The good life
This neighborhood was once London’s creative center, a place where Shakespeare debuted a number of his plays. Today, after decades of neglect, Shoreditch has been reborn with a new sense of purpose.
TEXT: Fernanda Maquieira @fernimaq | photos: Ignacio Acosta & Jakub Bojczuk
A perfect destination for a Sunday outing in London, the Flower Market is one of the oldest open-air markets in the city, dating back to 1859. Columbia Road is closed off and full of vendors selling flowers, plants and shrubbery from 7:00 a.m. until around 3:00 p.m. Bargain hunters take note: after 1:00 p.m., everything is half-price. There are also several shops nearby dedicated to design, décor and antiques, as well as welcoming bars and cafés to stop at along the way.
In the 1970s, the Victorian church of St. Michael’s was restored and transformed into an antique shop by Westland London, which specializes in fine architectural elements from the past. Westland brought together 17 galleries with different products that combine to offer a fun afternoon of browsing. It’s well worth a visit, not just for the church’s beautiful design but for the lovely objects showcasing centuries of style.
St Michael’s Church
Shopping with a twist
Near the exit of Shoreditch High Street Overground station, the repurposed shipping containers of Boxpark are full of clothing stores, design shops, bookstores and gourmet shops – from both well-known labels and indie brands – as well as bars and even free WiFi. Boxpark targets a younger audience, with a space covered in artificial grass where you can unwind with a glass of Pimm’s. If you feel like having a coffee, head to Dum Dum Donutterie and try the homemade donuts, which are baked, not fried. Yum!
One of the most famous shopping areas in the city, Brick Lane is also home to Banglatown, London’s largest Bangladeshi community. It makes for a fun stroll as you pass by small markets selling food and produce, clothing and accessories, as well as used record stores and a variety of restaurants serving top-notch curry. There are always worthwhile exhibitions at The Old Truman Brewery. And don’t miss the Beigel Shop (open 24 hours). Order a salt beef bagel: it’s a true neighborhood classic.
If you’re into retro styles, head straight for Cheshire Street. The Shop and House of Vintage both promise great finds, with good quality clothing, a wide selection and top-notch organization. There’s so much variety that you could spend hours just browsing. There are also some other grungier shops where you can dig around to find trinkets and cool jackets. It all comes down to your taste and budget.
The Nightjar has been recognized as one of the best bars in the world, and the key to its success lies in the skillful preparation of more than 70 different cocktails. Perfect for jazz lovers: hip, elegant and featuring live music almost every day, this popular bar is often packed. Although not required, reservations are a very good idea.
129 City Road
One of the most popular bars in the area, Loungelover is where Madonna celebrated her 50th birthday. Located at the end of an alleyway, this swanky spot is not immediately appealing from the outside: the neon script over the door and a pair of flanking torches are the only indication of its existence. Inside, the toned-down front gives way to a cozy hideaway decked out in vintage and antique decor, and there are always shows, exhibitions and entertainment.
1 Whitby Street
Lobby Bar, ace hotel
Open since 2013, the lobby bar of the Ace Hotel has become a hot meeting place among locals. With the mark of several designers evident in its interior design, this stylish bar is a great place to enjoy a cocktail. You don’t have to be a guest (as is the case with several other hotel bars in the neighborhood), and the atmosphere is noticeably relaxed, with small tables, lounge areas and even a long, common table for working on your laptop, if you so desire. To complete the atmosphere, a DJ spins tunes in this hipster haven.
100 Shoreditch High Street
In the heart of Shoreditch, Dishoom is one of the best Indian restaurants around. The owner hails from Bombay, and the cuisine is super authentic, not to mention reasonably priced. The atmosphere is a mix of informal and elegant, with a friendly, attentive staff that takes the time to explain the menu to diners. Dishoom is always packed, and after 9:00 p.m., it’s hard to get a table without a reservation, but the wait at the bar – complete with a Chili Martini – is well worth it.
7 Boundary Street
The Book Club
A neighborhood favorite, especially among hipsters, The Book Club is a café, a bar, a restaurant and an exhibition space. Located in a series of Victorian warehouses, it’s open 24/7. The fun includes a ping-pong table and nighttime parties in the basement featuring different DJs. It’s the kind of place where you can hang out and read a book, have coffee and get something to eat as you while away the afternoon or practice your moves on the dance floor.
100-106 Leonard Street