A thriving pocket of South East London sandwiched between Greenwich and New Cross, Deptford’s first claim to fame was its role as one of London’s major dockyards. Founded by none other than King Henry VIII all the way back in 1513 – who by the way is rumoured to have had a full English brekkie just off the high street – it remained one of the city’s principal naval yards for well over three hundred years.
This is after all the part of town where Sir Walter Raleigh put his cape down for Queen Elizabeth I, where Sir Francis Drake was knighted and where legendary playwright Christopher Marlowe was murdered over an unpaid bar tab – so it’s certainly seen it’s fair share of history.
Arguably the beating heart of the area is Deptford High Street – which only this year was voted one of the ‘coolest streets in the world’ by Time Out magazine – though there’s plenty more to see and do too. So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of 12 of the best things to do in Deptford from our Deptford-based writer Sam:
1. Mosey your way around Deptford Market Yard
Once used as storage facilities for horses and carriages – and later as air-raid shelters during World War Two – the arches under Deptford railway station have now been transformed into Deptford Market Yard – a vibrant melting pot of cocktail bars, street food-style eateries and independent record shops.
If you’re looking for something a bit quirky and fun, make your way to Little Nan’s Bar, whose shabby-chic interior is decked out to look like your nan’s living room and is something of a pop-culture homage to Pat Butcher off of Eastenders. Think cocktails in china teapots, Charles and Diana memorabilia books, a banging Disco soundtrack and leopard print wallpaper.
Other spots dotted about the yard include Taproom SE8 – which has been brewing its own craft beer since 2013 – the Planet Wax record shop and Dirty Apron – an independent café and restaurant which whips up some bloody delicious food.
You’ll find Deptford Market Yard right by Deptford railway station at SE8 4BX. Opening times vary for different establishments – check opening times here.
2. Tuck into some delicious Italian grub at Marcella
Wondering where to eat in Deptford? You can’t pay a visit to this part of town without grabbing lunch or dinner in Italian restaurant Marcella. The sister restaurant of Artusi in Peckham, this easygoing, laidback spot is all about the food – and boy is it good. As well as having some of the best pasta in the whole of London, Marcella also offers some mouthwatering mains like ox cheek with polenta and savoy cabbage and salt cod with cocco bianco.
If you’re not feeling Italian food, then there’s plenty else on offer here. Go to Hullabaloo if you’re looking for some veggie or vegan Indian food, or for a taste of Northern Vietnam, make your way to Viet Anh Pho.
You’ll find Marcella 165A Deptford High Street, London, SE8 3NU. It’s open on Tuesdays from 6–10pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12.30–2.30pm and 6–9.30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 12.30–2.30pm and 6–10pm and Sundays from 12–4pm. It’s closed on Mondays.
3. Get yourself inked at South City Market
Owned by renowned tattoo artist Ricky Williams, South City Market isn’t really like other tattoo studios. Ditching the classic tattoo blueprint, it specialises in black and grey work and is inspired by Scandinavian-style living, so if you’re in Deptford and are looking to get inked, then this is a great place to come.
The studio is a bright, clean space that isn’t like traditional tattoo studios – expect Garage or House to be playing on the speakers and bright, neon lighting lining the walls. In terms of artwork, the focus here is on intricate, micro designs, and there are currently a whopping 19 artists to choose from to get you inked.
You’ll find South City Market at 389 New Cross Road, SE14 6LA. It’s open every day from 10am–7pm.
4. Enjoy a pint or two at Villages or Little Faith breweries
Now we couldn’t write a roundup of the best things to do in Deptford without mentioning this one. If there’s one thing us Londoners do well, it’s breweries. In fact – we’ve got over 135 breweries currently operating in our beloved capital, with more opening all the time, and Deptford has two pretty great ones within easy reach of the high street.
Villages was the brainchild of brothers Archie and Louis Village, who opened back in 2016 and now serve ten different draught beers on tap, including the ‘Rodeo’ pale ale, the ‘Topaz’ dry-hopped lager and the ‘Collision’ IPA. Closer to Creekside lies Little Faith – a cute little spot which was born out of ‘a long friendship and a mutual love of beer, food and good times’. Alongside 12 different craft beers, they also rustle up some pretty banging Indian street food at the adjoining Thumka restaurant.
You’ll find Villages at 21-22 Resolution Way, SE8 4NT and it’s open on Thursdays from 6–11pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 5–11.30pm and Sundays from 3–9pm. You’ll find Little Faith at Artworks, 3 Creekside, SE8 4SA. Opening times vary so check their website here for up-to-date details.
5. Catch a gig, jazz night or comedy show at Matchstick Piehouse
Hidden away down a narrow side street in another one of Deptford’s railway arches, the Matchstick Piehouse is a community-owned, multi-use arts space that has everything from jazz nights and gigs to cabaret performances and theatre too.
