Most commonly associated with a right good night out, Dalston and Haggerston also have a host of daytime charms. Don’t miss the sensory overload of Ridley Road Market, or the contrastingly peaceful residential enclave of De Beauvoir. And, at the area’s southern boundary, the Haggerston Riviera boasts a cute cluster of galleries, artists’ studios and waterside cafés. Here are our top 10 things to do in Dalston and Haggerston.
Clamorous, colourful Ridley Road Market has been here since the 1880s. At the eastern end of the strip of stalls, look out for the Turkish supermarket TFC whose facade features prominent stone Ts enclosed in a star. This was originally Taverners sweet factory, where Hackney’s Alan Sugar went on to run his Amstrad business in the 1970s. The market is one of the best places around to buy unusual ingredients, as well as Indian and African fabrics.
Across Kingsland High Street is Gillett Square, with its lean-to-style barbers and money transfer stalls; you can get punchy Ethiopian coffee, and eat injera and wat at Kaffa Coffee. You’ll also find the Vortex jazz club here, and summer sees music and dance events.
Quintessential Hackney venue Cafe OTO sits immediately northeast of Dalston Junction in an attractive arts complex housed in the four-storey former Reeves paint factory on Ashwin Street. Adjoining the café is the clean-energy Arcola and Bootstrap, a long-running training and enterprise organisation. It comprises workspace for social enterprises, start-ups and individuals; a gallery; the Merci Marie café; and the Dalston Roof Park. Round the back of the building is a World War Two bunker, open sporadically for events, plus the 40ft Brewery and the Dusty Knuckle bakery, both housed in shipping containers.
The restored 1985 Peace Mural has come to symbolise the borough’s multicultural mix; in bold bright colours, it depicts protestors from the 1983 Hackney Peace Carnival passing Navarino Mansions on Dalston Lane, brandishing their instruments and banners.
The Peace Mural is at the entrance of the much-loved Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, where you can have a drink and eat sourdough pizza at Latto’s among the herb and vegetable beds. The garden, nurtured by volunteers, hosts craft workshops, acoustic gigs and kids’ events such as Halloween pumpkin-carving sessions, and helps Hackney gardeners with a free compost giveaway each spring. Their café sells teas made with fresh garden herbs, plus locally produced beers, cakes and lollies; the café’s income keeps the garden open.
The engaging Clown Museum is in Holy Trinity, where the clown community used to hold its annual church service; this now takes place at nearby All Saints (first Sun in Feb). Among the exhibits are Coco the Clown’s last costume and the fascinating Clowns International Egg Register, a form of clown-face patenting whereby a look is painted onto a carefully stored egg.
West of Kingsland Road lies the tranquil De Beauvoir area, begun in the 1820s by developer William Rhodes – grandfather of Cecil Rhodes who founded Rhodesia. The plans of Rhodes senior for five large squares were never carried out, but De Beauvoir Square was completed, with unusual gabled Tudor/Jacobean-style houses enclosing a rose garden.
At the canal end of De Beauvoir, arts venue the Proud Archivist, the CANAL gallery and a cluster of artists’ studios and bars are part of an informal collective nicknamed – somewhat ironically – the Haggerston Riviera, which organises events and open studios.
South of the canal, Haggerston Park features football pitches, a BMX track, a small community orchard and veg garden.
Neighbouring Hackney City Farm is an unexpectedly bucolic attraction for kids: as well as checking out pigs, goats, donkeys and chickens you can eat at the Frizzante café.