East London: A cultural goldmine beyond the Olympic Games
Posted on Thursday 02 August 2012
in Holidays, England, London
By Rory MacTavish
When Kiwis head to Europe for London holidays, they might at first be told to take full advantage of the offerings of the bustling West End, filled with pubs, shops and other attractions that have made the region wildly popular among tourists. What fellow world travellers may not inform them of, however, is the quaint charm of East London, which has gained even more fame because of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Once travellers hop off their flights to London, they can explore this eclectic neighbourhood, which is brimming with art centres, shopping boutiques and some delicious local eateries. The Shoreditch village is one of the best places to visit to gain perspective on this particular segment of London culture.
European street art abounds along the sidewalks of Shoreditch, and one artist who attracts tourists from all over to gaze at his skilled works is Banksy. First recognized in the '90s as the world's most prominent street artist, the creative mastermind concocts massive murals that cover the entire side of a building, as well as minuscule stencil drawings that Kiwis may not even notice if they're not looking down at the sidewalk. Tourists who do not want to miss any of these contemporary masterpieces can hop on a bike and cycle around town with Alternative London, a tour company that provides an inside look at off-the-beaten-path treasures of the British city.
Cozy up at Callooh Callay
An exciting holiday adventure is not complete until travellers have indulged in a gourmet meal and a few tantalizing cocktails. Callooh Callay, the Shoreditch village cocktail bar, is tucked away down a cobblestone street, but that doesn't mean that locals haven't discovered its enticing charm.
The lounge is named after Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky poem, and its menu is equally as eccentric as its funky title. Kiwis who want to truly immerse themselves in British culture can order the Ale of Two Cities, which combines a half-pint of premium vodka, Italian vermouth, wild nettle cordial, malt syrup, lime, apple and bitters. The snacks are just as delectable - and customary - as the funky libations, with haggis, beer battered chips and limoncello marinated olives topping the list of tempting bar snacks.
Market days in London
On the weekends, Shoreditch is hopping with busy markets popping up all over the village. Broadway Market is actually 10 minutes outside of the East London community, but is worth the short trip from Kiwis' downtown London hotels. Since 1890, the square has opened up shop to the public and now sees hundreds of hipsters perusing its array of novelty gifts and antique items, as well as its diverse selection of multicultural food, including French, Portuguese and Vietnamese cuisine. Of course, Kiwis who wish to stick to the traditions of the city they're visiting can find their fair share of rum and raisin fudge or coconut ice, both considered local specialties to born-and-raised Londoners.
Another market that will surely liven up any traveller's weekend is Columbia Road, where the street transforms into a pastel rainbow of blossoming flowers every Sunday. While the market specializes in its gorgeous blooms, other plants like massive banana trees are sold here as well, satisfying horticulturalists with a variety of foliage preferences. After taking in the relaxing aromas surrounding the flower market, guests can peruse the independent shops that line Columbia Road, including vintage clothing stores, cupcake boutiques, cafes, art galleries and local delis.
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