London/East End

The East End is a district of central London, stretching out from the edge of The City to the River Lea. Highlights include the large cluster of Sunday markets and the nightclub area of Shoreditch.


Mile End Road, over the Mile End tube station

The East End is the home of "Cockney Rhyming Slang", a dialect of English where words are substituted for other words which they rhyme with. For example "Apples and Pears" is cockney slang for "Stairs", "Plates of Meat" is slang for "Feet". In recent years the East End is perhaps more famous than ever due to the long running and hugely popular BBC TV series EastEnders, a soap opera about the life of people living in Albert Square, Walford, which is a fictional location.

Exploring the East End can be a great way to get off of the main tourist track, while staying in walking distance of the historic centre of London. A good place to start is to go east from Spitalfields into the nearby Brick Lane neighbourhood.

The East End consists of many small and quite distinct neighbourhoods:

Mile End is an increasingly affluent neighbourhood about one mile (hence the name) from the City of London along the Whitechapel Road. While not as vibrant as its neighbours in Bethnal Green and Brick Lane, it has a charm of its own which makes this district worth a visit. It is rich in history and contains some very interesting relics of London's industrial past. The district was created just at the time when London was expanding at its fastest rate and as such contains areas which are a microcosm of the Victorian city. It also suffered greatly from German bombing in WWII and the slum clearances of the 1960s which saw many fine Victorian houses bulldozed to be replaced by sub-standard communal housing.

Historic building of the Royal London Hospital

Whitechapel runs from the edge of the City of London at Bishopsgate in the West to Cavell Street in the East, and from Commercial Road in the south moving to the Brick Lane area in the north. It became particularly notorious in 19th century for the gruesome murders of Jack the Ripper (once known as 'The Whitechapel Murderer'), in the days when poverty and prostitution were common in this area. It is still a largely working-class area but has attracted a large Bangaledeshi community which has made Brick Lane what it is today. Many aspiring artists moved here for the cheap rents but still central location. Tracey Emin (one of the not-so-Young British Artists (YBAs) of the 1990s) has a studio in this area, and can be seen wandering around in the day. The Royal London Hospital gazes across at Whitechapel tube station and is famous for nursing Joseph Carey Merrick (the 'Elephant Man') in his final years.


Brick Lane is a small but diverse neighbourhood, named after a long road starting in Whitechapel and running north into Shoreditch. The area has come to be known as "Banglatown" in recent years on account of many of its inhabitants and proprietors originating from the Indian subcontinent (especially Bangladesh). You can see evidence of this on the bilingual road signs which were placed to help immigrants in the 1980s who were unable to speak English.

Although now largely a Bengali neighbourhood, within living memory, Brick Lane was a Jewish district. As well as some obvious remnants of this history such as a few remaining bagel delis, there are some more subtle ones too, such as small synagogues in the back streets. Many of the larger synagogues have now been converted into mosques. Before that, it was a Huguenot area. The Huguenots settled in the area and became well known for silk weaving. The markets here date back to the 16th century, when the area was a stop on the main eastern exit road from London The neighbourhood, now complete with its own annual festival, is now most famous for its curry restaurants, markets, speciality shops and vibrant but relaxed nightlife.

Shoreditch stretches from Old Street station to Kingsland Road in the London Borough of Hackney. Culturally though this is part of the East End. This was once an area largely populated by skint artists but they were scattered once the wave of design and media studios and commercial art galleries rolled in. Although the area is still underdeveloped in many ways, this is one of the best places to go out drinking in London, simply because there are so many different bars, pubs and clubs dotted all over this area and many of these stay open past 23:00.

City Canal in the Canary Wharf


This area stretches from the edge of the City of London along the river to Beckton. The area encompasses the historical docks of the port of London, which declined after the Second World War. The area has been extensively redeveloped since the 1980s resutling in a doubling of the residential population. This is now predominantly an area of giant offices and mid to upmarket housing, although elements of its historic purpose can still be found. For travellers, the major feature of interest is the Canary Wharf development, home to some of London's tallest buildings. However, there are also other areas of Docklands that are of interest to those with more time to explore the area. Area of modern day Docklands include Wapping, Limehouse, the Isle of Dogs and Royal Dock:

Wapping is immediately east of the City of London on the banks of the Thames. Although largely gentrified in recent decades, there are still many cobbled streets and the warehouse conversions has been done sympathetically in many places, and there are several excellent riverside pubs. The giant News International facility (which publishes The Times and The Sun newspapers) is located here.

Limehouse extends from the edge of Wapping to Canary Wharf. By-passed by the Limehouse Link road tunnel, it is a quiet, predominantly residential area and there are a few riverside pubs of note a well as facilities serving the massive business community at Canary Wharf.

The Isle of Dogs lies to the south of the Canary Wharf development, and is a mixture of light industrial, office and residential areas, with a large park at Mudchute that contains a City Farm. At Island Gardens there are noteworthy views across the river to Greenwich.

The Royal Docks extend east where redevelopment has proceeded at a slower pace than most of the rest of Docklands. The former docks are now stand alongside London City Airport, although the arrival and departure of aeroplanes still spills over them onto the campus of the University of East London. The Excel Centre is also to be found here.

Surrey Docks and Rotherhithe on the south of the river are sometimes included in descriptions of Docklands.

Get in

By Tube

Mile End is one of the best-connected stations in London, with access to the Central, Hammersmith and City, and District Lines. There is also a District Line station at Bow Road and Docklands Light Railway stations at Bow Road and Devons Road.

