Where to stay in London: a neighbourhood guide
London has something for every kind of backpacker, in fact, London has EVERYTHING! Whether you’re into nature, yoga, parties, pubs, museums, book shops, street art or live music: London has it all. If you’re looking for the best areas to stay in London, we’re here to help.
Probably, the most well-known quote about London is, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” (Samuel Johnson). Even if complaining about being tired is a crucial part of being a real Londoner, we also know that London is a city that has it all, and you will never quite be done exploring.
When you ask a Londoner where to stay when visiting the city, they will all guarantee you that their neighbourhood is the coolest and that it’s the perfect place for you to have a true taste of London life. Well, we kind of agree with all of them. Either you decide to go for the hipster cafes and art galleries in East, the fancy boutiques and vintage shops in West, the amazing museums in Central, the quirky shops in North or the music venues in South – you will find plenty of amazing things to explore!
In London you will be able to experience many countries in one, as it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. You can explore markets with incredible food from all over the world, visit neighbourhoods that will make you feel like you’re in another country, and hear many languages when you are walking around. It’s a great city to remember how beautiful and diverse the world can be.
We know London can be pricey, but fear not, we are here to help you to have the most authentic (and on budget) experience for your great British adventure. With fabulous hostels, lush green spaces, world famous museums and quirky places for you to discover, we are sure you will have an amazing time. Here is our ultimate guide on where to stay in London.
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Central London – the best area for museums, shops and unashamed traditional tourism
If you want to visit London’s most famous attractions, you are going to spend a lot of time in Central London, of course! The busiest part of the city is full of things to do and you should save 2-3 days to explore everything it has to offer.
Whether you are looking for trendy shops, incredible museums, or galleries and parks to do some squirrel spotting, you can find almost everything in Central London.
We are going to share with you our favourite attractions in this part of the city. Some you might know well, and others are hidden gems that you should include on your visit, if you want to have a more authentic experience.
What to do in Central London
Somerset House is a cultural space in the heart of London. It’s nestled in a stunning Georgian building and there is always something interesting going on. While the entrance is free, you normally have to pay to see the exhibitions. During winter, you can also enjoy ice skating around a giant Christmas Tree.
If you like music, dance, film (and anything art related), you must visit the Barbican Centre. It’s a massive space, in fact Europe’s largest arts centre, that hosts concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions.
The Photographer’s Gallery is a great place to have a break from the busy streets of Central London and enjoy very cool exhibitions. The entrance is either free or super affordable (£5 or £3.50 for concessions).
Soho is the liveliest place in Central London and is full of restaurants, bars, interesting people and a pulsing nightlife. This neighbourhood is the hub for the LGBTQ+ scene in London and for the Pride Parade every year. You will find many clubs and bars that are a perfect mix of Londoners and tourists, such as: She Soho, G-A-Y, The Yard Bar, Friendly Society and Molly Moggs. Soho is also a great place to explore Jazz Bars. Our favourites are Ain’t Notin’ But, Ronnie’s Scott and Pizza Express Jazz Club.
In Soho, you will also be super close to the West End, well-known for the shop-filled streets of Oxford Circus, the world-famous plays and musicals and the charming Covent Garden. When exploring the area, make sure to have a look in Neal’s Yard – a colourful small alley in Covent Garden with nice cafes and restaurants. The perfect Instagrammable opportunity!
Central London is also home to great (AND FREE) museums, that you should save 1-2 days to visit. The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are two great ones, just next to each other. Here you have the chance to see masterpieces, the most extensive collection of portraits in the world and join workshops and events.
The British Museum houses a vast collection of world art and artefacts and is also free! Our tip for this museum is that you can join free lectures, offered weekly during lunchtime, about really interesting subjects. You can find the schedule here.
The London Museum is a great place to get to know more about London’s history and how the city evolved to be what it is today. They have a Victorian area, where you can see how shops and pubs used to look back then! The entrance is free, and you should save at least half a day to visit.
Joan Soane Museum is a hidden gem in London and is definitely worth a visit. This house museum was formerly the home of architect John Soane and nowadays holds many drawings, statues and antiquities he collected during his life. The museum is quite small, so you won’t need more than 2 hours to see everything.
