23 August 2014

Expats Takeover: Five Best Things To Do in East London


Hello readers! I am right in the mix of that little move to London - you know, the whole 'expat blogger' thing? Well, I've decided to finally give truth to the title, and am on my way over.
While I am currently figuring out life across the world, I've got a few of my favorite bloggers stepping in for me to keep this page up and running - enjoy! - Caity

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Hello friends! I’m Darci, and I blog over at Freedom of Excess. I write about travel, figuring out life in this crazy post-college world, and a whole lot of Olympics.
I’m taking over for Caity today as she’s getting settled in London, and I’m SO excited both to be here and to hear about Caity’s adventures!
Coincidentally, we both studied abroad in London during the same semester, and left with the same obsessive love for the city. 
However, while Caity called central London home, my digs were in a slightly seedier part of town: East London.

DUN DUN DUNNNNNN.

Here’s a quick London-in-a-nutshell history lesson: London was initially built in the west, and grew eastward. So all those big, nice, pretty buildings that people associate with London are primarily in the western and central part of the city. 
The East End developed when the city started expanding and the lower class needed places to live. It was lots of slum housing, disease, violence, prostitution… you know the drill. I actually read in a book once that the East End wasn’t a place, it was a mindset. Yowza.

However!
Things have greatly improved in the East End since the end of World War II, and it’s really become a multicultural hub of the city. I attended a fabulous university there and can’t say enough good things about life in the neighborhood with a little bit of a gritty edge. 

So for those of you in London or planning a visit, here are my top recommendations for things to do out east!


1. Learn about Jack the Ripper.
This is an obvious number one! Jack the Ripper was a brutal serial killer that committed his murders near Whitechapel, and perfectly embodies the East End’s dark, disturbing past. There are TONS of tour options that’ll take you around Jack’s London (seriously, just Google it!), including the sites of his murders. But be warned – if you’re easily creeped out, you might want to sit this one out!



Heck yeah, the East End hosted the London 2012 Olympic Games! Olympic Park is absolutely beautiful and contains a ton of green space, a bunch of remaining Olympic venues, the Orbit Tower, a handful of eateries, and more. The Olympic aquatic center is open to the public nowadays, so go take a dip in the Olympic pool! And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Westfield Stratford City, the brand new shopping center built right next to the park. Rumor has it that it’s the largest mall in all of Europe.



3. Explore Victoria and Mile End Parks.
Far from the perfectly manicured parks of central London, these two neighboring parks have an absolutely incredible history. The East End was heavily bombed during the blitz of World War II, and instead of rebuilding on some of the bombed-out areas, the city of London decided to create park space instead. Is that not amazing?! These beauties run along Regent’s Canal and are seriously perfect for a long, leisurely stroll along the water.



4. Go to the markets.
The East End might not have Borough, Camden or Portobello Markets, but don’t count east London out! The Columbia Road Flower Market is absolutely beautiful and tucked in amongst some adorable and quirky vintage shops and tearooms. Brick Lane Market is located in the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community, and it’s artsy and chaotic and always a good time. Old Spitalfields Market is absolutely legendary – there has been a market on that site for 350 years! – and it’s known for its fashion finds.



This is one of the most unique museums I’ve ever been to. It’s set in a house in Spitalfields, and is described as a “still-life drama.” It depicts life in Spitalfields as it would’ve been in the 18th century, and it’s full of faint sounds, authentic smells, candlelight, bits of intriguing text and little details that give clues to the life of the family that once lived there. Tours are self-guided and conducted in complete silence, and either photography isn’t allowed or I was just so completely zonked by the whole thing that I forgot to take a single photo. It’s simultaneously incredibly cool, incredibly weird, fascinating and confusing. It’s like stepping into a painting. Doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? The Whitechapel Art Gallery and the Museum of Childhood are also definitely worth visiting!

Enjoy – and don’t forget to grab some curry to eat before you leave! ;)


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