With a plethora of independent shops selling a range of designer gear, a bevy of cultural activities, amazing eats and an eclectic mix of nightlife, Shoreditch is an intoxicating place to live and work.
The maze of small streets and tangle of railway bridges that characterise this corner of east London has always attracted artists and musicians, although today it is also popular with financiers, lawyers and other professionals keen to live close to the City, on-trend hipsters and entrepreneurs based at nearby Silicon roundabout.
But the area retains its creative edge where a blank wall is a future mural, which gives Shoreditch a character not found anywhere else in London.
Where is Shoreditch?
On the north-eastern edge of the City of London, Shoreditch is covered by more postcodes than any other part of the capital. The heart of the area is in EC2, which extends into the City. Around Old Street it is EC1, while towards Spitalfields the area goes into E1, and E2 is where Shoreditch meets Bethnal Green.
Liverpool Street and Old Street are the nearest Tube stations to Shoreditch. Old Street Station is on the Northern line, while Liverpool Street is on the Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines and has a network rail station that offers services on the Great Eastern Main Line and West Anglia Main Line to Cambridge and Stansted Airport.
Shoreditch High Street station is on the East London Overground line that provides easy access to south London, while numerous buses also serve the area.
Shoreditch through the ages
Shoreditch is an area where massive regeneration sits neatly and smartly next to history. Long before its Victorian buildings left empty by departing printers and furniture makers were populated by the creative community looking for cheap space some 30 years ago, the neighbourhood started life being named Shore’s Ditch after King Edward IV’s mistress Jane Shore, who was buried here after her death in 1527.
Shoreditch’s links with the creative community can be traced back to Elizabethan times when it was home to the first playhouse in England, which hosted the first performance of Henry V by William Shakespeare.
This part of east London became a hub for the textile industry in the 17th century, and then London’s furniture industry in the 19th century. The Boundary Estate, with its red-brick Arts & Crafts-influenced tenement blocks radiating off Arnold Circus, lays claim to being the first council estate. It was built between 1890 and 1900 by the Metropolitan Board of Works and completed by London County Council, which was formed in 1889.
However, by the late 1980s Shoreditch was pretty faceless and a little shabby, a place of light industrial firms with no real identity.
That altered in the 1990s when artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin moved in and turned Shoreditch into the epicentre of London’s cool, creative set.
It was at this time that the fashion for loft living took off. Many of the pioneering developers who bought former industrial buildings and turned them into warehouse conversions sold them to a new generation of entrepreneurs who were setting up web technology companies around Old Street.
Today, Shoreditch is entering the next stage of its transformation with new tower blocks already built, underway or at the planning stage.
Where to live in Shoreditch
There are nearly three times as many homes to rent than there are to buy in Shoreditch, but this could change with new tower blocks at various stages of planning.
The Shoreditch Triangle, which incorporates Shoreditch High Street, Great Eastern Street and the Eastern-most point of Old Street, is the most sought-after part of Shoreditch. Also popular are the early loft conversions in the best former industrial buildings, such as Shepherdess Walk Buildings.
The majority of homes on offer in Shoreditch are flats and warehouse conversions, which reflects the fact the majority of new residents are aged under 40, but a diverse mix of classic London townhouses, 1830s terraces on Shepherdess Walk and tidy period homes on Charlotte Road can also be found. Also worth a mention is the Kingsland Road, regarded by locals as east London’s answer to the King’s Road.
Shoreditch by day…
Shoreditch is packed with quirky independent stores as well as some of the bigger fashion brands, making it a real destination for fashion conscious shoppers.
Boxpark, next to Shoreditch High Street train station on Bethnal Green Road, is a pop-up shopping mall made from dozens of reclaimed shipping containers. Opened in 2011, it is now a living, fertile community of local and global fashion brands – including a Nike Running concept store to Urbanears and OnePiece – galleries, cafés and restaurants that serve street food from around the world.
Other retail highlights in Shoreditch include British designer Ally Capellino’s classic, handcrafted handbags that can be found in her shop in Calvert Avenue, homewear emporium Labour and Wait in Redchurch Street, which stocks kitchen and garden paraphernalia with a functional 1950s feel, SCP in Curtain Road is popular for furniture and interior accessories, while independent menswear boutiques Sunspel and Present in Shoreditch High Street are well worth checking out.