If you want to have a break from the busy streets, visit Hyde Park, a massive green space where you can have a walk, see some squirrels running around freely and if you time it right – enjoy events such as music festivals and Winter Wonderland. You can also walk to the Buckingham Palace and watch the Changing of The Guards ceremony. It takes place from 10:45am and lasts around 45 minutes.
Central London is also home to many of the city’s main attractions, such as: The London Eye, Big Ben, The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. They are all a short walking distance from each other and it’s better to go early to avoid the crowds!
Lastly, St Pauls Cathedral is another attraction you should include on your itinerary when visiting London. For £17 you can visit the Cathedral floor, crypt and three galleries in the dome. If you want to save money, just walk around the Cathedral and relax in the garden.
Places to eat in Central London
The good news for your budget is that Central London has plenty of food chains, where you can get a meal for less than £7. Supermarket meal deals are also a good option if you don’t want to spend much. You can normally get a sandwich, a drink and a snack for less than £5. If the weather is nice, you can take this opportunity to enjoy a picnic in the park.
If you are close to Chancery Lane Station, visit Leather Lane Market, an amazing food market with options from all over the world. You can get authentic food for 5-7 pounds and mingle with the locals during lunch time. Around the same area, Dibs serves pizzas, salads and pasta for a friendly price. When you finish your lunch, act like a real Londoner and have a beetroot latte at Press Cafe.
Govinda’s Restaurant, in Soho, is a part of the SKCON-London Radha-Krishna Temple, and it serves an INCREDIBLE traditional Indian menu. Prices start from £6.95 and you can choose between meal deals and mix and match. Sometimes you can get meals for free if you take a part in one of their lectures.
In China Town, you will find many options for a friendly price. Many restaurants offer all-you-can-eat buffets and you can also buy a box to take away (which is normally cheaper). If you are feeling like treating yourself, Eat Tokyo is a popular option for Japanese food in Soho.
Whole Foods is a supermarket where you can get pizza, sushi, sandwiches and many other options. They have a branch on Oxford Circus where you can grab something to eat and relax, away from the busy streets.
Of course, we would talk about pizza again. The Home Slice in Neal’s Yard is perfect for a pizza slice while enjoying the colours of this charming alley. Pizza Pilgrims is also one of our favourites. Their aubergine parmigiana pizza is just too good to be true.
Located in the crypt of St Martin’s in The Fields Church, the hidden cafe offers great options for pastries, sandwiches and home-made meals. Ah, they also host jazz nights every Wednesday. How cool is that?
If you want to get some great deals while visiting London, download apps like Nez and Karma. Nez offers different discounts every day and Karma offers discounted food after breakfast and lunch.
Where to stay in Central London
At SoHostel you will be in the heart of the action, just minutes from Oxford Street, Soho Square and Piccadilly. This super modern hostel has loads of very colourful couches for you to relax after a day exploring the city. They also have a bar where you can get to know other guests, enjoy their happy hour with half price drinks and events like live music, karaoke nights and more! You will be happy to know that by staying at SoHostel you are also helping homeless people in London as all this hostel’s profits go towards the cause.
The Walrus hostel is located just a few minutes’ walk from Waterloo Station, so you will have great transport connections to all the main attractions in London. They offer free breakfast, a guest kitchen and free bag storage. After spending the day on your British adventure, come back to the hostel pub to meet the locals and the other guests.
Astor Victoria is located only 10 minutes’ walk from Victoria train and bus station, which is close to many pubs, shops and restaurants. They offer daily activities for the guests and a common area where you can meet other like-minded backpackers. The breakfast only costs £1 and all the proceeds go to charity!
Astor Museum Inn is in a great location – just in front of the British Museum and within walking distance from many attractions in Central London such as Soho, China Town and Oxford Circus. They organise daily events for guests, so we are sure you will leave London with many new travel buddies.
North London: the best area for warehouses parties, quirky shops and wild swimming
Food markets, stunning parks, museums, warehouse parties, indie pubs and great restaurants… We could be here all-day listing everything North London has to offer but we think the best way to know it is exploring by yourself!
