Shoreditch. Visit The Hippest and Most Historic Area in East London

Shoreditch is a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood with a mix of culture, history, art, nightlife and cuisine. Whether you want to explore the street art, visit the markets, enjoy the pubs and clubs, or learn about the rich heritage of this former industrial area, Shoreditch has something for everyone. Find out why Shoreditch is one of the best places to visit in East London.

Electric Cinema Shoreditch.
Electric Cinema Shoreditch

Historians believe that Shoreditch got its name from water that ran across the area’s marshland. It was originally known as Soersditch or Sewer’s Ditch. A more romantic, though untrue, meaning connects Shoreditch with royalty. Some people like to believe that the area was named after Jane Shore, who was a mistress of Edward IV.

She was allegedly buried in a ditch in the area. This version of events does not really work as the area’s original name pre-dates Jane Shore and her affair with the king.

Places to Visit in the East End: Shoreditch

Although part of the East End, Shoreditch was originally officially part of Middlesex, even though it was considered to be an outer suburb of London. It only officially became part of the County of London in the late 1800s. It is thought that parts of the area’s roads date back to Roman times, and this was a popular part of southern coaching routes for many centuries.

The focal point of Shoreditch for many centuries was its church. This is relatively famous, especially with children, as it appears in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. The area was also home to an Augustinian Priory that was built in the 12th century. This dominated the area and the local population until the 1500s and Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

Nothing remains of the priory today, but its site was put to good use in Tudor times. In 1576, James Burbage built a theatre on this spot. This is considered to be the first playhouse in England, quaintly called The Theatre. It is thought that some of Shakespeare’s plays were performed here and his company also made their home in a second theatre just up the road, known as the Curtain Theatre, before moving to The Globe.

The Globe was actually built from The Theatre in Shoreditch – Burbage dismantled it from its original site and erected it again in Southwark.

The Curtain Theatre was named after the road on which it stood. This was the place where Shakespeare first performed Romeo and Juliet and Henry V, and it was the original “Wooden O” stage referred to in some of his plays. The theatre was taken apart in the 17th century; however, archaeologists from the Museum of London found its remains during a dig in 2012. The current owners of the site plan to incorporate the remains of the theatre into a new development as a public open space so that people can get some idea how it might have looked at the time.

Entertainment in Shoreditch

Shoreditch’s position just outside of the city of London made it a popular venue for entertainment. The people who regulated the city did not much like having theatre districts, as they tended to be rowdy and bawdy. They attracted people, pubs and bad behaviour. Putting on shows outside of the city walls kept everyone happy, although it did gain Shoreditch a reputation as being a little disorderly!

Shoreditch remained an entertainment hub into the early 20th century. It contained some of the largest theatres in all of London, put on shows that rivalled the West End, and even saw early performances from Charlie Chaplin before he emigrated to America.

By the 17th century, Shoreditch saw an influx of new residents as Huguenot weavers who were working in Spitalfields moved into the area. Over the next century or so, the area also became well-known for furniture manufacturing and craftsmanship. You can see some examples of local work in the Museum of The Home on Kingsland Road.

The Museum of The Home is an interesting museum to visit – it focuses on the history of English homes with an emphasis on interiors and furniture. It displays a range of period rooms that are all furnished to a specific time from the 1600s to the present day. Its building is also historically interesting, as the museum is located in almshouses that were built by the Ironmongers’ Company in the early 1700s.

If you are visiting London at Christmas, the museum is particularly worth a visit, as it decorates each room exactly as it would have been decorated in its period. So, you can track how Christmas decorations have changed over the years.

Shoreditch Regeneration: How a Former Industrial Area Became a Creative Hub

By the 19th century, however, Shoreditch was very typical of much of the East End. It was overcrowded and rife with poverty and crime. Much of the area was bombed in the Second World War, leading to major renovations in the 1950s. Today’s Shoreditch is once again a creative and buzzy place.

It has become one of the more popular areas in the East End for creative people to live and work in, although its house prices are no longer bargain basement levels. The Old Street roundabout has even been nicknamed the Silicon Roundabout to reflect the number of technology start-ups that have moved into the area.

Shoreditch is one of the most dynamic and creative areas in London, but it wasn’t always like this. In the past, Shoreditch was a poor and rundown industrial area, known for its textile factories, furniture workshops and printing presses. The area suffered from urban decay, crime and social problems, and was largely ignored by the authorities and the public.

