Hackney is by far one of my favourite places in London. East London has previously been notoriously reputable for its being on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’, but things have changed. This former industrial area and slum of the 1800s has given rise to what is now a hub for a mix of young professionals, arty/muso types and young families. Old factories transformed into new apartments have brought first home buyers in droves.
In recent years, Hackney has seen the mushrooming of many businesses (mostly cafes and restaurants) cashing in on the busy crowd. Maybe I’m biased since I live so close and am a regular ‘tourist’, but Hackney’s modern artistic vibe is catching. It plays host to a number of music and community festivals through the year, and the brand new playgrounds in the ever developing Victoria Park make you want to be a kid again (there’s a smell of fresh varnish on the new wooden climbing frames).
Hackney is also conveniently close to the Olympic Stadium, and easily accessible with transport and even Barclays bicycles for the public. On average, it is about 3-4 miles to the stadium, give or take. There is plenty to enjoy in Hackney for leisure, but remember to bring your ‘relaxed’ hat as you discover the gorgeous park, markets and hive of restaurants around.
Do & See
Fancy an afternoon nap in the sun? Or perhaps you prefer the shade? Victoria Park is the perfect place for you to get your weekly respite and forget your worries. An expansive park that has it all, such as a pavilion overlooking a beautiful pond where you can grab an ice cream or coffee. There are also new play areas for children and constant developments happening to help the aesthetics of the area. The best thing about this park is that the paths are wide and open for those of us who enjoy cycling.
You can find tranquillity in another way at Hackney’s oldest building, turned museum, an original Tudor House built in the early 1500s. Get a feel for what it could have been like to live in such a stunning building, and relax in the courtyard, after seeing the original oak panelled walls and fireplaces. There is also a little gallery, a cafe and a shop.
2 – 4 Homerton High Street
Transport: Bethnal Green
Saturdays produce a hustle and bustle on Broadway Market in Hackney. This market is the sushi of shopping – little bits of all sorts – from interesting foods, to arty clothing stores, and handmade wares. But unlike expensive sushi, prices are generally affordable. The market stretches all the way down the road, flanked by interesting shops selling nicknacks, useful tools, and even furniture.
Transport: London Fields Rail
Eat & Drink
If a picnic lunch is not your thing, there are plenty of waterholes and feeding grounds to meet your needs. In Victoria Village, you’ll find a place to satisfy your salivating taste buds as it boasts a cluster of pubs, cafes and restaurants located near Lauriston Road.
The Fish House
A popular hot spot in Hackney for those with a hankering for fishy flavours. It’s impossible to go hungry at The Fish House as portions are large and scrumptious, and totally cheap: you hardly pay more than a tenner (£10) for a meal. The decor is plain and simple, with a cool breeze running through the restaurant on warm days. Service is swift and the establishment is very well prepared for constant customers. You won’t always get what you want on the menu, so arrive as early as possible.
126 – 128 Lauriston Road
Transport: Bethnal Green
Average spend: €15
Perched on a corner of Victoria Park, and with an enormous outdoor garden area, the Britannia pub is utterly packed on a sunny weekend (no surprises). There is plenty of space to sit outside either at the tables, or picnic style on the large grass patch. For these really busy days, don’t count on getting a meal. You would have to forgo your Sunday sleep-in to eat here, so make a booking.
Typically lazy on a Sunday, I have yet to arrive in time for lunch at The Britannia before the kitchen closes around mid afternoon. The sound of the breeze and the birds tweeting in the trees will keep you seated though (with help from a glass of Pimm’s).
Be sure to take a squizz at the community notice board on your way out: they have regular ‘Frock Swap’ afternoons, a good idea for those of us penny pinchers; plus, if you’re in the mood for a giggle – and honestly when wouldn’t you be? – comedy nights are a monthly feature.
360 Victoria Park Road
Transport: Hackney Wick
Average spend: €18
If you fancy a wander and something a little off the beaten track, yet with plenty of character, take a stroll to The Hemingway pub. Grand leather sofas regally park, carefully guarded by angelic skulls and birds on the walls. It reminds me of an old hunter’s lair, where his best kills are trophied majestically. Equally inviting are the cosy atmosphere and extremely friendly staff who will do their best to accommodate you even when it’s busy. Splash out a little on the food, it’s worth it.
84 Victoria Park Road
Transport: Bethnal Green
Average Spend: €18
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Author bio: Philippa Morton is a journalist, entertainment writer and bar/restaurant critic for Fluid London. Her portfolio expands to dating and relationships, as well as education. Follow her on twitter @philippamorton