Disconnect from the world in Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds, spend the day exploring world famous museums, have a peak into London’s Punk History in Camden Town, or spend the day walking in the charming streets of Highbury and Islington. North London has a world of options to offer to any kind of backpacker.
What to do in North London
Camden Town is probably the most famous neighbourhood in North London due to its rich punk music history, the colourful Camden Market and many incredible pubs, shops and restaurants.
The Roadhouse, a legendary music venue in Camden Town, was the place where, in 1976, punk landed in the UK. After providing space for many punk bands and being a crucial part of London Punk History, the place closed in 1983 and reopened in the 2000s. So, the good news is that you can still go and hang-out in the same place as the Ramones and The Talking Heads played in the 70s!
The main road that leads to Camden Market is full of interesting shops, food stalls and has a buzzing atmosphere, that you can only feel there. Head to the market to try food from all over the world, for a friendly price, and do some shopping in one of the 1,000 stalls.
To finish a perfect day in Camden Town, head to Primrose Hill, a park with great London views and an ideal place for a picnic.
Angel has a very chilled vibe and it’s full of nice pubs, cafes by the canal and international cuisine restaurants. If you are looking for a good night out, The Lexington is a great indie venue with gigs, parties and other events going on.
Camden passage is a cute little street, full of vintage shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants that are worth a visit. Our favourite cafe is The CoffeeWorks Project. On the same street, you are going to find Angel Comedy Club, and as the name suggests, it’s a great place with daily comedy performances.
Hampstead Heath is the ultimate proof that London has everything you might ever want. This beautiful (and massive!) park has ponds where you can swim in the summer and spend the day enjoying nature. You can also visit Kenwood House, a beautifully decorated house from the 17th century with a stunning art collection. The visit is free and very near to it, there is the perfect place for a picnic, with an amazing view of London. After spending your day in the park, have a wander into Flash Walk, a pedestrian alleyway full of hidden treasures.
North London is also home to famous attractions, such as: Welcome Collection, Kings Cross Station and the British library. A few minutes walking from Kings Cross, you are going to find an unusual bookshop that you should have a look at. Word on Water, by Granary Square, is a floating bookshop with great titles, an Instagram famous dog called Star and occasional jazz performances.
You’ve probably heard about the famous warehouse parties in London and the North side of the river is a great place to get to know them better. Close to Finsbury Park, you will find nice options for a great night out. We recommend New River Studio for gigs, events and delicious pizza.
Places to eat in North London
Camden Market is the perfect to place to have lunch, dinner or just grab a snack. Our favourites are Oli Baba’s for halloumi fries (YES, CHEESE FRIES), VBurguer for delicious plant-based burgers and Cookies and Scream, a fully vegan and gluten free bakery. The best way to discover your favourite food in the market is to try as many as you can!
Breakfast Club, in Angel, is a great place for brunch and burger in very hipster surroundings. Still in Angel, there is a £8 all-you-can-eat veggie Indian restaurant called Indian Veg that will make all your food dreams come true.
If you are looking for something really authentic that shows London is home to many, many cultures, have a coffee and pastry at Angel Delicatessen. This cute family-run Italian cafe and restaurant offers delicious lasagnes and snacks. The best bit about it is the owner, a really friendly Italian guy who will explain everything about his cooking and culture.
Forks and Green has a great value brunch with traditional options like English breakfast and avocado on toast. Treat yourself to one of their smoothies together with your meal.
When walking to Hampstead Heath, you are going to notice an intriguing small Parisian style van. La Creperie has been based there since the 80s and serves amazing sweet and savoury crepes that you NEED to try.
Some more tips for North London: Ez & Moss, close to Highbury Fields, it’s a vegan and veggie brunch place that serves amazing food. Food Room, close to Highgate Tube station, is a cute designed place with affordable food. We recommend you order the vegetarian breakfast and go for a walk to Alexandra Palace! For coffee, go to Campbell & Syme around Finchley tube station and for pizza Sacro Cuore, in Crouch End.
Where to stay in North London
Hostel one Camden is located in the heart of Camden Town, close to Camden Market and the tube station. You can expect a free meal every night (yes, a free meal IN LONDON) where you can get to know the other guests before heading out for the night. The hostel is located above a traditional British pub, so you can expect happy hour deals as well.
