The East End is booming. Always a vibrant, working-class area and home to London’s dockworkers, the area has also prided itself on providing a refuge for successive generations of immigrants, from French silk weavers to Jews and Bangladeshi garment workers. Since the 1980s, the East End, where the murderous Jack the Ripper roamed, has undergone a radical transformation. Today, the media and finance worlds occupy stylish Dockland developments, galleries and restaurants have sprouted in Hoxton and a host of Sunday markets, including trendy Spitalfields, draw newcomers who marvel at the area’s unspoilt 18th- and 19th-century architecture.

The Huguenots in London

Driven from France in 1685, the Huguenots were Protestants fleeing religious persecution by Catholics. They were mostly silk weavers, whose masters and merchants built the beautiful Georgian houses around Fournier, Princelet and Elder streets. Spitalfields silk was famous for its fine quality, but by the mid-19th century the industry had declined.

Dining room, Geffrye Museum Sights
  1. Canary Wharf

    The centrepiece of the Docklands development is Canary Wharf and the 240-m (800-ft) -high, 50-storey Canada Tower designed by the US architect, Cesar Pelli. Although the tower is not open to the public, parts of the complex are open to visitors, including the mall, where there are shops, restaurants and bars. The star of the area’s exciting architecture is the stunning Canary Wharf station, designed by Norman Foster.

    • Tube & DLR Canary Wharf

    Canary Wharf

    Fifty-storey-high Canada Tower at Canary Wharf
  2. Museum of London Docklands

    Set in a Georgian warehouse, this museum tells the 2000-year-old story of London’s river and port. Exhibits include whale bones, opium pipes and the unusual “cabinet of curiosities”. Among the highlights is a full size reconstruction of a 19th-century street in Wapping – here you will find a wild animal emporium, alehouse and chandlery.

    • No 1 Warehouse E14

    • Tube & DLR Canary Wharf

    • Open 10am–6pm daily

  3. Hoxton

    If you want to see the latest in British contemporary art, then this is the place to come. Hoxton Square is home to the White Cube gallery, where many of the now established contemporary artists, known as the YBAs (Young British Artists), such as Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin, first made their names. Acrobats and aerial performers put on shows at Circus Space on the north side of Hoxton Market. Popular cafés and restaurants include the Hoxton Square Kitchen and Bar and the Real Greek.

    • Tube Old Street

  4. Whitechapel Art Gallery

    This excellent gallery has a reputation for showing cutting-edge contemporary art from around the world. The White­chapel has launched the careers of David Hockney, Gilbert and George and Anthony Caro. Behind the Art Nouveau façade there is also a great bookshop and café.

    • Whitechapel High Street E1

    • Open 11am–6pm Tue–Sun (Thu 9pm)

    Whitechapel Art Gallery’s 1901 entrance
  5. V&A Museum of Childhood

    Everyone will find something to delight them here: from dolls and teddy bears to train sets and games through the ages. There are special activities for kids of all ages, during weekends and holidays, as well as those themed to complement current exhibitions.

    • Cambridge Heath Road E2

    • Tube Bethnal Green

    • Open 10am–5:50pm daily

    • Free

  6. Spitalfields

    Streets such as Fournier Street, lined with 18th-century Huguenot silk weavers’ houses, are a reminder that this area, just east of the City, has provided a refuge for immigrant populations for centuries. London’s oldest market, Old Spitalfields Market still has stalls selling food, as well as several cafés and shops dotted around its edge. But Sunday is the day when the market draws hundreds, eager to find a bargain among the fashion, vintage clothing, and crafts stalls here. Opposite the market is one of Europe’s great Baroque churches. Christ Church (1716) was designed by Wren’s pupil, architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661–1736).

    • Commercial Street E1

    Georgian terrace, Fournier Street

    Christ Church Spitalfields
  7. Thames Flood Barrier

    Rising like shark fins from the river, this piece of engineering is an impressive sight .

    Visitors’ Centre

    • Unity Way SE18

    • DLR Pontoon Dock or train to Charlton

    • Open Apr–Sep: 10:30am–4:30pm daily, Oct–Mar: 11am–3:30pm daily

    • Admission charge

  8. Brick Lane

    Once the centre of London’s Jewish population, this street is now the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community. Head here for inexpensive, authentic Indian food at restaurants such as Preem and Shampan. Some of the best bagels in the city are from the 24-hr Brick Lane Beigel Bake at No. 159 – a famous dawn haunt for late-night revellers. There are vintage clothing/designer shops and, on Sundays, a lively flea market.

    • Brick Lane

    • Tube Aldgate East

  9. Columbia Road Market

    Londoners head east on Sunday mornings for the bustling street markets. In addition to Petticoat Lane in Middlesex Street, with its bargain clothes and household items, and Brick Lane’s bric-à-brac, there is the teeming plant and flower market in Columbia Road. Ten minutes’ walk from the north end of Brick Lane, Columbia Road is a delightful cornucopia of all things horticultural at bargain prices.

    • Columbia Road E2

    • Tube Old Street

    • Petticoat Lane

    • Tube Aldgate East

    Columbia Road Market
  10. Geffrye Museum

    Devoted to the evolution of family life and interior design, this fascinating museum has a series of rooms decorated in distinct period style. Originally a 1715 almshouse, the building has been transformed and you can wander through an oak-panelled 17th-century drawing room, a 1930s flat or a contemporary loft apartment. Stroll through a series of period gardens between April and October.

    • Kingsland Road E2

    • Open 10am–5pm Tue–Sat, noon–5pm Sun

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