An Insider's Guide to Hackney - BrokeinLondon

An Insider’s Guide to Hackney

Key Hackney landmarks to check out

by Samuel Bakowski (Sponsored Post)

The gentrification of Hackney over the previous decade has seen a once distinctly working class district transformed. The city’s greenest borough, a moniker that in the past was used to blanket over the crime rate and social ills, has now blossomed into one of London’s most desirable post codes. For those new to London or seeking to visit the cutting edge side of the city, Hackney is the entrance to the maze.

Below are some key Hackney landmarks for those spending a weekend in the borough.

Arrival and Practicalities

Hackney’s omission from London Underground services is a popular topic of strife for her residents. However, two London Overground lines serve the borough: the North London Line from west to east, while the East London Line runs from Highbury & Islington, through Dalston Junction and south through Hoxton and Shoreditch. For further information on these lines or the local bus services, the TFL website provides up-to-the-minute information.

Addison Lee and Sam’s cars are two local taxi companies that are recommended. Both serve the local area and London as a whole, and also organise airport transfers.

London is a notoriously expensive city, not least due to the high prices of accommodation. However, with Hackney’s rise to prominence, several good hotels are now based in the area. The Hoxton, a boutique hotel originally founded by Pret A Manger magnate Sinclair Beecham, offers affordable, well-designed rooms above a buzzy bar and American grill house. For those wishing to step away from the so-called ‘hotel bubble’ and immerse themselves in the local culture, Wimdu have a variety of accommodation on offer in the heart of Hackney.

#1 Bistrotheque

Photo by Favaro Junior

Photo by Favaro Junior

Bistrotheque is many things at once. Part restaurant, part bar, and part cabaret theatre, all housed in an achingly cool, unmarked converted East London factory. Bistrotheque is tucked away on Wadeson Street, an innocuous location on the borders of Bethnal Green and Hackney. Although some of the light industrial building have been reclaimed by artists, many are still utilized for warehousing and light industry. The location was chosen more as a beacon, a step away from the overly sanitised Shoreditch area  the city suits and Essex hen dos arrived. The spacious 1930s building now includes a Victorian-style bar, a utilitarian restaurant – painted white concrete floor, white brick walls and industrial drop lighting, and the performance space at the back. The Sunday bistro is particularly popular both with locals and post-clubbers looking for a hangover cure. Tucking into eggs Benedict, swamped by the Sunday newspapers, while eavesdropping on the conversation to your left between a drag queen and a hipster dressed up as a 70s tennis player, all add to the places allure. Not to mention the Sunday morning pianist, a cross-dressing gentleman with a penchant for banging out oft-forgotten 90s pop songs.

Address: 23-27 Wadeson St, London E2 9DR, United Kingdom

#2 Columbia Road Flower Market

A hearty breakfast will prepare you for one of East London’s most celebrated street markets. The Columbia Road Flower Market was first established in 1869 by Angela Burdett-Coutts. Originally the market encompassed approximately 400 covered stalls and, despite starting its days as a Saturday trading market, was moved to Sunday by an Act of Parliament that was enforced to allow the local Jewish traders to participate. This change of day also enabled traders from other London markets, such as Covent Garden and Spitalfields, to sell their leftover stock from the previous day. The market suffered greatly during World War II, both from the prioritising of food production and a 50kg bomb that struck a large civilian shelter beneath the market during the height of The Blitz. The market recovered, however, and as new rules forcing traders to attend regularly were introduced in the 1960s, the market enjoyed a resurgence with new gardening programmes bolstering trade.

Today the market is open every Sunday from 8am until 2pm. Eager traders arrive at 4am to set-up their stalls, making sure the canopy of bedding plants, shrubs, bulbs and freshly cut flowers are all in place for the early morning shoppers. There is nothing quite like seeing an East End couple, some of them second or third generation traders, arguing intermittently between barking out the prices of their wares. After you’ve stocked up on flowers, head to the Royal Oak for a locally-sourced pale ale, or pop down the lane next door, and discover the small stall selling oysters fresh from Essex Bay.

Address: Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG

#3 London Fields

Photo by Xpgomes3

Photo by Xpgomes3

London Fields was first recorded as a tract of land in 1540, when it was used by farmers to pasture their livestock on their way to market in London. Since gentrification firmly took hold of the area, London fields has undergone significant development. The installation of a 50m heated lido has certainly done nothing to deter the students and hipsters that gather here each weekend. Every Saturday, London Fields Primary School hosts the London Fields Farmers’ Market. The Pub on the Park, one of the few buildings that escaped heavy bombardment in World War II, has undergone numerous refurbishments in recent years. It has now seemingly turned a corner and there is a fine selection of locally-sourced beers and a good staple of British dishes on offer.

Address: London Fields West Side, Hackney, London E8 3EU

#4 V&A Museum of Childhood

The V&A Museum of Childhood is housed in what was the Bethnal Green Museum on Cambridge Heath Road. The original iron structure was adapted and developed with sections’ installed from the modern V&A complex. In the 1920s the collection shifted to its present day focus on childhood. It is believed to house the largest collection of childhood objects in the United Kingdom. The museum’s mission statement is: ‘To enable everyone, especially the young, to explore and enjoy the designed world, in particular objects made for and made by children.’ Today you can navigate through sets of scalextric, see the evolution of barbie, and try to understand the bewildering array of toys from generations’ previous.

Address: Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9PA

#5 The Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum is housed in a stunning collection of 18th century almshouses on Kingsland Road. It is billed as the only museum in Britain that specialises in charting the history of interior design and domesticity. The museum is a journey through English taste and each of the meticulously curated rooms span 400 years, starting in the 15th century and ending in the present day. There is a charming cafe and, for those in-the-know, a stunning reading room that looks out over the well-maintained garden.

Address: 136 Kingsland Road,  London,  E2 8EA

#6 Abney Park Cemetery

Abney Park Cemetery is one of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ garden cemeteries and is loved by Hackney locals for the oasis of calm it delivers when you walk through the big steel gates. The cemetery is a woodland memorial park and Local Nature Reserve, whose tumbling down old trees provide the perfect environment for local wildlife. For those wishing to learn a little more about the history of this enchanting cemetery, there are guided tours organised by the Abney Park Trust.

Address: Abney Park, Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 0LH

#7 The Cock Tavern

Cock Tavern

Photo by Ewan Munro

Many would argue that Hackney is now the epicenter of the London craft beer scene. The Cock Tavern on Mare Street is one of Hackney’s most celebrated breweries and drinking establishments. Owned by the same company that brought The Southampton Arms to prominence up on Hampstead Heath, the Cock brings the stripped-back, no-frills, speak-easy drinking experience to Hackney. There are twenty different beers on tap and at weekends the kitchen offers roast pork baps and fantastic homemade scotch eggs.

Address: 315 Mare St, Hackney, London E8 1EJ, United Kingdom

#8 Mangal Ocakbasi

Photo by Herry Lawford

Photo by Herry Lawford

Mangal Ocakbasi is a Turkish stalwart and a Stoke Newington tradition. It has been serving succulent lamb fresh off its impressively authentic mangal grill for over 20 years. The expert grill chefs juggle skewers and flip meat to crowds that often stretch out the door, imitating the smoke from the grill. The tavuk beyti, a delicate, garlic-infused minced chicken kebab, served with hot pita grilled in meat juices, is worth the wait alone.

Address: 10 Arcola St, London E8 2DJ, United Kingdom

You may also want to check out London’s top 5 markets.