Every city has the up-and-coming neighborhood that has quickly gentrified and is popular with the young and hip. You might have a graffitied wall next to a boutique coffee shop. For New York, it’s Bushwick. For San Francisco, it’s the Mission. For Melbourne, it’s Brunswick. For Atlanta, it’s East Atlanta. And for London, it’s Shoreditch. In fact, this is where a number of my friends live and probably one of the few parts of town I could afford to live. It was long past time for me to see what all the fuss was about.
So we hopped on the bus bound for the High Street to a borough I hadn’t even heard of until last year. Like its hipster sister cities, Shoreditch is in a formerly industrial neighborhood. Warehouses have been transformed into lofts. Shipping containers have been turned into pop-up bars and shops at BOXPARK Shoreditch. A former gas station is now a food truck park of sorts at Pump. The area was famously where Jack the Ripper had his reign of terror, but it couldn’t feel farther from that past today.
After hearing about the 45-minute wait for a table at Albion London, we wandered further down the street to Albion Cafe, the self-serve and reasonably priced version. They make large batches of dishes fresh every day and you simply get a portion cafeteria style. I had a delicious, and large, lunch of chicken with rice. They also sell salads, coffee and desserts. There is no shortage of eateries in Shoreditch and the hardest part was picking one. There’s also Brick Lane nearby, where you’ll find the city’s best ethnic fare. I recommend booking the East London Food Tour with Eating London if you want to try it all.
And while the neighborhood has plenty of small scale independent shops selling jewelry, clothing and, strangely, a curated selection of home improvement tools, it also has some big name brands. I was pleased to see that my beloved T2 Tea shop had an outpost here. And my sister and mom took a tour at the new Mast Brothers, the company’s first location overseas. We also wandered the vintage stores that line Brick Lane and continue onwards towards Old Spitalfields Market, where I picked up the perfect jean jacket.
Perhaps the best reason to visit Shoreditch is the street art that brightens up nearly every corner. You can take tours for this as well and we saw one going on during our visit. Some is commissioned work, like the wall I’m posing with above (it’s actually a Nike ad) while others are tags, unapproved by building owners. You’ll find works by Shepherd Fairey of “Obey” and “Hope” fame and maybe even a Banksy. Check out this interactive map of the ever-changing work in Shoreditch to see what I mean.