At St Christopher Camden you will be really close to all the main attractions in Camden Town. After expending a day out exploring the neighbourhood, come back to Belushi’s, the hostel bar where you can meet other open-minded travellers and join the daily happy hours.
Who says you can’t stay in a Victorian House while visiting London AND still be on a budget? Palmers Lodge – Swiss Cottage is nestled in a stunning historical building where you can have a real Harry Potter vibe. They have a 24 hour reception, a Swiss Bar with a 5-hour Happy Hour and breakfast for £4.50.
Generator London is super close to Kings Cross Station and to many central London attractions. The hostel offers a lounge/cafe open 24/7 and a bar open until 2am. It’s described by travellers as ‘a great place to hang out and have a beer while meeting nice people from around the globe’.
Clink261 is centrally located hostel just 5 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross Tube and St. Pancras International Station. You can have breakfast for only £3 and cook your mean meals in their fully equipped kitchen. If you want to start your night out in London head to The Clash Bar at nearby Clink78 where there are DJ nights, live music, pool / table football and great drinks deals.
At Clink78 you can immerse yourself in London’s historic past and soak up the atmosphere at this former courthouse turned lively hostel in the heart of King’s Cross. You can choose to stay in a private room in a former prison cell, or in a dorm where you can meet other travellers. Breakfast is also available for only £3!
South London: the best area for live music venues, great art and endless cheese
If you are looking for a more off the beaten track experience in London, the South of the river will be your new hipster haven. Full of cute cafes and restaurants, community cinemas, cool venues and great food markets, South London is worth exploring when visiting the big smoke.
Brixton, the place where David Bowie was born, is the most known neighbourhood in South London. There, you can find an amazing sense of community where locals come together to enjoy Brixton’s famous venues, the vibrant cultural scene and many food and drink options.
While exploring South London, don’t forget to include Peckham, Camberwell, Deptford, Putney and Clapham. South of the river is full of hidden gems, that will give you a true taste about the art, culture and life in London.
What to do in South London
Let’s start our tour in Brixton where you can visit the David Bowie Memorial, a graffiti mural dedicated to the artist where fans leave personal messages, flowers and other items. Pop Brixton is also a place not to be missed! It’s a super cool community project and event venue where you can find cool shops, restaurants and some start-ups. If you are lucky to be in London at the right time, you can join the locals in some thrift shopping in a super cool vintage kilo sale that happens frequently.
If you are into books you should definitely visit Bookmongers, an independent bookshop full of great titles and beautiful memories of their beloved dog that used to hang out around there. Later on, catch a film on The Ritzy, one of the oldest cinemas in South London.
The Black Cultural Archives is an amazing place to learn about the history of the neighbourhood that has been home to African and Caribbean communities for the past 70 years.
To have a proper night out, we recommend Effra Social, a retro styled venue that hostels DJ nights, pub quizzes, a monthly book-lovers event called Riff Raff, and many other events. Also check out the Hope and Anchor, Prince Albert and Café Cairo.
One station away from Brixton, you’ll find Vauxhall City Farm, perfect to get away from the busy London vibe and just relax with some llamas (yes, you read it right!).
Peckham is still overlooked when it comes to places to explore in London, but we recommend you explore the great bars, restaurants and cultural events. The CLD Art Cafe, known as the Bussey Building, is creative space buzzing with activities such as music, theatre, comedy, films and art events. During the summer, you can watch a film in the rooftop and enjoy the views of London. If you love films, have a look into Peckhamplex – an independent multiplex cinema with super affordable tickets! Peckham Levels, a creative space the brings the community together with bars and cafes, live music and yoga, is also not to be missed.
South of the river you will find some well-known London attractions in the borough of Southwark, such as: London Bridge, Tate Modern, The Shard and Shakespeare’s Globe. The good news is that the Tate Modern’s main exhibitions are free, and you can also visit during the night every last Friday of the month. If you want to have a vintage London theatre experience, visit Shakespeare’s Globe – a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre demolished in 1644. You can buy tickets for only 5 pounds and take part in guided tours.