For the west side of Whitechapel get off at Aldgate East tube station (Hammersmith & City & District Lines), to take you directly to the Whitechapel Art Gallery and near the bottom of Brick Lane or Whitechapel tube station (Hammersmith & City & District Lines, and London Overground East London line) will take you to the east side of Whitechapel Road. Liverpool Street tube station is a 15-minute walk from Whitechapel.

The Jubilee line extension to Canary Wharf links the Docklands with the main tube network.

By Docklands Light Railway (DLR)

Much of Docklands was historically poorly connected to the rest of London, with the development of the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) and the extension of the Jubilee Underground line, transportation has become much easier and more efficient. If visiting Canary Wharf, you might like to arrive by DLR to experience the views from the train on approach and leave by the Jubilee to see the impressively large station, which has been compared to a cathedral.

Most of the DLR stations are, unsurprisingly, in the Docklands. There are three stations on the Canary Wharf development: West India Quay, Canary Wharf and Heron Quays. Heron Quays is best for interchange with the Jubilee line. The stations are a short distance apart so you don't need to use the DLR to get around within Canary Wharf.

By train

London Overground's East London Line connects various stations in the inner East End, running through Hoxton, Shoreditch High Street, Whitechapel, Shadwell and Wapping, before crossing the river to Rotherhithe, Canada Water and beyond.


Dennis Severs House
Victoria Park





Columbia Road Flower Market

The undoubted highlight of East End trading life was the street market, operating under a grudging acceptance from the authorities and offering bargains with big suggestions that the cheap price may be related to a dodgy road to market. Sunday was the main market day due to the Jewish heritage of the area, and therefore attracted a large influx of punters before shops were allowed Sunday trading elsewhere in London. The (more controlled) current markets are a treat of variety, stretching out in short walk from Liverpool St or Shoreditch stations. During a Sunday morning relaxed walk, allowing 2–3 hours, you can visit the four main markets, Petticoat Lane, Spitalfields, Brick Lane and Columbia Road Flower Market, have lunch and a shandy or two, whilst taking in the ever-changing diversity. New markets are opening en-route all the time, but real surprises are most likely to be found around the north Brick Lane/ Cheshire St area which most resembles the spirit of the original markets, having many stalls operating on the edges of both market and legality.

Petticoat Lane Market
Tatty Devine in Brick Lane


Canary Wharf

There are many restaurants in Docklands clustered around the new developments of Canary Wharf. Some of the best are listed below:

See detailed review in Chains reviews section of London article.

Mile End

There is a cluster of good eateries at Bow Wharf, just a few minutes north of Mile End station.

Brick Lane

Wander up Brick Lane, and you will be pounced on by countless touts trying to persuade you to enter their client's restaurant. Try to go on a recommendation if you can, otherwise take pot luck.

Unfortuntately many of Brick Lane's curry restaurants have become victims of the success of the area. Most restaurants now employ pushy touts, who will hassle you to eat in their client's restaurants. The discounts may sound tempting, but they frequently inflate the prices simply so they can offer you a 'deal'.

The largest concentration is between Woodseer Street and Fournier Street. The old-style, flock wallpaper curry houses have now largely given way to shiny, light wood and aluminium eateries for the tourists and City workers. Whichever style you go for, though, it's always worth checking that they've got a licence to sell alcohol before taking up a table. A lot of the restaurants will allow you to bring you own alcohol along.

Other places

Street art in Shoreditch


Canary Wharf

Many of the bars on the Canary Wharf development are indistinguishable chain bars, although they are very popular with office workers on weekday evenings, particularly Thursday and Friday. Most are closed at weekends, but there are usually one or two open if you want to visit then; the area is generally very quiet at this time, which you may or may not consider a good thing! Nearly all have outside areas adjacent to the water which can be pleasant in summer.

Fisherman's Walk, to the north of North Colonnade, has three adjacent bars:

Immediately across the dock, West India Quay has several bars:

Mackenzie Walk, to the south of South Colonnade, has a number of bars and restaurants. The following are two 'real' pubs:

Other options:

Mile End

Brick Lane




Limehouse Reach, Docklands in the East End of London





Stay safe

The East End in the past has had a bad reputation due to its high rates of crime and poverty. Today though, The East End is generally much safer and just the normal precautions after dark are advisable. People of the East End have pride in their home, so it would be wise to tread carefully around regulars in pubs and bars in places like Whitechapel, Mile End and Bethnal Green, but most people are warm, friendly and interested in you as a traveller providing you behave with the respect and deference due from a visitor. In the same vein, avoiding mention of football is helpful in keeping things smooth.

Go next

Routes through East End

Bloomsbury-Soho The City  W  E  East London Epping, Essex
Westminster The City  W  E  East London END
Bloomsbury-Camden The City  W  E  East London END
Westminster Southwark-Lewisham  W  E  Greenwich East London
END The City ← Bank-Lewisham  W  S  Bank-Lewisham → Greenwich Southwark-Lewisham
END The City ← Bank-Woolwich Arsenal  W  E  Bank-Woolwich Arsenal → East London Greenwich
END The City ← Tower Gateway-Beckton  W  E  Tower Gateway-Beckton → East London END
END East London ← Stratford-Canary Wharf  N  S  Stratford-Canary Wharf END
Islington Hackney  N  S  Southwark-Lewisham Wandsworth / South London

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 05, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.