Yes dear reader we know what you’re thinking – but there’s more to Elephant and Castle than just one big old roundabout. Named after a former coaching inn (more on that later) and established back in 1795, it’s become a major hub of culture due to its proximity to Southbank and the River Thames and the fact that it’s home to universities, museums and several listed buildings. From age-old boozers to brilliant breweries, here’s our rundown of 12 of the best things to do in Elephant and Castle:
1. Take a step back in time at the Imperial War Museum
Kicking off this roundup of the best things to do in Elephant and Castle is the magnificent Imperial War Museum – the world’s leading museum of war and conflict. Completely free to enter, the exhibitions on display here chart the different human conflicts that have affected Britain throughout the centuries, with a particular focus on WW1 and WW2.
You’ll be able to discover how London survived the Blitz and will hear the heartbreaking stories of those who paid the ultimate price for their country. There’s also ‘The Holocaust Gallery’, which delves into the individual stories of the six million Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust via the medium of photographs, books, artworks, letters and personal objects ranging from jewellery to toys. Spanning two floors, it’s obviously pretty hard-hitting stuff, but is really well worth your time if you find yourself in this neck of the woods.
🚇 Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HZ.
2. Eat and drink your way around the world at Mercato Metropolitano
Now you all know we love our street food here at Secret London, so what’s better than a whole market dedicated to it, hey?! Mercato Metropolitano is open seven days a week and is home to 40 (!) different street food stalls and bars. While the first hall has a loose Italian theme, head deeper inside to find ribs from Prairie Fire BBQ, tacos from Hermanos Tacos, biodynamic wines from France, traditional Himalayan dumplings, vegan delights and other delectable dishes.
Live bands occasionally stomp through cover versions from atop a brewing tank, while vintage fairs, supper clubs and other events also sometimes take place here. There’s a lovely beer garden where you can get the pints in if the sun is shining, and the whole shebang is open until the early hours at the weekend. Speaking of…
🚇 42 Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6DR.
3. Dance the night away at Ministry of Sound or Corsica Studios
Our beloved capital is always throwing up surprises, but who would’ve thought that Elephant and Castle would have two of the best nightclubs in the whole of London, hey?! Well, you heard here first, it does, and both of them are open until dawn on the weekends. So, if you’re wanting to dance the night away, this is the place to come.
The first of them – Ministry of Sound – is a vast spot housed in a former bus garage that bills itself as ‘the home of dance music’. World-class DJ talent is divided between all four rooms here, but head to ‘The Box’ to experience the world’s first room in a nightclub built purely for exceptional sound quality. At the smaller end of the spectrum is Corsica Studios – a gem of a venue nestled between two railway arches that hosts everything from all-night techno parties to live alt-rock gigs. Rock on.
🚇 You’ll find Ministry of Sound at 103 Gaunt Street, London, SE1 6DP and Corsica Studios at 4–5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB.
4. Grab a pint or two at the namesake Elephant and Castle
Of course this one’s on our list because, you know, it’s London and all. There are a bunch of pubs knocking about the area – from The Albert Arms to The Prince of Wales – but if we were gonna pick one, we’d go for the namesake Elephant and Castle.
A staple of the area since 1795, the neighbourhood actually takes its name from this boozer, which we almost lost back in 2015 when it’s licence was revoked because *ahem* someone got stabbed in the eye with a pen. As you do. It was then revamped the year after, and has been transformed into a lively and spacious spot with wooden decor, a small beer garden out back and a whole gamut of craft beers, ales, and botanical gins on tap. They also play live sports here, and if you’re here during the weekends, head down the stairs to find a whole new area with a flashing dancefloor!
🚇 119 Newington Causeway, Elephant and Castle, London, SE1 6BN.
5. Get an insight into the world of film at The Cinema Museum
London’s Cinema Museum is devoted to keeping alive the spirit of cinema from the days before the mighty multiplex. An intriguing spot, it houses a unique collection of artefacts, memorabilia and other eclectic equipment dating all the way back from the 1890s, when the artform was really just starting out.
Admission is only via joining one of their regular guided tours, which run about two or three times a month and cost a tenner for adults and seven quid for children. On top of a tour of the museum, you’ll also get to see some short films on the small screen. Sign us up!
🚇 2 Dugard Way, Renfrew Road, London, SE11 4TH.
6. Experience a show at the Southwark Playhouse
Our beloved capital is famous around the world for being one of the best places to see plays, musicals and West End shows. There are theatres bloomin’ everywhere, showing everything from experimental theatre shows to all-singing, all-dancing productions – and there’s one even in this part of town.
The Southwark Playhouse was founded back in 1993 by Juliet Alderdice and Tom Wilson, who identified that there needed to be more easily accessible theatre for people of all income brackets within the surrounding area. A registered charity, they put on all kinds of shows at their two different venues – ranging from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to ones put on by the prestigious National Youth Music Theatre Group. Prices are incredibly fair for the shows you get to watch, and you can also get pay-as-you-go tariffs too. Winner, winner.