However, things started to change in the late 20th century, when artists, designers, musicians and entrepreneurs began to move into the abandoned warehouses and factories, attracted by the cheap rents and the large spaces. They transformed the buildings into studios, galleries, cafes, bars and clubs, creating a vibrant and diverse cultural scene. Shoreditch became a hotspot for innovation, creativity and alternative lifestyles.

Shoreditch Cobbled Street
Shoreditch Cobbled Street

The regeneration of Shoreditch also attracted new investment and development, as well as tourists and visitors. The area saw the construction of new hotels, offices, shops and residential buildings, as well as the improvement of transport links and public spaces. Shoreditch became one of the most desirable and fashionable places to live, work and play in London.

However, the regeneration of Shoreditch also brought some challenges and controversies. Some critics argue that the area has lost its original character and identity and that it has become gentrified and commercialised. They claim that the rising rents and property prices have forced out many of the original residents and artists, who can no longer afford to stay in the area. They also worry that the area has become too crowded, noisy and polluted.

The regeneration of Shoreditch is an ongoing process that involves different stakeholders and interests. It is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that reflects the changes and challenges of urban life in the 21st century. Shoreditch is a place that constantly reinvents itself while trying to preserve its heritage and diversity.

Famous Theatres in Shoreditch

Shoreditch is not only a creative hub for art, music and nightlife, but also a great place to enjoy some theatre. Whether you are looking for comedy, drama, musicals or something more experimental, you will find a variety of shows and venues to suit your taste. Here are some of the famous theatres in Shoreditch that you should check out:

  • The Courtyard Theatre: a theatre housed in the former public library on Pitfield Street, offering a variety of shows and events. The Courtyard Theatre is a Grade II listed building that has been renovated to provide a modern and comfortable space for theatre lovers. The theatre hosts both professional and amateur productions, as well as workshops, classes and festivals. You can find out what’s on and book tickets on their website.
  • Potemkin Theatre: a temporary theatre structure that was built as part of the Antepavilion Commission in 2019. The Potemkin Theatre is a colourful and playful installation that stands on the roof of a canal-side warehouse on Laburnum Street. The theatre is designed by architect Maich Swift and inspired by the Russian film Battleship Potemkin. The theatre hosts various performances and events, such as puppet shows, poetry readings and live music. You can follow their Facebook page for updates and announcements.
  • Shoreditch Town Hall: a historic building that was built in 1865 as the town hall of the former borough of Shoreditch. Now, it is a vibrant arts and music venue that showcases a range of contemporary and innovative shows and events. Shoreditch Town Hall has several spaces that can accommodate different types of performances, such as the Assembly Hall, the Council Chamber and the Ditch. You can explore the programme and book tickets on their website.

These are just some of the famous theatres in Shoreditch that you can visit and enjoy. Shoreditch is a place that constantly reinvents itself while trying to preserve its heritage and diversity. If you are looking for a unique and exciting theatre experience, Shoreditch is the place to go.

Famous people from Shoreditch:

  • William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the most excellent writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.
  • Thomas Cromwell was an English statesman, lawyer, and Chancellor to King Henry VIII. He was the chief minister of England from 1532 to 1540 and oversaw the English Reformation, which included the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
  • Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. He was also a founding member of the Royal Society.
  • Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher, best known for his work on political philosophy. He is widely regarded as one of the founders of modern political science.
  • John Locke was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. His ideas laid the foundations for the development of modern democratic theory and political philosophy.
  • David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, economist, and historian. He is widely regarded as one of the most important thinkers of the 18th century.
  • Adam Smith was a Scottish Enlightenment economist and philosopher. He is widely regarded as the father of modern economics.
  • James Watt was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer who improved on Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 Newcomen steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1776, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.
  • George Stephenson was an English civil engineer and mechanical engineer who is credited with pioneering the development of the railways.
  • Charles Dickens was an English novelist, essayist, and social critic who is considered by many to be the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
  • George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, socialist, and critic. Shaw wrote 50 plays, known for their wit and social commentary.
  • Virginia Woolf was an English novelist, essayist, and critic. She is considered one of the most important modernist writers of the 20th century.
  • George Orwell was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. He is best known for his novels Animal Farm and 1984, which are both considered classics of modern literature.

