Bethnal Green dates all the way back to the 13th century, back when it was a small pasture for people to graze their sheep. Since then, it’s become one of the most buzzing areas of London – a cultural melting pot associated with old-school boozers, greasy spoons, hipster cocktail bars and some great boutique stores too. From getting interactive at the Young V&A to trying some traditional pie and mash, here’s our rundown of the best things to do in Bethnal Green:
1. Quaff some vino at the Renegade Urban Winery
Kicking off this roundup of the best things to do in Bethnal Green is a visit to Renegade Urban Winery – a charming spot buried under the arches of the overground which is part-winery, part wine bar. It was born out of the idea to ‘burn the rule book for traditional winemaking’ – hence the name – and it’s a great little spot to quaff a whole different variety of vinos.
Being a thoroughly non-traditional winery allows them to experiment with completely new blends, resulting in some deliciously offbeat creations. Amongst their stock are unique versions of sauvignon blanc, bacchus, and chardonnay – and they also offer wine tasting classes here too. If natural wine is more your thing, make your way down to Cave Cuvée, which is a cute little date spot too.
📍You’ll find Renegade Urban Winery at Arch 12 Gales Gardens, London, E2 0EJ and Cave Cuvée at 250A Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AA.
2. Take the kids to explore the Young V&A
After a bit of hiatus when they were making it all spick and span once again – for a whopping £13 million – the Young V&A is once again open for business and bills itself as ‘the world’s most joyful museum’. A main feature here is their three permanent galleries, which are themed around the themes of ‘Imagine’, ‘Play’, and ‘Design’.
Within these are plenty of hands-on experiences – the best kind of museum displays! Among them are sensory playscapes, a finger skateboard park, an ‘Imagination Playground’ construction zone, a performance and story-telling stage, an open design studio, and even a sandpit. Add in their interactive Minecraft installation, and you can see why we really love this one!
📍You’ll find the Young V&A at Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9PA.
3. Peruse for some petals at the famous Columbia Road Flower Market
There’s nothing quite like the joy that seeing hundreds of bright flowers brings us – and there’s really no better place to score some foliage than on Sundays at the famous Columbia Road Flower Market.
It’s legendary for good reason. After all, where else in town can you find a busy street packed with multi-colour stalls of fresh flowers, plants many of us have never seen before and hordes and hordes of people? Even better, this market is historical – it dates back to the late 1800’s – and certainly feels that way with its gorgeous architecture. Behind the stalls, you will find charming shops with all sorts of wares. Need a pot for your new plant? You won’t have to go far!
📍You’ll find the Columbia Road Flower Market at Columbia Road, Shoreditch, E2 7RG.
4. Sample some cocktails at the UK’s best cocktail bar
Now if you’re ever in this neck of the woods, then you really have to pay Satan’s Whiskers a visit. It’s consistently been voted among the world’s best cocktail bars, and this year it even took the title of being the best cocktail bar in the entire UK. Not bad right?
We can see why it took the crown. After all, they’ve got a cocktail menu that changes every day, the bartenders and mixologists are great, and there’s usually a soundtrack of 90’s hip hop accompanying each and every sip – and who doesn’t love that, let’s be honest? It’s also atmospheric as hell – there are even random bits of taxidermy dotted about the walls! If you’re looking to enjoy a sort of cocktail crawl, then continue to Coupette, which specialises in French brandy. Santé!
📍You’ll find Satan’s Whiskers at 343 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA and Coupette at 423 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AN.
5. Go for a boogie at the raucous Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
Another one of the best things to do in Bethnal Green is to pay a visit to the legendary Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club – a historic queer venue dating all the way to 1887 which might just have the most exciting roster of events in the whole of London Town.
After all, there’s everything here from cosmic bingo and burlesque to ‘hedonistic cabaret-cum-clubnights’, karaoke (more on that later), pop takeovers and, of course, their iconic drag nights with some of the most fabulous queens in town. Expect fire performances and some bangin’ tunes that’s for sure!
📍You’ll find Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club at 42-46 Pollard Row, London, E2 6NB.
6. Dive into a big old plate of brekkie at E Pellicci
A fan of actors, musicians, footballers, foodies and everyone in between, E Pellicci have been drawing in punters for years. It’s easy to see why – they’re absolutely bloody fantastic. The inside boasts classic wooden and ornate-panelled décor, the staff are all absolutely lovely and treat you almost like family, and the local caf even has Grade II-listed status.
While all the food here is bloomin’ bangin’, we’d recommend going for ‘Have The Lot’ brekkie, which comes in either a veggie or a meaty option. Eggs, sausages, hash browns, bubble and squeak, mushrooms, fried bread – sign us up!
📍You’ll find E Pellicci at 332 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AG.
7. Catch some comedy at the Backyard Comedy Club
Comedy clubs. They’re places where you can drink cocktails or a few pints, have a laugh, and forget about what crazy stuff is going on in the world for an hour or two – and there’s a real ripper of one in Bethnal Green. Called the Backyard Comedy Club, it’s a great little spot that has been billed as “the best comedy club in the world” by none other than Russell Howard. And who can argue with him ey!?
It’s also the largest professional, purpose-built comedy club in London, which has been the home of comedy in the East End for the past 20+ years. Harry Hill, Dara O’Brien, Jo Brand, Alan Carr and Rhod Gilbert have all performed here at some point, and you can also play pool, table football and ping-pong here. What’s not to love?
