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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  • Stan Bunting on East London, a History of BowDoes anyone know of william Crawley the pawnbroker of Bow, who traded during the latter part of the 1800s. he was also the landlord of over 30 addresses on Bow Road, not far from the Brymay factory, he himself resided in Leyton.
  • Adrian Walker on History of The East London CockneyThanks. I was born within the sound but before the bells were replaced in late 61. Hopefully I can still consider myself a true Cockney.
  • Adrian Walker on History of The East London CockneyI was born 2 miles west of St Mary le Bow in Dec 61. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered I am not a Cockney as the bells were not replaced later that month. 😣😣😣
  • Lloyd Unstead on Saddlers Hall Cheapside | WW2 PhotosWould like to see you , please give time and place
  • Marion James on History of Poplar East LondonIngrid I am currently researching Poplar as I'm looking for information about the Old Poplar Police Station and came across this website - by looking up your surname on the 1911 UK Census I found the following :- Living at 69 Upper North Street Poplar George Henry Mager 47 born
  • maureen Perry on Saddlers Hall Cheapside | WW2 PhotosHi Lloyd, would love to meet up with you. we used to go to cemeteries and there are a few hidden ones in Brentwood where I live.....would love to see you again xx
  • maureen Perry on Saddlers Hall Cheapside | WW2 PhotosHi Lloyd, would love to meet up with you. we used to go to cemeteries and there are a few hidden ones in Brentwood where I live.....would love to see you again xx
  • C on History of The East London CockneyMy husband and his family spoke backslang fluently, As did my mum. It was usually used by tradesmen, shopkeepers etc who didn’t want their customers to know what they were talking about (like upping the price) As a born and bred cockney- born in the Mile End road you’d have
  • Wendy Linge on The History of Beckton Gas WorksMy grandparents lived in 74 Winsor Terrace. They lived there from 1915 when they got married. My father was born there in 1916. My father went to Winsor school, then got an apprenticeship at the Gas Works. He became a fitter and turner and worked on the locomotives all through
  • Charles Sage on History of Canning Town East LondonJoe , sorry to hear about mum hope she’s gets well soon , the Bell pub is good for me , see you soon , Charlie.
  • Joe Clarke on History of Canning Town East LondonMy apologies Charlie i found my mother collapsed at home (Bernard's sister) so nursing her back to health. Give me a while and we can arrange something maybe at The Bell In Danbury? Joe
  • Ingrid on History of Poplar East LondonUnfortunately I don't have any info regarding comments. Interesting site. My great aunt's family ran a baker shop from Upper North Street, Poplar. The 1901 the census shows that they had 2 servants and the male children helped with deliveries. The family name is Mager. I believe he was interned
  • chris savory on The East End in the 1950shi jean i was born in st andrews hosp - devons rd in 1950. i did exactly what yoy described what memories eh? COYI.
  • chris savory on V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East Londonhi there does anyone have knowledge of a v1 /v2 that hit knapp rd bromley-by-bow?
  • chris savory on East London Foodhi there does anyone remember the p& m shop in bow rd?

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