Would you imagine finding plenty of deer roaming free, just a 50 minute journey from Central London? Well, this is absolutely possible and Richmond Park is also a perfect place for a picnic during summer!
Some other places to add to your South London Explorer List: Battersea Power Station, an iconic building in South West London, now offers many restaurants, shops and cultural events. Horniman Museum and Gardens, in Forest Hill, house of taxidermy and natural history and a MASSIVE walrus with free entrance to the main exhibition. Sands Film Studio, in Rotherhithe, a small British film production company offers workshops and film screenings. Just next to it, have a pint at Mayflower, a 18th century pub by the river. Deptford Community Cinema for some off the beaten track screening and a perfect way to get to know the locals!
Places to eat in South London
Starting in Brixton, visit Brixton Village, a super multicultural place where you can find amazing international food. In Pop Brixton, you will also find many different options and, if you love cheese as much as we do, you HAVE TO check Alpes, a restaurant specialised in skiing holiday food, which means: a lot of grilled cheese. If you are more into vegan and community vibes, Cafe Van Gogh is a beautiful initiative that works with local charities and serves one of the best vegan menus in London. We specially recommend the Sunday roast!
You can find a Franco Manca Pizzeria in many places in London, but you should pay a visit to the one where everything started – at Brixton Market. The pizza is great and super affordable!
Bonnington Cafe is a co-operatively owned vegetarian and vegan restaurant, located in a peaceful square in the heart of Vauxhall. You can bring your own wine and get to know the locals. Don’t forget to book a table in advance as it gets really busy.
If you fancy a street food market head to Venn Street Market in Clapham Common. It’s open every Saturday from 10am to 4pm and you can expect to find plenty of interesting food to try.
Ah, we thought you would be happy to know that at Peckham Levels, the trendy place we mentioned before, you can get lunch during the week for a fiver!
Where to stay in South London
Safestay Elephant and Castle is located just five minutes from Elephant and Castle Tube Station, very easy to get to all of London’s main attractions. You will be super close to Southbank, a stunning place to watch the sunset during summer. The hostel serves a great breakfast for £4 and many activities like free walking tours and pub crawls.
During your visit to London, you are probably going to spend a big part of your time exploring the great pubs, but what if we tell you that you can also stay in a Pub? Pub Love goal is to save the British pub’s future and offer a super cool hostel for backpackers to meet. At Pub Love The Crown, Battersea you will be treated to an award-winning burger kitchen onsite and bar with special discounts for guests.
St. Christopher Greenwich is a great place to stay if you are looking to explore an incredible area that is now a UNESCO World Heritage. You will be very close to The Royal Observatory, Greenwich Park, the Cutty Sark and the Queen’s House and a 20 minutes away from zone 1. After expending the day out exploring, head back to the hostel party bar Belushi’s so you can meet other backpackers and party with them into the early hours.
St Christopher Inn – London Bridge is also a great option for your South London adventure. The hostel is within a 16th century building and it’s really close to London Bridge and Tate Modern. They have a bar with live bands on Fridays and you can also enjoy the parties hosted in nearby sister hostel St Cristopher’s Village.
West London: the best area to treat yourself to nice restaurants, boutique shops and world-famous carnival
Home to classy restaurants and cafes, beautiful art galleries, famous colourful doors and royal hidden gardens, Kensington and Chelsea might not sound like a paradise for backpackers on a budget. Despise its pricey reputation, West London is full of hidden gems and free attractions that are worth exploring.
Whether you want to spend the day thrift shopping in the famous Portobello Road Market, relaxing in beautiful parks, exploring world famous museums, or just finding that perfect Instagram spot in Nothing Hill, West London has it all!
What to do in West London
If you are lucky enough to catch a sunny day during your visit, make sure you visit Physic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in London. End your visit grabbing a bite in Tangerine Dream Cafe inside the garden! Holland Park is another lush green space in West London with performances during the summer. Don’t forget to check Kyoto Garden, located inside Holland Park, the place is full of bonsai trees, blossoms during spring and friendly peacocks.
If you face a rainy day in West London, don’t worry, the area if full of amazing museums and galleries for you to get lost in. Make sure you visit the Saatchi Gallery, a space dedicated to contemporary art showing artists from all over the world. There is always something interesting to see there and the entry is free!
