Explore East London

London’s East End is situated, unsurprisingly enough, in the eastern side of the city. Often ignored by tourists who clamour for the glamour of the West End, this area is actually steeped in history with interesting things to see and do.



The East End of London; An Introduction

It is also relatively quiet in tourist terms so makes a great day out if you want some downtime. Home of the traditional Londoner, the Cockney, today’s East End is a melting pot of different cultures.

So, what can we tell you on a whistle-stop tour? Yes, some of your preconceptions about the area are probably true. You can still buy jellied eels and pie and mash from traditional shops. Locals born within the sound of Bow Bells still qualify as being Cockneys and rhyming slang is not quite brown bread yet. You won’t meet the Eastenders cast as they don’t actually film in the area, but you may meet some similar characters.

A Brief Guide To East London, The Place, The History

London Underground

London Underground

But, as any true crime lover will tell you, there is more than this to the area. London’s East End was home to one of the most notorious serial killers of all time, Jack the Ripper.

You can still walk through some of the narrow and constricting alleys that he used. Although they may never be as dark, smoggy and, frankly, scary as they were in his day, they paint a good picture of what life was like in Victorian London.

If you visit the old wharves and streets near the docks in the area, you’ll feel like you are stepping back in time. Used by Charles Dickens in so many of his novels, you’ll get a feel for what life was like for characters like the Artful Dodger and Fagin, who was in fact thought to have been based on a local fence, Ikey Solomon.

East London Villains

Then, we have the Kray twins, the East End’s most famous gangsters, who brought a mix of glamour and fear to the area in the 1960s. The brothers were media darlings and socialised with celebrities and politicians. They also ruled the East End and terrorised people who got in their way. No visit to the area is complete without a trip to the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel which was the site of one of their most outrageous murders when Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

Today’s East End is vibrant and buzzy and is probably the best place to experience the many different cultures that make up the population of London. It is THE place to have a curry in the capital! It also has some curious and popular markets, including Petticoat Lane, Spitalfields, Brick Lane, Columbia Road, Whitechapel and Roman Road. If you want to visit some authentic and untouristy pubs then you’ll find plenty dotted around its back streets.

Museums and Art Galleries

East London Transport

East London Transport

The area is also rich in art galleries and museums. Over the last 30 or so years, it has become home to many artists, including Tracey Emin, and galleries like the White Cube, Whitechapel Gallery and Brick Lane Gallery are all worth a visit.

The flagship museum of the East End is the V&A Museum of Childhood but you can also see the Museum of the London Docklands and the Geffrye Museum if you venture out of the city.

The Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields gives a slice of old East End history. This museum recreates the home of Huguenot silk weavers in the 18th century and, for an extra thrill, is described by Time Out as being “proper spooky”! If you want to see for yourself how East Enders used to party, try taking one of the weekly tours of Wilton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel.

East London Sport and Leisure

If you want some down-time, you can find green spaces even in this urban area. Victoria Park, known as Vicky Park to locals, is a relaxing large park that also has plenty of activities for kids in the holidays and that is home to various festivals. You can also do some of the Lea Valley walk along some of the area’s canals.

London Olympics Stadium - East London

If you are a sports fan, try getting a ticket to West Ham, the main football team of the East End. If you go to Stratford, you can also take a look at the Olympic Park, the site of the hugely successful 2012 Olympics.

Take a trip to the upper floors in John Lewis for a great overall view of the stadia and site. The Park is being landscaped and converted for leisure use so, if you time your visit right, you may also be able to take a walk or cycle around it.

The East End may be a real cultural mix now but you’ll find that all its residents share a sense of community that you don’t find elsewhere in the capital. Traditionally a poor cousin to more affluent areas of London, East Enders are tight-knit and proud of their heritage.

If you’re really lucky on your visit to London you’ll get an East End cabbie in your black cab – there’s no better way to learn about the area than by chatting to a local!

East London History – East End Facts

Malcolm Oakley - East London Facts - A Guide to London's East End.

I grew up on the fringes of London’s true East End and have been fascinated by the ever changing history and landscape of the area.

Visitors and tourists to London may only ever explore the City centre but for those that care to travel further east, a rich and rewarding travel adventure awaits. So much of London’s history owes a debt to the East End. Colourful characters, famous architecture, hidden treasures of changing life over the years.

Author by Malcolm Oakley
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  • Kevin Bell on History of Poplar East LondonMy Grandad and family drank in the 'Abbey' the Aberfeldy Tavern for many years - some might say he had shares in it lol.... I remember being taken to the pub and occasionally the chip shop you mention as a child.... although more often we would go to 'Wally reardons
  • MARIE HOLMES on History of Canning Town East LondonMy fatherinlaws harry holmes lived with his parents and three brother s three sisters doris rose maud during the bombing they lived agate street
  • Albert Smith on History of Canning Town East LondonPerhaps I should add that I was born in Chard Street which was located in what we used to call Old Canning Town, an area that was destroyed by incendiary bombing early in the war and,as far as I am aware, has remained an industrial site till this day. But
  • Albert Smith on History of Canning Town East LondonI was born in 1932 Charles, and I went to the Queens many times as a schoolboy. I used to help a local greengrocer with his Saturday morning horse and cart round and my payment was a trip to the Queens in the evening. And I loved it.
  • Brian Miles on History of The East London CockneyThe actual address is 1, Bow Lane which is on Cheapside St Mary-le-Bow Historic Church St Mary-le-Bow St Mary-le-Bow is a historic church rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 by Sir Christopher Wren in the City of London on the main east–west thoroughfare, Cheapside. According to tradition a true
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  • Cathie on History of Poplar East LondonI just recently became interested of Poplar because of the television show Call the Midwife and an upcoming visit to London. What a small world to hear about Poplar Street in Chicago. I live in Chicago and was excited to hear about the connection to the street and the town
  • Martha Holmes on History of The Prospect of Whitby in WappingHello I believe my great x 4 grandfather arrived on The Prospect sometime between 1761 and 1776 from his birthplace of Bridlington. I have records to show that he was married in London in 1776 and lived for the rest of his life in Clerkenwell. He was born in 1750
  • DAVID NIGHTINGALE on History of Tower Hamlets Cemetery ParkVery interesting, a good friend of mine is researching the history of this cemetery I would welcome any emails regarding the research that you have done so far. Thank You, Dr David Nightingale
  • Michelle Holgarth on History of Poplar East LondonMy great grandad ran a fish and chip shop at 90 Aberfeldy Street, his name was George Tucker.
  • Peter on Second World War Bombing Raid South Hallsville SchoolI have just found this article and shown it to my mother who is nearly 96. She remembers having her first hairdo at Stan's when she was 14 and went many times. She also thought that the Terrells had other businesses involving second hand comics and children's bicycles
  • David Pickles on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Lisa, My name is David Pickles, I was born in Stratford in 1955 (Queen Mary's Hospital), and lived in Plaistow (Falcon St) until 1989. I remember someone called Elaine Bruns who went to either Grange Rd school and/or Ravenscroft and wondered whether she was a relative of yours too,
  • Kathy on History of Canning Town East LondonPeggy leggy steps was on the other side of the road from Mansfield buildings
  • Terry Clark on World War 2 and East LondonJanet I have looked on street name change database and still have no Caley, Cayley or such. Good luck in finding it. https://www.maps.thehunthouse.com/Streets/Old_to_New_London_Street_Name_Changes.htm
  • Terry Clark on World War 2 and East LondonJanet I have searched name change records (sample attached) and can’t find that name anywhere. Good luck with your quest. https://www.maps.thehunthouse.com/Streets/Old_to_New_London_Street_Name_Changes.htm

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