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Top Attractions in East London You Need to See

The River Thames meanders through the heart of East London as seen from the Docklands Canary Wharf Tower.

The River Thames meanders through the heart of East London as seen from the Docklands Canary Wharf Tower.

If you’ve been to London before, then you know that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to see everything that the city has to offer in one brief trip. With its growing population of over 8.5 million people and attractions spread out over more than 600 square miles, it’s easy to lose track of time and miss out on some of the city’s best attractions. Instead of spreading yourself thin during your next vacation here, maximize your time by steering clear of some of the obvious tourist favorites, and sticking to the top attractions in east London.

To help you get your itinerary started, we’ve given you a brief overview of this exciting part of the city. From where you want to stay to what the top attractions in east London are, look no further.

About East London

East London is a district that stretches from the edge of the city to the River Lea. It is often simply called the East End, a nickname given because the area lay just to the east of the medieval walled city of London. During the 19th century, the district gained notoriety because it could not keep up with the constant influx of people and was known as being extremely overcrowded and home to some of London’s most impoverished residents. In more recent years though, the area has been cleaned up and many top attractions in east London are worth visiting during a trip to England’s capital.

The East End is also where “Cockney Rhyming Slang” originated. The term refers to a unique dialect where words are substituted for other words that they rhyme with in order to obscure the meaning of a sentence to those who don’t understand the slang. Don’t be surprised to hear “stairs” referenced as “apples and pears” or “money” described as “bread and honey.” It can take awhile to catch on, so if you can’t quite decipher the meaning of a conversation, then you’ll know you’ve been caught in Cockney Rhyming Slang.

Where to Stay in East London

The Spitalfields Market is a major tourist attraction in east London and has become a destination for food, clothes, crafts and vintage items.

The Spitalfields Market is a major tourist attraction in east London and has become a destination for food, clothes, crafts and vintage items.

With so many different distinct neighborhoods to choose from and lots of things to do within each area, you won’t have any trouble finding a vacation rental that is near many of the top attractions in east London. If you’re looking to experience a city by blending in with the locals then Spitalfields is the neighborhood for you. This part of the city is home to the Old Spitalfields Market, where each day is devoted to something different from fashion to art. Nearby is the Brick Lane Market, where an endless amount of tasty food can be sampled. For those that prefer a more historic approach to their trip, look for a rental in the Whitechapel neighborhood. This area is known for its gruesome Jack the Ripper murders and offers a darker perspective of London’s growth over the years. Today, it is where many artists make their home due to the neighborhood’s central location and cheap rents. Shoreditch calls to those looking to get a literal taste of London by indulging at the local restaurants and pubs, while Mile End is a quieter, charming and more affluent neighborhood about a mile from downtown.

Top Attractions in East London

The famous Brick Lane marketplace is one of the top attractions in east London.

The famous Brick Lane marketplace is one of the top attractions in east London.

Brick Lane: While the street that Brick Lane occupies dates back approximately 450 years, this part of east London has changed immensely over time. Today, it attracts London’s edgy and artistic crowd in particular, and is always a hub of activity on Sundays when it’s at its liveliest. Maneuver your way through the rows of food stalls and collect tasty samples along your way. One pass through Brick Lane and you’ll be able to try many different cuisines, including Bangladeshi, Ethiopian, Indian, Lebanese and Spanish. In the flea market section, vendors hawk wares from cheap leather jackets and unique second-hand clothes to inexpensive furniture and other decorative knick-knacks. There’s never a dull (or quiet) moment here, which is why those looking to steer away from the more traditional things to do, consider Brick Lane to be one of the top attractions in east London.

Columbia Road Flower Market: The Columbia Road Flower Market is one of the top attractions in east London to check out on a Sunday morning. It’s tucked away in a quiet corner of east London, but the area comes alive with pops of color and lots of beauty every weekend. Locals and visitors alike head to this market where vendors sell their fresh stock and lively chatter exudes from every flower stall. Wind through the streets dodging buckets of flowers and take in the sights and fragrant smells all around. Hit the market in the early afternoon to score the best bargains on bouquets. A stroll through the market on a Sunday morning is sure to brighten what is often a cloudy day in London.