A guide to the best places to eat and drink in Shoreditch

Entertainment, food and drink in Shoreditch, East London.
Entertainment in Shoreditch, East London

Shoreditch is one of the most popular and exciting neighbourhoods in London for food and drink lovers. Whether you are looking for a quick bite, a cosy dinner or a night out with friends, you will find something to suit your taste and budget in this vibrant area. Here are some of the best places to eat and drink in Shoreditch:

  • For sophisticated Tokyo-inspired izakaya for light bites and cocktails, head to Apothecary, a sleek and stylish bar and restaurant on Rivington Street. Try their signature cocktails made with Japanese spirits and ingredients, such as the Yuzu Sour or the Matcha Martini, and pair them with delicious dishes like crispy chicken karaage, grilled miso aubergine or tuna tataki.
  • For a modern Turkish Cypriot feast, book a table at Oklava, a cosy and colourful restaurant on Boundary Street. Chef Selin Kiazim serves up creative and flavourful dishes that showcase her heritage and passion for cooking. Don’t miss the lamb belly with sour cherry sauce, the chilli roast cauliflower with pistachios and red onion salad, or the pomegranate-glazed octopus with caper leaves.
  • For silky noodle bowls, visit BAO Noodle Shop, a new addition to Shoreditch High Street from the team behind the popular Taiwanese steamed bun restaurants. Here you can slurp on noodles made fresh daily, topped with braised beef shank, spicy pork ragu or mushroom mince. You can also order sides like fried chicken nuggets with hot sauce or sweet potato fries with plum ketchup.

  • For pasta lovers, there is no better place than Padella, a cult favourite that has opened a second branch on Phipp Street. Expect queues outside this no-reservations spot, but trust us, it’s worth the wait. The pasta is handmade every day using British flour and organic eggs and served with simple but sublime sauces like cacio e pepe, pappardelle with beef shin ragu or tagliarini with nduja.
  • For Irish food with a twist, check out Daffodil Mulligan, a lively gastropub on Old Street run by chef Richard Corrigan. The menu features seasonal and sustainable produce from Corrigan’s own farm in Ireland, as well as seafood from his oyster bar Bentley’s. Try the smoked eel croquettes with horseradish cream, the venison pie with pickled walnuts or the whole roasted turbot with seaweed butter.
  • For a group dinner with a fun vibe, book a table at Gloria, a kitsch and glamorous Italian trattoria on Great Eastern Street. The menu is full of indulgent dishes like truffle pizza, carbonara served in a wheel of pecorino cheese or 10-level lasagne. The portions are generous and perfect for sharing, so bring your appetite and your friends.
  • For Portuguese food with a twist, head to Casa do Frango, on King John Court. This restaurant specialises in frango (grilled chicken) cooked over wood charcoal and seasoned with piri piri sauce. You can also order sides like African rice with chorizo and plantain, grilled cornbread with garlic butter or patatas bravas with aioli. For dessert, don’t miss the pastel de nata (custard tart) or the chocolate salami (a slice of chocolate biscuit cake).

Shoreditch Map

3 thoughts on “Shoreditch. Visit The Hippest and Most Historic Area in East London”

  1. I’m curious about an address at 140 Shoreditch High Street. My Great Uncle lived/worked there in the 1880’s, running his Tobacco business. Where does one go to find out the history of an address, in particular which businesses were registered there over the years?
    What’s really intriguing is that a coffee clothing shop was there, now closed and changing to Carhartt…….bit when the coffee shop was there, they displayed what may be the original Tobacco business sign!
    There’s a picture of it here:

    Best Regards, Ray Kendrick

  2. Shoreditch to me is comparable to someone attempting to make dog poo look pretty. Try make it look attractive but the filth is still there. It’s crowded, shabby and high in crime. Compare it to somewhere like Richmond and you’ll soon realise that Richmond has a timeless class which Shoreditch will never have. Shoreditch truly is a “Sewer’s ditch”.

  3. Is anything known on the history of the Eastern Alhambra Music Hall (211 Shoreditch High Street) 1864-70. Prior to this known as the Eastern Temperance Hall?
    I can find no reference online and wondered if it was recorded anywhere.
    I am researching East London photographers and have both these as licensees –

    Charles William Henry Taylor – Licensee 1858 – 1861
    Photographer living at 54 Sturgeon Road, Newington, Southwark in 1881.

    William Winningale – Licensee 1861 – 1870
    Recorded as a photographer at 246 Whitechapel Road, in 1869 (between Vine Court and Fieldgate Street).


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