📍You’ll find the Backyard Comedy Club at 231 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 0EL.
8. Enjoy a tipple or two at The Sun Tavern
Now if there’s one thing we love here at Secret London – and Londoners too – it’s a good old boozer, and luckily for you dear reader, Bethnal Green is awash with great pubs. The King’s Arms and The Bethnal Green Tavern are both great choices, though if we had to pick a favourite, it might just have to be The Sun Tavern.
It’s all about fine ales, live music, classically-inspired cocktails and great craic here with both staff and punters alike. They also claim to have London’s largest selection of Irish whiskey and ‘the world’s largest collection of Poitín’. For those not in the know, that’s ‘Irish moonshine’ – so you’d better order a pint of water while you’re at it!
📍You’ll find The Sun Tavern at 441 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AN.
9. Try some traditional pie and mash at G Kelly’s
George Kelly’s has been known as one of best pie and mash shops in London for decades now – especially in the East End. Revamped and renovated during the *shudder* lockdowns of 2020, it now has the vintage look of a white-tiled café decked out with marble tables, that can’t help but transport you back to the good ol’ days of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
They’ve recently upgraded their menus to include vegan mince pies, and all of the above comes with generous helpings of buttery mash and lashings of gravy – best washed down with mugs of proper British tea of course. If you’re up for it, order some of their jellied or stewed eels and watch the old-timers engaging in healthy banter with the waiters – you can’t get more London than that.
📍You’ll find G Kelly’s at 526 Roman Road, Old Ford, London, E3 5ES.
10. Enjoy a cup of tea with some cats for company
If your idea of the purrfect (sorry, no more, I promise) tranquil break from city life includes a cosy cuppa, or an afternoon tea sitting among lots of the cutest felines, then Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium near Brick Lane is a must-visit.
Lady Dinah’s follows the adopt-don’t-shop mantra – all of their adorable feline residents have been rescued from shelters – and they encourage those wanting their own moggy to do the same. Some of their previous residents go on to be adopted, and there are a few house rules you’ll need to follow if you’d like to take a pew in this pussycat paradise. Firstly – no kids under 12 are allowed (sorry folks), and secondly, let sleeping cats lie!
📍You’ll find Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium at 152-154 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6DG.
11. Sing to your heart’s content at The Star of Bethnal Green
Now if you’re wanting to actually feel like a star in Bethnal Green (sorry), then you really should make your way to The Star of Bethnal Green. They’re known for their legendary parties here – even Idris Elba has spun the decks – as well as their themed boozy brunches, drag bingo, and killer pub quiz too.
One other thing that this place is known for is its lively karaoke nights. Open until midnight on Mondays to Thursdays and until 2am on the weekends, there’s plenty of opportunity here to let loose any day of the week. Their plush karaoke room is loaded up with over 15,000 songs, and it can fit up to 20 people, so it’s perfect for a group of mates looking to try and give Grammy-worthy performances. Or maybe not…
📍You’ll find The Star of Bethnal Green at 359 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6LG.
12. Channel your inner action hero at BethWall Green bouldering gym
If you’re looking to get your adrenaline fix while getting some exercise, then bouldering could just well be the sport for you. With a little bit of preparation and some expert advice, you’ll be scaling those rocks like a pro.
If you’re looking to get your fix while you’re in E2, then you’re in luck, as the BethWall Green bouldering gym offers a wide range of climbing challenges for all levels of climbers, from beginners to experienced climbers. Sly Stallone – eat your heart out!
📍You’ll find BethWall at Arches 243-247, Hollybush Place, E2 9QX.
13. Indulge in donuts and more at Knead A Little Love
Knead a Little Love is a brilliant bakery born out of the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 which specialises in vegan doughnuts and delectable desserts too. Run by two sisters, Jess and Becca, they opened up their doors at 253 Bethnal Green Road, East London in June of 2022 – and they really haven’t looked back since, winning rave reviews and a whole host of regulars along the way.
Everything here is handmade on site by a small and dedicated team headed up by Le Cordon Bleu trained Pastry Chef – and younger sister – Jess. All their products are available in-store at the bakery as well as online. All the stuff here is absolutely delicious – hence why it features on this roundup of the best things to do in Bethnal Green – so make sure you get yourself down here and try it for yourself!
📍You’ll find Knead A Little love at 253 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6AH.
14. Turn up the weird factor at Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Bethnal Green is, well somewhere that’s not technically in Bethnal Green, but it’s as weird as hell and we love it so we figured we’d have to include it! Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities is a collection of weird and wonderful things, with absolutely no correlation to each other at all. In one corner you may find the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys of yesteryear, whilst in another you could stumble upon a unicorn skull, a mermaid skeleton or just regular human remains.
All of these objects are hidden amongst erotica, taxidermy and ramblings of the certified insane – so expect the unexpected, because who knows what you’ll cast your eyes on! If it all gets a bit much, there’s an absinthe parlour downstairs – well actually, maybe that’s not a good idea…
📍You’ll find Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities at 11 Mare Street, Cambridge Heath Road, London, E8 4RP.
So there you have it – a roundup of some of the best things to do in Bethnal Green. From trying to emulate your best Whitney Houston doing karaoke to tucking into some traditional pie and mash, there’s plenty to do in this enclave of East