As early as the Elizabethan Age, Hoxton and Shoreditch were renowned for theatre and raucous nightlife, which lives on today in the area’s pubs, clubs, bars and music venues. These days, the area is also home to a proliferation of tech start-ups, flourishing around the noisy traffic circle that is Old Street’s ‘Silicon Roundabout.’ Almshouses, eels, cocktails and art: here are the 10 best things to do in Hoxton and Shoreditch.
There has been a place of worship on the site of Shoreditch Church since at least the twelfth century. The current Classical building was constructed in 1817. At the time this was considered a daringly light and modern building; it was the first gaslit church, and in 1896 was an early adopter of electricity. It’s now the key location in BBC sitcom Rev.
The Geffrye began life as a row of almshouses. Built in 1716 it provided spare but respectable housing for 56 pensioners in need. Reinvented as a museum of the home in 1914, it now houses a chronological sequence of middle-class domestic interiors, from a 1630s oak-panelled hall via a highly patterned Victorian drawing room to a now quaintly dated 1990s loft apartment. Period townhouse gardens are located out back and a few times a month two restored almshouse rooms are open to the public: one has an austere 1780s interior and the other is decked out in cluttered, gaslit 1880s style. The museum also features kids’ events, an annual ceramics show and a riot of Christmas activity.
A ‘modern-day picanteria’, this corner restaurant features vivid fabric artworks plus a slick juice and pisco bar. Part of a small chain run by award-winning Peruvian chef Martin Morales, they do great ceviche and pisco sours. Nutritious Peruvian ingredients are key here: think quinoa, amaranth, maca root and purple maize.
Brace yourself for the Bridge’s fantastical decor, with acres of brocade, phoney Old Masters, ornate mirrors and lamps and throne-like gilded seats: the effect is gypsy caravan meets shabby stately home. Feast on Turkish pastries and baklava, great coffee and cakes – and booze.
This corner pub in the heart of Shoreditch is mostly remarkable for keeping its low-key charm and not shifting with the surrounding trends. Come for cask ales, ciders and the jukebox.
One of Hackney’s best live music venues, this 700-capacity former warehouse treads an interesting line between commercial and alternative music, styling itself as the Barbican Uncut. Tuareg musicians Tinariwen, singer songwriter Blood Orange and local soul star and guitarist Lianne La Havas have all played here – and partied in the tiled green room that once housed a brothel.
Shoreditch visual arts centre that features the work of London’s black community, as well as exhibitions by international artists in the capital. The design inspiration of the building itself, by David Adjaye, was a latticed Sowei mask from Sierra Leone. Rivington Place also houses the Stuart Hall Library, an education space and a café.
Cocktails at Callooh Callay and Happiness Forgets
Psychedelia meets Victoriana at cheeky, buzzy Callooh Callay. Go for a Hackney Carriage and don’t miss the secret upstairs bar. A hop away on Hoxton Square, Happiness Forgets promises ‘great cocktails, no wallies’ and features blood-red brick walls and marble tables. Their signature drink is the Perfect Storm, a heady combo including dark rum and plum brandy.
Built in 1863 by a local philanthropist, this jewellery-box music hall is one of Hackney’s treasures. In its heyday the hall presented songs, sketches and turns featuring trapeze artists, jugglers, acrobats and performing dogs. It later became a mission hall and then a social club, and now specialises in youth arts and performance. The auditorium has had a major renovation, meaning this lovely little space is reclaiming its place in the artistic life of the borough.
The fast food of the East End lives on at the beautiful F. Cooke eel, pie and mash shop at 150 Hoxton Street, established in the nineteeth century and still owned and run by the Cooke family. F. Cooke purveys the same food it always has done: pies and mash drenched in parsley sauce (known as liquor), stewed or jellied eels – and fruit pies with custard. Both the menu and the gleaming shop, fitted out with ceramic tiles and marble-topped counters and tables, are a wonderful blast from the past.