But Shoreditch is not just about its unique range of shops. The local markets have always been a destination for east Londoners but are now pulling in visitors from across the capital. Columbia Road Flower Market has blooms on sale every Sunday, while Brick Lane is peppered with vintage and independent shops (don’t miss the Sunday Upmarket for jewellery, knitted and hand-crafted items and tasty global eats). And traders at Spitalfields, London’s oldest market, also sell fashion, vintage, gifts and more every day of the week.
Shoreditch is known for its street art. The area is full of bold, extravagant and most often genius creations. The art varies from simple murals to long extracts of text, often with defiant messages that mirror the whole feel of the area and its distinct difference from the rest of the capital. Our favourite is the Death to Hipsters graffiti on Barnet Grove.
Cutting-edge art is also on display at White Cube Hoxton and the Hoxton Gallery, while The Geffrye Museum gives a history lesson in interiors, showing how homes have changed from the 1600s to the present.
In this tightly packed urban neighbourhood, green space is in short supply. However, there is a garden and bandstand in Arnold Circus, and open green space in Finsbury Square. The nearest park is Shoreditch Park at the northern edge of Hoxton, which has a children’s playground.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, you could check out the food stalls in Leonard Circus at the junction with Paul Street, where pedestrians and cyclists take priority over vehicles, or the top floor of Boxpark, where there is a range of small places to eat ranging from burritos to fish and chips. But we’d recommend the The Aarhus Pølser food truck on Shoreditch High Street, which serves up amazing Danish hotdogs.
There’s no such thing as a quiet night in Shoreditch. Although the area is known for its many Bangladeshi restaurants on Brick Lane, menus from every corner of the world can be found in Shoreditch.
Kingsland Road is nicknamed Pho Mile because of its many Vietnamese restaurants, while other notable destinations for diners wishing to steer clear of chain restaurants include dim sum specialist The Drunken Monkey, Pizza East, Boho Mexica, the Hawksmoor steakhouse, St John Bread and Wine and Beach Blanket Babylon.
Meanwhile, Eyre Brothers in Leonard Street specialises in Spanish and Portuguese food. Neil Borthwick’s Merchants Tavern pub and restaurant is in Charlotte Road, while The Clove Club in Shoreditch Town Hall is known for its innovative tasting menu. Other favourites include Rivington Grill in Rivington Street, Queen of Hoxton in Curtain Road, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Westland Place, Hoi Polloi brasserie at Ace Hotel in Shoreditch High Street, Tramshed for chicken and steak in Rivington Street and Rochelle Canteen daytime restaurant at Arnold Circus. The rooftop bar at Terence Conran’s Boundary hotel in Redchurch Street is an after-work favourite, but Shoreditch is best known for its club nights.
From Book Club to Village Underground and XOYO, Shoreditch draws people from all over London and beyond.
But if clubbing isn’t your scene, why not head to The Pillow Cinema? Housed in the disused Shoreditch tube station, this pop-up venue is filled with bean bags and screens classic films
Education in Shoreditch
Shoreditch gets its name as the place to head to for great shopping, restaurants, cocktails and clubbing because its population is primarily aged under 35 and without children.
This helps explain why the choice of schools is limited. Shoreditch’s state primaries are all judged “good” by Ofsted. There are two state comprehensive schools, both of which get good results at GCSE. Central Foundation Boys’ (ages 11 to 18) in Cowper Street is judged Good by Ofsted and Bethnal Green Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Gossett Street is Outstanding, according to Ofsted.
There is one private primary school, The Lyceum (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Paul Street. The two City of London schools, in the City, are high-achieving private schools. The girls’ school (ages seven to 18) is in Barbican, while the boys’ school (ages 10 to 18) is in Queen Victoria Street.
Image source: flickr.com, pixabay.com and geograph.org.uk
(Alex White, Dane Zilane, RY_YL, Shayne Newton, BC_11, Daniel_77, Sharon-L7, T63_Greg)