stock up on spices and Asian vegetables and delicacies.
Great if it the London weather serves up rain, loads of mid range and a couple high end shops. This shopping centre is always busy, so if you can come during opening time it's a little quieter. It also has a prayer room on the top floor near the restaurants, walk past Nandos and you will see it. It is also conveniently located right by Stratford train station and the Olympic park.
Charity Shops outside of Westfield
If you are making an effort to shop less for the environment, then you will be pleased to know that there are a few shops outside of Westfiled that are charity shops selling second hand clothes.
Things to do in East London:
The areas around Whitechapel/Aldgate/Spitalfields and Shoreditch offer unique art work and quirky shops. Below is some of my favourite places to walk around in East London and soak in the atmosphere!
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Olympic park and the AcrelorMittal Orbit
Home of the Aquatic centre and the Orbit. A great place to rent a Santander cycle and explore because it is massive with a couple of canals too. It's a nice stroll away from the shopping centre. The ArcelorMittal Orbit provides views of London far and wide and also has a GIANT SLIDE for those who can brave the experience!
Emirates Air Line Cable cars and O2 arena
North Greenwich station return journey costs approximately £10.70 for a discovery ticket which gives admission to the aviation experience too and provides a guided video and audio for you to enjoy on your journey during your trip to learn about the history of East London. You can also get a single ticket for £3.50 on a contactless card oyster. This might be more convenient if you are visiting Excel also for an exhibition or just want to walk around before taking a trip back. A return journey takes approximately 20 minutes. You can start your journey from North Greenwich station as its conveniently located on the Jubilee line. AND you can see the o2 (3 min walk away) There are also a handful of high street shops located within the o2.
Street Art walks in East London
One of the East London attractions is the street art, which actually led to making the area very attractive to investors. The most central part of this is Shoreditch followed by Brick Lane, Nomadic Community Gardens and Hackney Wick. You can wander around on the weekend and you will see writers and artists doing their thing live, but it’s all about your luck. If you don’t want to risk it, it might be good to join one of the walking tours to show you the exact spots. Here are a few:
Best Restaurant for breakfast and Brunch in East London
Located near Green Street. Here you will find traditional Indian chai and rolled roti breakfast omelettes and more Indian delicacies. This might be a good pitstop for breakfast, brunch or lunch if you are heading out to green street for abaya/scarf/Indian spices and clothes shopping. Website
Grounded Coffee Company
30 seconds walk from Aldgate tube station or a 7 minute walk from Whitechapel station is this rustic coffee shop. Be warned, this cafe is always always full and busy. You may have to wait outside for a bit. But the food is worth it! Website
Big Mo’s Diner
This restaurant is an exact replica of traditional American diners. Thier burgers are massive. They also serve a variety of hot dogs, milkshakes and other traditional diner food. It is a 3-4 min walk from East London Mosque. Website
If you are closer to Shoreditch and Hoxton, then read this:
Where to eat Breakfast in Shoreditch, London?
Best Restaurant for lunch and dinner in East London
You can grab lunch on your way from the markets and the streets mentioned above, but if you prefer a sit down restaurant you can try on of the following ones:
This restaurant is quite famous particularly amongst tourists. It has been running for many years. They have a 'bring your own alcohol' policy so may not be suitable for those wishing to eat in a completely halal place. - Website
Very conveniently located near East London Mosque (LMC) this restaurant tends to get very busy. It has a mix of Indian and Turkish cuisine and I love the atmosphere of it. It is HMC (Halal Monitoring Committee) Certified. Website
Located on Brick Lane this restaurant has amazing steaks and burgers. It is only a 3 min walk from Aldgate East station and 7-10 min walk from Whitechapel station. You can also take South African friends there, who would love the Braai. Website
If you are hanging around Shoreditch for the street art and the Brick Lane market, then here is a closer option to you. Harlem Soul is an American style burgers with some good soul food. Their kitchens are fully halal, but they do serve alcohol there. Website
Where to pray in East London?
One of the biggest mosques in East London is the East London Mosque also know as LMC, London Muslim centre, it offers facilities for women to pray and also has a women's fitness gym. It is a 5 min walk from Whitechapel station.
Mosques are very easily found all over East London. Some areas of East London will have a rather bigger density of mosques than others. For example, near Green Street, you will find mosques within a 5 min walking distance in every direction. However, some of them do not have a place for women to pray. Green street mosque near the beginning of Green Street does. Also, there is a small room in the shopping centre in Green St also for women to pray.
Best Areas to stay in East London
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For location, Stratford hotels can be had relatively cheap compared to West London hotels. I have stayed at Holiday inn express for approximately £40 on a weeknight. Bear in mind that you are only 20 mins from central London, after a 7 minute walk to Stratford station, this is a bargain compared to staying in West London hotels! Plus, you will have a range of restaurants that will deliver halal food to you through Uber Eats or Deliveroo.
You can use my referral code on Uber Eats: 9qa90a for some money off your first order!
Whitechapel and the surrounding area also offer hotels at similar prices. Just make sure to check how far the closest station is. Staying at Limehouse Holiday Inn Express will also give you the chance to have a quiet river walk and f you can muster the strength, you can walk to Tower of London in probably around 30 minutes.
Hotels near London City Airport and ExCel centre
Another less well-known spot in East London are the hotels surrounding London City Airport and Excel centre. I have stayed here before and as long as there is not an event on at the same time, rooms can be had for relatively cheap. You might also get London City Airport runway views or views of the O2, Canary Wharf and the river.
I have stayed in Doubletree ExCel for approximately £80 a night and luckily was upgraded to a 2 room suite because of my Hilton Gold status! The hotels in this area are a walk away from Prince Regent DLR station, which is not very ideal for some attractions. But if you plan your days ahead and the first place you visit is conveniently linked for transport also on the DLR, it should still work out good for time. As an example, you can get to 'Bank' train station which is on the Central line in approximately 20 mins from here.
If being near the airport is necessary you can check their own London City Airport Hotel that got over 800 great reviews.
Another gorgeous hotel on the DLR line is the Good Hotel. It has a lovely river view making it a good location to relax, but it is a great options if you need to access East London, Stratford, London City Airport and the Excel centre.
Booking.com sometimes offer great deals as well, so do a general search and take a look at the location on the map to see how accessible it is to what you want to do
Thank you to Jamila for this great guest post.
Jamila is the blogger behind A Wanderlust Traveller (AWT) and that is basically what she is. Since she was really young, she would browse travel magazines, watch travel shows and dream about exploring the world. She is happy to say that those dreams are coming true as she explores the big beautiful world around us. Travel gives us the opportunity to unplug from the world around and cultivate a true sense of mindfulness and gratitude. Jamila’s passion is to encourage people like you to get out and explore the amazing and breathtaking world around us. She loves writing about her favourite destinations and how to get luxury travel for less. You can get Jamila’s FREE guide on how to get luxury stays for cheap from her blog!
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