Serpentine Gallery is formed by two contemporary art galleries in the heart of Kensington gardens. They host free exhibitions from international artists and architects and every summer they invite an architect to design a temporary Pavilion just in front of the gallery, super interesting to check it out.
If dinosaurs are more your thing, spend the day exploring the Natural History Museum. The entry is also free and sometimes they have interesting events, such as yoga in the morning when the museum is still empty and silent discos at night! Just next to it, you’re going to find the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. If you have the time, save one day to visit the three of them.
Gay is the word, is an independent bookshop specialising in LGBTQ+ titles. They have a great variety of books and posters, so make sure you explore.
Notting Hill is for sure the most well-known neighbourhood in West London, due to the 90’s romantic film that took place in one of the charming bookshops. Your first stop will be Portobello Road Market, an amazing market where you can find street food, clothes, furniture and all sorts of things you can imagine. It’s a bustling place that brings together tourists and locals to experience this place full of history which can be traced back to the 19th century. The market is open every day but the stalls vary according to the day of the week. The best day to visit is Saturday, but it’s also the busiest, so try to visit before 11:30am to avoid the crowds and get the best bargains! You can check all the information here.
After spending your day exploring the area, walk along the Thames and enjoy the stunning views from Chelsea Embankment.
When walking around Notting Hill, a pub covered in flowers will probably get your attention. This is The Churchill Arms, one of London’s most famous pubs. A curious fact about it is, that it was the first pub in England to serve Thai food, so make sure you try some together with your pint.
If you are visiting London at the end of August, you can join Notting Hill Carnival, one of London’s biggest street parties, that takes place in the neighbourhood over two days. The energy is amazing and Londoners from all over the city come to celebrate during the bank holiday.
And of course, walk around the streets of Notting Hill to find your favourite colourful door for that perfect Instagram post!
Places to eat in West London
Finding cheap food in West London can be a bit more challenging than other areas of the city, but we are here to help you conquer this area like a backpacker! A good place to start is, of course, Portobello Road Market. You are going to find a lot of street food options, from many different countries, all for a friendly price. If you are feeling like treating yourself, on the same road as the market, you are going to find BOOM Burger, a burger spot with a Caribbean influence, with prices starting from £10.
If you are looking for a place to have a delicious brunch in Notting Hill, head to Eggbreak, a hipster cafe focused on egg dishes that will look beautiful in your Instagram.
Portobello Garden Café is an Italian restaurant that serves, duh, traditional Italian dishes. The place has a great menu and is super cosy!
The Farm Girl is a cool place for brunch and you are going to find one in Chelsea and one in Notting Hill. We especially recommend their Blue Jack Tacos.
Wherever you are in London, Franco Manca is always a good option for an affordable traditional Italian pizza. You can have a tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza for £6.55 or a tomato, garlic and oregano for a fiver.
If you want to have a Sunday Roast but don’t want to spend much, The Ginger Pig will realise all your roast dreams. There you can buy, any day of the week, a roast lunch with sides for £6.50.
Where to stay in West London
What if we tell you, you can stay inside one of London’s most beautiful parks in a traditional Jacobean mansion with a private courtyard garden? Well, at Safestay London Kensington Holland Park you can have all this plus a bar, a pool room and a roof terrace. You can have breakfast for £5 and the tube station is just a short walk.
Astor Kensington is located a short walk from Notting Hill, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace and three underground lines, making it the perfect hub for your London adventure. They organise events every day for the guests, have a well-equipped kitchen and a lounge area where you can get to know other backpackers.
If you are planning to visit the museums by Exhibition Road, Astor Hyde Park is the perfect place for you. The hostel is located one minute from Hyde Park and surrounded by some of London’s greatest museums including the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert and Science Museum. They have a fully-equipped kitchen for you to cook your meals, daily activities organised for the guests and, as if it could get any better, breakfast for ONE POUND.
Hostel One Notting Hill is a really sociable hostel, so if you are travelling solo and want to meet fellow travellers, this is perfect for you. This hostel is located in the heart of Notting Hill, super close to Portobello Road Market, Hyde Park and The Kensington Place. They offer a free dinner every night (yep, you read it right), drinking games before heading for a night out and breakfast for £3.
