From my first trip to London, I always knew: I’m an East London person… not a West London person. Now don’t get me wrong: West London is nice (literally and figuratively). It’s just not my style with all that poshness; East London’s colorful, gritty vibe fits way more with me and the places I love to explore. And East London has its own fascinating – and dark – history that it’s now reclaiming and reinventing.
When it comes to choosing where to stay in London, there are a lot of choices. Most people stay in Central London, but some are willing to strike out to other parts of the city, to see and stay somewhere else. East London is a great option for that, especially if you plan to do other sightseeing in East London and want to try and find budget-friendly accommodation – which is a definite possibility in this area.
East London begins at the east border of the City of London, and goes, well, east – but also stays north of the Thames. That’s a lot of geography to cover when making recommendations about neighborhoods in East London that are worth researching accommodation in. To help, I’ve built an interactive map of where to stay in East London (here) that you’ll see in this post too. It’ll help you get a sense of exactly where on the map each neighborhood is. You can use it as you browse for places to stay. It isn’t exact in terms of neighborhood borders; some seem to overlap or omit areas of the city for no reason… But it’ll give you a general sense of which neighborhoods are where.
After reading this post, you’ll know the best neighborhoods in East London for where to stay – and the eight areas I think you can skip staying in. Read on to see which areas I recommend and why.
The 7 Best Neighborhoods in East London
Multicultural, arty, and exciting are the words that describe East London. And its neighborhoods are a testament to that.
With their unique personality and multicultural scene, these East London neighborhoods are great places to stay and explore on your next trip to London.
1. Bethnal Green
Staying in Bethnal Green feels like being in the heart of London without actually being there. Home to a Bangladeshi community, professionals, and hipsters, Bethnal Green is known for being one of London’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods.
Besides having its own cool museums, shops, and eateries, it’s close to other hotspots like Brick Lane. Victoria Park is also a short walk away from here if you look for a relaxing sunny afternoon. Scattered throughout Bethnal Green is a decent amount of hotels and rentals to book.
2. Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is another recommended option for where to stay in East London. As the second business center in London, Canary Wharf is home to many high-rise office buildings. However, it also has world-class restaurants, luxurious shopping centers, and pleasant little squares such as Canada Square and Cabot Square that travelers can explore. There’s a generous offer of hotels and rentals, especially in the south end. It also has a less typical and cheaper ride to the city, the Thames Water Taxi.
The only detriment to staying in Canary Wharf – which I did on my very first trip to London – is that it’s a long commute into Central London. But it’s on the DLR which is always fun to ride!
Once an industrial hub, Hackney is now one of the liveliest neighborhoods in London. There, you can find many pop-up galleries, chic bars, and one of London’s famous markets, Broadway Market. Hackney is also known for its open green spaces, like London Fields. Its industrial past is still visible through warehouses that have been converted into communal living spaces, nightclubs, and art galleries.
Unfortunately, while Hackney is one of the best places to stay in East London, it doesn’t have many hotels or rentals for visitors so your options are limited if you choose to stay here.
Stretching between Wapping and Whitechapel is another one of the best neighborhoods in East London for visitors. In fact, I called Shadwell home when living in London and I wish I had never left!
This quieter neighborhood is known for mixing old and new architecture. Along the cobblestone streets, you’ll see warehouse apartments, Georgian and Victorian houses, and historic churches, including the striking 18 century St. George.
Shadwell is well-connected and also has an excellent portfolio of hotels and rentals. Plus, it’s within walking distance of sights like the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. This makes it a great place to explore and stay in East London.
Shoreditch is probably one of the most fashionable postcodes in East London, with young creatives and trendsetters wandering through its streets. Being home to the first two London theaters, this neighborhood had an artistic personality, which has extended into the present. Shoreditch is the heart of today’s cultural scene, with galleries, museums, and street art popping on every corner. This neighborhood is also home to Hoxton Square, one of London’s oldest squares, and Boxpark, the world’s first pop-up mall.
Besides being a cultural hub, Shoreditch now has tons of hotels, which are also the cheapest in London!
Bonus: If you’re sold on Shoreditch, be sure to check out my review of The Hoxton Shoreditch.