People choose their flowers from street vendors selling their stock at the Columbia Road Flower Market.

People choose their flowers from street vendors selling their stock at the Columbia Road Flower Market.

Dennis Severs’ House: Dennis Severs’ house is a work of art that showcases the historical imagination of one man through 10 uniquely decorated rooms. Often referred to as a “time capsule attraction,” visitors are immediately transported to another time as they move silently from room to room within the house on Folgate Street. Severs transformed each room in the Huguenot house to give viewers a peek at what life was like as a silk-weaver in east London from 1724 to 1914. His use of unique smells, sounds and decorations create the illusion that you are stepping back in time into a home that someone has just abandoned. Guides escort visitors through the property in total silence, heightening the senses and everyone’s general awareness of this ‘still-life drama.’

Jack the Ripper Tour: If you have a morbid fascination with London’s famed serial killer (or you’re just looking for a twisted history of the East End) then this is something you can’t miss on your trip. The unknown killer known as Jack the Ripper terrorized the streets of east London in the late 1800s and this tour caters to curious travelers. Tour guides will take you down the same street’s as Jack the Ripper’s victims as you go on a mock manhunt through the neighborhood. Tracing the steps of this killer through dark alleys will send shivers down your spine and call clues and pieces of evidence into question as you explore. The gruesome murders still remain a mystery even over 125 years later. If you have two hours to kill in the evening, the Jack the Ripper Tour will surely keep you on your toes.

Walk the same cobblestone streets as Jack the Ripper during a eerie tour.

Walk the same cobblestone streets as Jack the Ripper during a eerie tour.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: Built for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the massive sporting complex is made up of multiple Olympic venues. The facilities include the athletes’ Olympic Village, as well as the London Aquatics Centre, London Stadium and Lee Valley VeloPark. Explore these historic spots to relive where world records were broken and medals were awarded to athletes from around the world. Guided walking tours of the park are also available to interested visitors. During each tour, experts explain how the area was transformed into a place that was ready to host the Olympics, and visitors are led through the grounds past beautiful parklands, waterways and an assortment of outdoor artwork. Even if the only thing you do at this park is experience the spectacular views of London from the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide, your visit to this top attraction in east London will be worth it.

V&A Museum of Childhood: This branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum (the “V&A”), known as the V&A Museum of Childhood, primarily showcases collections of childhood objects ranging in date from the 1600s to present day. The museum is divided into four distinct galleries – the Childhood Galleries, the Creativity Gallery, the Moving Toys Gallery and the Front Room Gallery – all of which enable young and old to invoke their childhood memories. On display, visitors can find everything from rattles and teethers to rocking horses, pull-along toys and a variety of battery-operated toys. The museum serves to give people insight into how children have grown up over the years, as well as how technology and science have evolved.

A canal cuts through Victoria Park offering boaters a unique perspective of the landscape.

A canal cuts through Victoria Park offering boaters a unique perspective of the landscape.

Victoria Park: A favorite among locals, Victoria Park has been visited by millions for over 170 years. With its picturesque landscape that includes two large lakes, a pond for boating, thousands of trees and more, the 200 acres of land that the park sits on is more than suitable for all types of recreation, sports, play and relaxation. The park is open 365 days a year from early morning until dusk, making it a great place for year-round fun. Check it out on a warm summer day to enjoy the Victoria Park Splash Pool or bundle up during the winter to stroll the tree-lined paths. In addition to the endless outdoor recreation opportunities that abound here, many events and festivals take place at Victoria Park throughout the year, too. Popular events include the Summer Tea Dance and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Victoria Park is one of the top attractions in east London where people can gather at to play organized games and various sports as well as to discover this beautiful oasis within London.