🚇 You’ll find the Southwark Playhouse at 77-85 Newington Causeway London, SE1 6BD and at Dante Place, 80 Newington Butts, London, SE11 4FL.
7. Unearth hidden treasures at East Street Market
Another worthy addition to this roundup of the best things to do in Elephant and Castle is a visit to East Street Market – a market just off Walworth Road running from Tuesdays to Sundays which sells everything from second-hand clothes to household products and jewellery to fresh fruit and veg.
The market itself has been running officially since 1880 – though there has been trading here since the 16th Century – and punters flock from far and wide to see what trinkets they can find rummaging through the individual stores. It was even featured in the opening credits of Only Fools and Horses, and you can find everything here from durian fruit to jellied eels. See what you can get your hands on!
🚇 East Street, London, SE17 1EL.
8. Try something new at the Orbit Beers Brewery and Taproom
Continuing down Walworth Road, you’ll find yourself at the Orbit Beers Brewery and Taproom, who’ve been brewing out of their railway arch in Walworth since 2014. And they’ve got their brewing techniques down to a tee if we say so ourselves. The beers brewed here are deeply rooted in European tradition, with classic flavours from Germany and Belgium being a source of inspiration for their core Nico lager and Peel Belgium pale varieties.
These guys also have a taproom and a 50-seater beer garden – which overlooks the leafy Pelier Park – as well as regular pub quizzes and Sunday roasts to boot too. What’s not to love?
🚇 225 & 228 Fielding Street, London, SE17 3HD.
9. Indulge in a slice of pie at Theo’s or Four Hundred Rabbits
Now, we absolutely love ourselves a slice of pie here at Secret London, and Elephant and Castle is lucky in that it comes up trumps with not one but two top-class pizza joints. First up you’ve got Theo’s, which is the stuff of legend on this side of the river. The flavours rustled up here are absolutely banging, they make some of the best gluten-free pizzas in town, and the prices are more than reasonable if we say so ourselves. Settle down, order a negroni or three, and enjoy!
The next pizza joint on this list is named after the 400 Rabbit Gods of Aztec folklore, which is just bloody cool in itself we reckon. But Four Hundred Rabbits are more than just a name. All the pizzas here are made with sourdough – meaning they’re just packed full of flavour – and they love their craft beer as much as they love their doughy delights, so you can bet the drinks are top-notch too.
Add in the fact that they offer a lunchtime deal which nets you a margherita for just a fiver between 12-5PM from Monday to Friday, and you can see why this writer is one happy chappy whenever he’s here.
🚇 You’ll find Theo’s at 17-18 Elephant and Castle, London, SE1 6TH and Four Hundred Rabbits at 16a Ash Avenue, Elephant and Castle, London, SE17 1GQ.
10. Enjoy some peace and quiet at the Tibetan Peace Garden
As we’re all aware, sometimes the hustle and bustle of London Town can all get a bit much, and you need a bit of peace and quiet. Luckily for you dear reader, there’s a place in Elephant and Castle which is literally called the ‘Tibetan Peace Garden’ – a charming spot that offers the perfect respite from the 100-mile-an-hour life we often find ourselves stuck in.
Opened back in 1999 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and commissioned by the Tibet Foundation, it was designed to honour one of the principal teachings of His Holiness. That is the need to create understanding between different cultures and to establish areas of peace and harmony within the world. So if you’re wanting some ‘me time’ in the big smoke, then this little pocket of tranquillity is a pretty good place to go!
🚇 107A St George’s Road, London, SE1 6HZ
11. Shop for all things Vietnam at Longdan
Our penultimate entry onto this roundup of the best things to do in Elephant and Castle is a visit to Longdan – the largest Vietnamese food importer and supermarket in the UK, with over 10,000 specialty products on sale across its shelves.
You can get pretty much anything and everything you want here. A crate of Saigon beer? Check! That mouthwatering sauce you had that one time on a junk boat in Halong Bay? Check! Go and see for yourself and see what you can rustle up. You can also get your hands on Chinese, Japanese and Korean goodies from nearby Kiki & MiuMiu in Elephant Park.
🚇 128-132 Walworth Road, London, SE17 1JL.
12. Sample a glass of natural wine at Diogenes the Dog
Natural wine – or wine made with as little technological intervention as possible from source to bottle – is all the rage now, and for good reason. It supposedly doesn’t give you a hangover and is predominantly sourced from small-scale producers – what’s not to love?
If you’re looking for a glass or two of this frankly delicious stuff, then you could do worse than heading to Diogenes the Dog – a rustic spot which takes its name from the controversial Greek philosopher Diogenes. Owner Sunny Hodge aims to feature a rotating list of the true ‘underdogs of the wine world’, and sources vinos from newer winemaking regions such as Poland, Texas and China.
They also do wine tastings and even oyster platters here too, so you can see why we’ve added it to this roundup of the best things to do in Elephant and Castle then…
🚇 96 Rodney Road, London, SE17 1BG.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best things to do in Elephant and Castle. From experiencing a show at the landmark Southwark Playhouse to seeing what treasures you can find at East Street Market, there’s something for everyone here. So get yourself down here and see what takes your fancy!