Wapping is another excellent option for where to stay in East London. This reformed docks neighborhood still holds to its maritime character with its riverside buildings and pubs.
If you stay here, you can enjoy a pint and a little bit of history at The Prospect of Whitby, one of London’s oldest pubs dating back to 1543. You can also visit Tobacco Dock, which hosts exciting events regularly. In terms of accommodation, Wapping has a great offer of hotels and rentals with a Thames view to relax after a long day.
Back in the 1800s, Whitechapel’s cobblestone alleys were the scenario for Jack the Ripper’s murders. But today, Whitechapel is a vibrant district that has something for everyone. You can explore the art scene at the trendy Whitechapel Gallery or do some shopping in the lively Whitechapel Market and Brick Lane, two areas known for Asian food, vintage fashion, and homewares.
If you’re unsure about where to stay in East London, Whitechapel is a safe bet. It’s packed with lovely hotels and vacation rentals that’ll make it an excellent base.
8 Neighborhoods Not to Stay in East London
It’s never easy to write about the places you should avoid when looking for accommodation in a city, especially in such a wonderful area like East London.
However, for different reasons, the following eight neighborhoods just aren’t as good for accommodations.
Bow is one of the places where you shouldn’t stay in East London. This quiet and residential neighborhood doesn’t really have good public transportation, and there aren’t many hotels or rentals available for tourists. Also, Bow doesn’t have an interesting cultural agenda or spots to explore.
Due to its short distance from a number of top London universities, Bromley-By-Bow is a very popular area for international students looking for accessible housing. However, this neighborhood doesn’t have many hotels or rentals where travelers can stay. Still, Bromley-by-Bow is a nice place if you want to enjoy a long walk along the banks of the River Lea. It’s also great if you want to relax in less crowded green spaces, being home to Bromley by Bow Park.
3. Cambridge Heath
It’s odd to see Cambridge Heath among the places you shouldn’t stay in East London, considering it’s surrounded by great ones. While Cambridge Heath is well-connected to other parts of London, it’s a neighborhood that’s slowly starting to see the beginnings of gentrification. Many of the former factories and warehouses here have been turned into apartments and flats, but there still aren’t many options when it comes to accommodation.
Dalston is another neighborhood to avoid in East London. While Dalston has become extremely popular among the younger generations for its boisterous nightlife, this neighborhood doesn’t have many touristy places worth visiting during the day, like Whitechapel or Shoreditch. It’s also worth mentioning that Dalston is an area where extra safety awareness won’t hurt.
Limehouse is a small neighborhood with a big literary past and river views that are absolutely worth visiting for a day. However, Limehouse is not as good a place to book a hotel while you stay in London. This lovely neighborhood is home to The Grapes, a famous pub frequented by Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Being bisected by two canals, Limehouse is also a nice neighborhood to enjoy water views of leisure boats and houseboats.
6. Mile End
Found in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Mile End has always had a reputation for being popular with student renters since Queen Mary’s University is located right in the heart of this neighborhood. While in Mile End the transport connections are good with several buses heading towards the City and the Underground, the neighborhood doesn’t have a great cultural offer or many accommodations options. However, a walk along the neighborhood canal to Victoria Park on a sunny day is always worthwhile.
Another place you shouldn’t stay in East London is Poplar. This neighborhood is close to lively East London neighborhoods like Canary Wharf, but it doesn’t share the same buzzing energy. Most people who visit Poplar are fans of the well-known British show Call the Midwife which is set in this neighborhood. However, apart from its connection to the TV show, Poplar has few worth-visiting attractions and accommodation for travelers.
8. Stepney Green
Found between Mile End and Bethany green is Stepney Green. This is one of London’s younger neighborhoods, and as such, it still isn’t very tourist-friendly. The downside of staying at Stepney Green (or near it) is that this neighborhood is not especially convenient for those who visit due to the lack of good public transportation. Besides Stepney Green not being well-connected, there aren’t many cultural spots, and the local shopping and restaurant venues are rather in the low end.
So where will you stay in East London? Let me know any questions about these East London neighborhoods in the comments!