Discover the coolest and most authentic things to do in East London. From colourful markets like Brick Lane and Columbia Flower Market to family-friendly farms and parks, here is a list of popular activities to enjoy in the East.
From Whitechapel to Stoke Newington and further East to Victoria Park, Hackney Wick and Stratford, East London has been running the show for decades. You live in London because it’s weird. Well, there are other reasons, like jobs and access to embassies and stuff. But what makes London unique is that things are happening here that just doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. And it’s all happening in the East.
Things to do in East London:
- Local Playgrounds and Kids Activities
- Community Farms
- Parks and Outdoor Activities
- Great Local Markets
Playgrounds and Activities for Kids
East London might not be the area you first think of when finding family-friendly activities in the city. But, while you won’t find as many high-profile attractions as in Central London, this is still a fantastic place to take the kids.
The lively Sunday markets like Upmarket, Brick Lane and Old Spitalfields are great places to take the kids offering tasty street food, vintage clothes and second-hand stalls. A great activity with young kids: check out the side-streets around Brick Lane and discover fantastic street art. The area around Columbia Flower Market is also teeming with life on Sundays with buskers and smaller markets in the side streets. Hackney farm is also close to the market, with adorable animals and a lovely cafe.
Mudchute farm on Isle on Dogs is the largest community farm in London with lots of activities for kids and an equestrian centre for horse riding lessons. So close to Canary Wharf, you have the Museum of Docklands with the popular Mudlark Gallery soft-play for toddlers.
Vicky Parks is always a winner with the longest slides in London and a separate playground for toddlers when it comes to playgrounds.
A new East on the rise
Around Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford, a modern edition of East London is on the rise. Since the build-up to the 2012 London Olympics, this area has seen an incredible transformation with more and more activities accessible to Londoners. London’s Olympic swimming pool, the Aquatics Centre, is an excellent example of this, with different levels and a splash pool for young kids.
Also, around the Olympic Park, you’ll find the Pleasure Gardens Playground with lots of fun and challenging climbing equipment. Downtown Stratford High Street, the Discover Children’s Story Centre, has become trendy for families with young kids. The centre hosts interactive theatre shows for families to take an active part in the stories sparking children’s imagination and interest in books.
Things to do with kids in East London
- Olympic Park Playground
- London Aquatics Centre
- Vicky Park Playground
- Museum of Docklands
- Tower of London
- Discover Street Art
- Community Farms
- Children’s Story Centre
London Farms are great for family days out
We like the down-to-earth city farms scattered around East London, like Mudchute farm on Isle of Dogs. These are very unique places that were created from the wasteland and bombsites after World War II.
Community Farms free to visit in East London:
Enjoy the Parks in East London
The most popular green space in East London is Vicky Park, where you’ll find popular attractions like a boating lake, children’s playgrounds, sports facilities for football, cricket, tennis and lawn bowls, and cafes. The park is bordered by the up-market Victoria Park Village, offering high-quality pubs, restaurants and boutique shopping. You can also take the Jubilee line to Stratford and enjoy a more modern experience. There are over 560 acres of parklands that you can explore. You can also take a guided boat tour or use one of the free trail guides.
You’ll also find plenty of green space to enjoy in the East, like Weavers Fields and Wanstead Park. Epping Forest is the perfect place for those who want to escape from everything. Epping Forest is made up of more than 50 areas of woodland and grassland. In addition, there are 100 lakes and ponds that you can enjoy.
Great green spots in East:
The Incredible East London Markets
London’s Sunday markets are oozing of old school charm. Walking through the streets on a Sunday makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the world, right in action. People in various forms of unintentional fancy dress, inappropriately thick jumpers coupled with the shortest of shorts, say you’re in a part of the world where you can get on with the business of not taking yourself too seriously and getting loose as they say in Australia.
Brick Lane Market
The home of bric-a-brac, Brick Lane is a mad mixture of treasures and trash. Part of the fun is following the side streets to see where they lead and picking the jewels out from the junk. You’ll find things to wear (leather is a speciality) and eat as well as lots of items that might “come in handy one day”. It’s easy to get side-tracked by the many stalls and boxes of collectables. If the aroma from the beigel bakeries doesn’t tempt you, the Bangladeshi restaurants probably will. Expect to find anything from furniture to fruits, kitchenware to kitsch and odd boots to bangles.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Columbia Road has a wonderful atmosphere, and the market is fringed with quirky shops and cafes, where customers compare purchases and swap stories of gardening triumphs. Tucked away in an unlikely side street in the heart of the East End – Columbia Road feels like your own secret bit of London. The magic starts as you spot the first signs of the market – people whose faces are hidden by great armfuls of plants and flowers they’ve just bought.
Follow the trail and immerse yourself in a colourful world of plants and pots, flowers and fresh coffee. There are over 50 flower and plant stalls selling quality and often unusual plants at bargain prices. Columbia Road’s characters are just as colourful as the plants, with their ready patter and gardening advice.
Petticoat Lane Market
One of the most famous and oldest of all London’s street markets, Petticoat Lane was established over 400 years ago and still attracts thousands of punters. The Huguenots who came to London from France sold petticoats and lace here, but the prudish Victorians changed the name of the Lane and market to avoid referring to woman’s underclothes!
The market takes place in Wentworth Street on Monday – Friday, spreading on Sundays to become even bigger with ten separate trading streets, including Middlesex Street. You’ll find bargains of every kind, including new clothes from well-known chain stores as well as leather goods, watches and toys.
Whitechapel is a long-established, thriving local street market opposite the Royal London Hospital, right by the Whitechapel underground station. It offers bargains galore for people working in the area and the local Asian community. Come to grab a bargain every day from Monday to Saturday from over 80 stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to fish, clothing, bedding, carpets, jewellery and electrical goods, all at unbelievable prices. The nearby Mosque ensures a steady stream of visitors, and many stalls now sell Indian spices and exotic vegetables and great quality silks and saree fabric.
East London Markets – further reading:
- Billingsgate Market
- Brick Lane Market
- Columbia Road Flower Market
- Old Spitalfields Market
- Petticoat Lane Market
Is East London the same as East End?
East End of London is actually a smaller area within East London, limited by the City of London in the west and River Lea in the east. Among many other things, East End is famous for Sunday markets, street art, hipster bars and of course, the world-famous tv-series EastEnders.
What can toddlers do in East London?
Here are five suggestions for things to do with young kids and toddlers:
1. Children Discovery Centre in Stratford
2. Tumbling Bay Playground in the Olympic Park
3. Explore Street-Art around Brick Lane
4. Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs
5. The Flower Market at Columbia Road
Is it dangerous to take kids to East London?
No, it’s a lovely place to take kids full of friendly people and a great local vibe. Like anywhere in London you should still remember to use common sense and street smarts, especially if you’re a tourist visiting for the first time.