If you want to see a side of London that is far from Westminster, Big Ben and the tourist hubs, a place that is authentically underground and has inspired decades of British music, look no further than Shoreditch.
It’s no longer Notting Hill where bohemian fans in London go, but instead they flock to east of the city, by way of Shoreditch. On Columbia Road, the neighborhood’s central axis, you can still hear the cockney singsong of locals and see traditional pubs alongside ethnic food stores and antique dealers. Yet this block of apartments, part of Hackney borough and just a few steps away from the City of London, was not always the world-famous trendsetter it is today. Once a boggy marshland, the neighborhood was founded by French Huguenots fleeing persecution. The place rapidly became a slum where the underprivileged gathered in large numbers. Almost untouched by censorship, theaters settled in Shoreditch, and Shakespeare even made it his home for a while.
The neighborhood was for many years a cut-throat sort of place to live, gaining notoriety as Jack the Ripper’s hunting grounds. During the 20th century, the neighborhood became the symbol of working-class London, with its industries and a diverse population of factory workers who flocked there from around the globe, looking for employment.
So full of charm, so centrally placed, and home to big abandoned warehouses that are now the regular haunts of creative types and graffiti artists – Shoreditch never needed a reason to become the new temple of cool. Gentrification is also taking over, and rock bands come here to shoot their music videos. Nonetheless, the neighborhood has kept its gritty charm.
It’s the perfect equation: real estate prices are still relatively affordable, the location is ideal, there’s a settled community of artists; everything has conspired to make it a haven for trendy designers.
The old factory spaces offer endless prospects in a neighborhood described by influencers everywhere as “London’s most fashionable.” While trends seem to migrate continuously from one district to the other, the hipsterfication of Shoreditch seems to be here to stay. Every style can be found rubbing shoulders in its eccentric East End streets, from punk to vintage pin-up. Perhaps that is why Shoreditch has become the fashion yardstick by which designers gauge their inspirations. Murals and graffiti, including key works by Banksy, cover the red brick walls and offer everyone easy access to guerrilla art. Art galleries, bars and concept nightclubs have replaced the abandoned printing workshops of the past.
Shoreditch has also turned into a major retail destination over the years. It’s not where people go to find rows of big global brands (such as H&M or Zara), but rather popular indie designers. More specifically, there are concept stores on every corner, multi-brand boutiques representing labels not found elsewhere in London, and shopping centers with a bohemian and underground vibe. This colorful universe has enough going for it to attract major brands such as Nike, who set up the Nike Lab 1948 to showcase a more refined offering of sneakers. Without a doubt, Shoreditch is an obvious choice for any pop-up event. What’s more, it’s got Boxpark, the “world’s first pop-up mall,” where indie boutiques keep company with trendy street food shops. It’s such a seductive concept that even the very upscale Dyptique has moved in.
Cheshire Street: The street is lined with vintage clothing boutiques, offering a veritable treasure trove of rare gems and indie steals.
Brick Lane Market: With an incredible variety of ethnic street food and vintage wonders housed in former brickworks, this multicultural and bohemian market is well worth the trek.
Boundary Rooftop: Sip on a Julep or Spritz while admiring the most stunning vista in the whole neighborhood. Among potted olive trees and elegant, low-key Scandinavian furnishings, it’s perfect for having dinner or a drink before checking out the area’s vibrant nightlife.
Columbia Road Flower Market: This is the most famous flower market in London. Every Sunday the red brick neighborhood transforms into a lush urban landscape full of scents and colors.
Hackney City Farm: This city farm is popular with locals looking to step back in time. They even sell fresh seasonal produce. It makes a perfect day out for the whole family.