With affordable pints (£4!) a resident cat and some of the best pie and mash you’ll find South of the river (the name could be a bit of a giveway), it’s a great spot to come to when you’re in this part of town. Check out their listings page for all the up-to-date event details and upcoming listings.
You’ll find Matchstick Piehouse at the Railway Arches, 213-214 Edward Street, SE8 5HD. Opening times vary so check their website for details.
6. Discover some of the area’s best boozers and bars
With well over 3,500 boozers to choose from, London Town isn’t exactly short of spots to grab a pint – even with those dreaded 14 quid pints looming – and Deptford certainly has its fair share. Winner of the coveted ‘SE London Pub of the Year’ in 2020, The Dog and Bell is one of those spots that you’ll go to once and then will probably keep going religiously – probably on an almost daily basis. An Irish boozer, the atmosphere found here is incredibly welcoming, and they have regular live music and pub quizzes if you’re looking for more than just a pint.
Other good choices include the Job Centre – a trendy spot which used to actually be a job centre – The Prince Albert and this author’s local – the Royal George. Bar-wise, don’t miss a chance to visit Busta Mantis, which whips up some mean rum cocktails and some tasty Jamaican food too.
7. Bag yourself a bargain at Deptford’s famous market
Definitely one of the best things to do in Deptford is searching for hidden trinkets, bric-à-brac, vintage clothing and more at its traditional namesake market. They sell practically everything and anything under the sun here – from fresh fruit and veg to multicoloured fabrics, and lip-smackingly good street food to antiques and collectibles. No wonder it was once dubbed the ‘Oxford Street of South London’ then.
Deptford market itself runs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9am to 5.30pm, though we’d recommend you get there as early in the day as possible if you’re looking to find some gold. Happy treasure hunting!
8. Add to your plant collection with a visit to Forest
If you’re green-fingered and are looking to add to feed your plant obsession, then look no further than Forest, which is located right by Deptford station. They try to stock only easy-to-care-for plants, and they promise to teach you how to look after them – so the risk of you killing them is, in theory, pretty low.
Added to this, they offer a free potting service and sell gardening books, bits and bobs for your kitchen and candles too. They also hold monthly classes here which include basic flower arranging, terrarium building and wreath making too.
You’ll find Forest at Arch 133, Deptford Railway Station, Deptford High Street, SE8 4NS. It’s open on Sundays from 11am–4pm and every other day from 10am–6pm.
9. Take a scenic wander along the Thames Path
Right at the northern end of Deptford High Street lies the Thames Path, a long-distance walking trail which follows the Thames all the way from Woolwich to Kemble in Gloucestershire. It passes through Deptford and makes its way through an alleyway past the Dog and Bell pub – a great spot to whet your whistle before beginning your route.
In terms of where to walk, you can either head West towards Rotherhithe, Surrey Quays, Bermondsey and London Bridge, or journey East to Greenwich where you’ll find the UNESCO-listed park, royal museums, observatory, numerous restaurants and famous Cutty Sark. Now an award-winning visitor attraction, you can discover what life was like on board this true survivor of the seas – the fastest of its time – on a guided tour.
10. Dance the night away at The Bunker or Amersham Arms
A beloved stalwart of the South London nightlife scene, The Bunker club sadly closed its doors back in March 2020 due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, rumour has it that this underground gem is back up and running, with two affordable club nights hosted by a roster of South London DJs already on the books.
If bands and live music are more your thing, then amble up towards New Cross overground, opposite which you’ll find the Amersham Arms – a lively spot popular with Goldsmiths students which has its own music venue and is open until 3am at weekends.
11. Explore what exhibitions are on at the A.P.T. Gallery
Our penultimate entry on this best things to do in Deptford roundup is a visit to the A.P.T. Gallery – an artist-led charity providing studio space, a working sculpture yard and a large gallery on Creekside.
They’ve got regular art exhibitions on show here from Thursdays through to Sundays, which tend to change every two weeks or so. Keep an eye out on their website to see what’s on and what takes your fancy. Entry is free.
You’ll find the A.P.T. Gallery at 6 Creekside, SE8 4SA. It’s open on Thursdays through to Sundays from 12–5pm.
12. Visit The Albany for some theatre, dance or live music
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Deptford is The Albany – a multi-purpose arts centre with four performance spaces and a fully-licensed café-come-bar inside. They show everything from live music to interpretive dance shows.
Upcoming shows include a performance by celebrated spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist and playwright Kae Tempest.
You’ll find The Albany at Douglas Way, SE8 4AG. Opening times vary so check their website for further details.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best things to do in Deptford from our local writer Sam. From eclectic art galleries to some of the best pasta you’ll find anywhere in town, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied here.