Monday, 23 July 2012 8:46 AM
The world’s spotlight will shine on East London for the ‘greatest show on Earth’ in the coming weeks, but it’s not only the Olympics that makes this historic part of the capital worth a visit.
Here are five off-the-beaten track places you should visit to get the feel of the real East London.
The Docklands was once the centre of the British Empire; goods from around the world came to the once-busy wharfs. But now the cranes lie still and only a handful remain as a reminder of its industrial past. To understand East London you must first go to the Docklands and learn about its history. London Walks runs a London Docklands tour that takes you around the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf for £9.
Greenwich will host the equestrian events for the Olympics, but right next door is its lesser-known neighbour – Blackheath. This area is an affluent part of town that gets its name from the heath which bears the same name. It’s popular for picnics and kite-flying; the powerkiters love to come to the flat grasslands with their boards and pull a few tricks. Tranquil Vale and Montpelier Vale are full of great restaurants, pubs and boutique stores which are worth a visit. To get there you can go to Greenwich and walk through Greenwich Park, as only Shooters Hill separates the two parks, or you can get the train from Charing Cross or Waterloo East to Blackheath station.
Green Street is known for its Asian shopping; this is where you can buy colourful saris, Asian jewellery and pungent spices and it’s famous for its takeaway curry houses and restaurants. The road is also home to West Ham Football Club, so it can get busy on match days. Queen’s Market – or Green Street Market as it is known locally – is also worth a visit. It’s open seven days a week and sells exotic vegetables and household items.
You can discover the industrial history of the East End of London by narrow boat. Starting off in Regents Canal, by Camden Lock, the little narrow boat takes you to the heart of East London through Limehouse Cut and into the Limehouse Basin, and along the way you will see trendy new apartments alongside old warehouses. For the departure times, head to the London Water Bus website. If the boats aren’t running you can always walk the towpaths and enjoy a different angle of London. There are also many interesting pubs along the way. Even Gordon Ramsey has as pub in this end of town, The Narrow, which is located on Narrow Street just off Limehouse Basin.
Wilton’s Grand Music Hall
Wilton’s Grand Music Hall is a little gem. It has been described as the city’s hidden stage and here you won’t be paying West End prices. It’s London’s oldest surviving music hall, and in true London fashion it was once an ale house – in-fact there is still a pub, The Mahogany Bar. The bar may have seen better days, but its history is written is its weathered look. The bar became famous with sailors, and it was even said that the sailors may not have heard of St Paul’s but they knew exactly where to find the Mahogany Bar.
By Cat Hughes
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