The East London neighborhood of Hackney is a hidden gem, often overlooked by travelers for flashier areas like Covent Garden and Notting Hill. But the neighborhood, located northeast of Shoreditch, has plenty to see, do and, most importantly, eat. Whether you're interested in visiting a popular outdoor market or exploring the paths along Regent's Canal, Hackney is worth discovering.
Stroll through Broadway Market
Every Saturday from 9 a.m., Broadway Market welcomes locals and visitors to its endless stalls, which sells street food, clothes, old vinyl, and some of the most mouth-watering sweet treats you'll ever see. It's the perfect place to grab lunch on the go (or sit and eat in nearby London fields), or the restaurants along Broadway welcome guests in for brunch and lunch. Look for The Frenchie, which sells confit duck burgers and Thai on the Fly, which serves up the best pad thai in town. Around the corner, look for Netil Market, home to boutique shops, and a few more food stalls (as well as happening outdoor bars in the summertime). There's no wrong way to do Broadway Market as long as you arrive before it closes at 5 p.m.
Picnic in London Fields
London Fields spans a large area of Hackney, stretching from Broadway Market north to Hackney Central. The park is popular throughout the year, but most of all, during London's beloved sunny days. During the summer, the grass is covered with people, eating and drinking, and laying the sun. The park sometimes allows the use of portable or disposable barbecues, which means you can grill up a few burgers while relaxing in the fields. On Saturdays, grab the food from Broadway Market, or pick up a picnic at one of the nearby shops.
Pet Animals at Hackney City Farm
Who doesn't love adorable animals? While you might not expect central London to be home to a working farm, Hackney City Farm brings country life into the city. It's open to the public Tuesday through Sunday and offers free entry to those who want to meet the goats, sheep, and pigs (among other furry creatures). There's also a garden and orchard, and the farm hosts weekly special events and activities. Visitors can even take home eggs, grains, cheese, and more from the farm's Get Loose Foods, which is open on-site several days a week. On Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., kids can volunteer with the Mini Farmers Club to get up close and personal with the animals.
Swim in London Fields Lido
Open year-round, London Fields Lido is a 50-meter Olympic-size swimming pool that is thankfully heated for use during the colder months. The pool offers lane swimming, as well as swimming lessons for adults and kids, and it features a massive area for sun-bathing (when the sun comes out, of course). There's also a cafe with coffee, drinks, and snacks. Visitors can even book a swimming ticket online in advance to help beat the lines. Be sure to check the opening hours before heading to the pool.
Dine at Mama Shelter London
London recently got its edition of hip hotel brand Mama Shelter, which has brought with it a vibrant communal restaurant that adds an affordable, fun dining option to the neighborhood. There's also a bar, with an outdoor courtyard, and generally, it's a great place to grab brunch, lunch, or dinner (the massive kebabs are highly recommended). After dinner, book into one of the two karaoke rooms hidden in the basement, an unexpected find in East London.
See Comedy at Hackney Empire
Hackney Empire was initially built in 1901 as a music hall, and the venue remains an essential spot in the neighborhood today. The theater hosts everything from comedy shows to live music to special events and workshops, and it's a great alternative to the far more expensive West End shows. Don't miss The Empire Bar, located next door, which serves up food and drinks. It's best to leave large bags at the hotel as the Hackney Empire operates a bag check policy for larger items.
Visit the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
Those who are easily horrified should steer clear of the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, a small collection of oddities that includes everything from dodo bones to a two-headed kitten. The museum is also home to a cocktail bar, known as "the World's Most Curious Cocktail Bar," where visitors can have a drink under the watchful of the displays. Be sure to book in advance online, especially when visiting on a Saturday, which is the museum's most crowded day. Children are permitted before 5 p.m., but parents should be warned that some of the items are not meant for young eyes.
Go Vintage Shopping
Hackney is known for its many vintage shops, which are found throughout the neighborhood. A few of the most popular are Paper Doll Vintage Boutique, which also hosts events, and Arch 389, which sells furniture and clothes out of a railway arch under the Overground. The Market Cartel is another good spot to scour, with clothes from the '50s through '80s for sale on its overstuffed racks. If you're after even more bargain hunting, Hackney is also home to several outlet stores, including the massive Burberry Outlet, where you can score a classic trench for a steep discount.
Shop Violet Bakery
Long before pastry chef Claire Ptak made the headlines by creating a wedding cake for Harry and Meghan, she made a name for herself in East London by baking some of the most delicious pastries and cakes around. Commoners can shop her wares at Violet Bakery, a short walk from the Hackney Central Overground station. It's a small, intimate shop with a few tables, and it's worth picking up a few things to go after you taste test the treats.
Explore Regent's Canal
Regent's Canal extends across London, but one of the most picturesque stretches can be found in Hackney. There are plenty of entrances to the canal's towpath, where walkers, runners, and cyclists can enjoy the peaceful views. Stop by one of the waterside cafes or restaurants for a respite. OMBRA, off Cambridge Heath Road, serves up food and cocktails (perfect for an Aperol Spritz in the summer). Visitors can also hop on board one of the boats for a cruise down the canal or rent a canoe at The Milk Float, a floating bar, and cafe with cow-themed boats.