“Stokey” is one of Hackney’s most attractive neighbourhoods. There’s plenty to keep you occupied, from the historic pubs, independent shops and Georgian mansions of Church Street, to beautifully landscaped Clissold Park, or the maze-like tangle of Abney Park Cemetery. These are our top 10 favourite things to do in Stoke Newington.
The best introduction to Stoke Newington is a wander down Church Street. Try the Three Crowns gastropub, the shard-thin traditional Irish Auld Shillelagh, the red-brick gabled Lion, or the oak-panelled Rose & Crown. Don’t miss independent Spence Bakery‘s loaves, which are made fresh each morning, along with superb pastries.
The Old Church and St Mary’s
Right at the top of Church Street, these two churches sit opposite each other. The Old Church, a sixteenth-century beauty in a venerable, ivy-strewn graveyard, hosts concerts and art shows; St Mary’s, designed by George Gilbert Scott in the 1850s, defines the Church Street skyscape with its lofty spire.
Just beyond the churches is Clissold Park, complete with aviary, deer and goats, a paddling pool, large playground and skate park, and a café in a 1790s Quaker-built mansion with a pretty landscaped garden. Growing Communities run a small market garden here, open to the public on Tuesdays.
Northern Stoke Newington is characterised by two large reservoirs. The west is a watersports centre, while the east reservoir is a wetlands reserve, home to reed buntings, song thrushes and kingfishers. Managed by the London Wildlife Trust, the reserve welcomes volunteers.
The nearby Scots Baronial ‘castle’, built as a water-pumping station in 1852, is now a climbing centre with an appealing café.
Abney Park Cemetery
Labyrinthine, Gothic and dishevelled, Abney Park, at the eastern edge of Church Street, is Hackney’s answer to Highgate Cemetery. A burial ground for dissenters, at the heart of the cemetery is a ruined 1840 funerary chapel – the oldest non denominational chapel in Europe – whose tall portal was built to accommodate horse-drawn funeral carriages. Abney Park was laid out in 1840 as an arboretum with 2500 species and varieties of trees and shrubs; these now support a surprisingly rustic population of tawny owls, sparrow hawks, great spotted woodpeckers, bats, wood mice and bank voles.
Stoke Newington High Street
Significant buildings on this busy strip include the gorgeously tiled Aziziye Mosque, built as the Apollo Picture House in 1913, and, on the east side of the road, the classic Deco Simpsons building with its double-height windows. Originally a clothing factory, it now houses vintage clothes megastore and café Beyond Retro.
Of the many tastes of Turkey on Stoke Newington High Street, Tugra Baclava is stand-out spot, especially for those with a sweet tooth. The counters are crammed with homemade baklava, dripping with syrup and sprinkled with pistachio nuts.
A Dalston institution, at Mangal 2 you can follow hot and cold meze starters with charcoal-grilled kebabs or a host of veggie options. Besuited artists Gilbert & George are regulars.
Hackney’s historic cinema, the one-screen, two-storey Rio is a real gem, showing major releases, avant-garde movies and classics. Sunday matinee double-bills are full of cinematic surprises, from the Marx Brothers to Polish art movies to leftfield documentaries. For families, there’s the Saturday Morning Picture Club and Tuesday afternoon Playcentre matinees, where you can watch such delights as The Jungle Book and Paddington. Monthly Wednesday matinees are for the over-60s.