Meininger London Hyde Park is located just in front of the world-famous Natural History Museum and a few minutes from the Science Museum and Hyde Park. They also have a bar where you can have a drink, buy snacks and get to know other open-minded backpackers.
St James Backpackers is all about bringing backpackers together, to share stories and have fun. That’s why they offer free breakfast AND dinner every day so you can spend some time with your new travel buddies. They also organise events such as karaoke, twister and PS4 tournaments and they have a massive patio garden where you can have a BBQ!
East London: the best area for vegan food, independent cafes and vintage shops
Thanks to Shoreditch, East London is known by backpackers from all over the world, who come to this neighbourhood to explore the delicious street food, super cool vintage markets, many cultural events and all the vibrancy and colours of Brick Lane.
While Shoreditch is now in almost every guide about what to do in London, East London is still full of hidden gems and super interesting things to discover. By exploring other neighbourhoods inside the borough of Tower Hamlets, you’ll have the chance to experience a more authentic (and cheaper!) side to East London. The borough of Hackney is a place you should include on your bucket list. Often missed by most tourists, Hackney is known as the most hipster part of the city and it’s full of amazing cafes, restaurants, cultural events and many creative Londoners.
Picture starting your day with a delicious brunch in a super Instagrammable cafe and then exploring art galleries and vintage shops during the day. Laze around in the park during the summer until it’s time for more food in one of the many vegan restaurants around you. Start your night watching a gig, enjoying a studio opening party with locals or just hopping from pub to pub.
What to do in East London
East London is so full of things to explore that you would need a few months to conquer all those cafes, clubs, bars and art galleries. But here are my suggestions for the best things to do, so you can enjoy a more authentic London.
White Chapel Gallery is a great place to appreciate the artwork of contemporary artists as well as exhibitions that gather the local community. On Thursdays and Fridays the gallery is open until 9pm, which is ideal if you want to enjoy some art before heading on a night out in one of the many nearby pubs. Make sure you don’t miss the Victoria and Albert Childhood Museum, where you can see the history of toys and childhood in the UK. A super cute experience (for free)!
In Shoreditch, visit Rough Trade Records, an independent record label guaranteed to make all music lovers go crazy. Buy some amazing vintage clothes in the Vintage Market and head to the Nomadic community garden, a creative green space created to bring the community together. Entrance is free and you can bring your own drinks and food.
For perfect Instagram photos of London views, visit Sky Garden on the 43rd floor of the Walkie Talkie building. The entrance is free, but you have to book in advance on their website.
For some serious nature wanderlust head to Columbia Road Flower Market, open every Sunday from 8 am -3pm. The soul of this place is amazing, and you can get a chance to see how locals enjoy their Sundays. Victoria Park is just 20 minutes’ walk from the market and it’s the perfect place to rent a bike and explore the area or just enjoy a picnic with your new travel buddies.
In Hackney Wick, a former industrial area, you are going to find plenty of hipster cafes, cool bars and amazing street art. Spend an afternoon exploring the streets, enjoying the sun by the canal or check out a free exhibition, gallery opening, film screening and whatever you find just walking around. Our favourite spots are Crate, for craft beer and pizza, White Post Cafe, a cafe/workspace that hosts live bands and DJS at night, and Grow Hackney, a community café/bar with free jazz sessions every Wednesday. The possibilities are endless. Our advice is: just go and explore and you will end up finding something great to do.
In Hackney, don’t miss Paper Dress Vintage, a vintage shop with super interesting gigs and events and Hackney City Farm, a place to get away from the busy city life and spend the day feeding cute animals.
For an alternative night out, I recommend Bethnal Green Workmen Club, The Old Blue Last and Moth Club. The three places host really interesting events as well as parties! If you are into films, check Rio Cinema, an independent Art Deco cinema opened in 1915.
Lastly, save one afternoon to explore Stoke Newington, an area full of cute cafes, great restaurants and hidden little treasures like Lucky Seven, a record and book shop with incredible bargains. After buying all the books you can find, head to The Jolly Butchers for craft beer and friendly locals!
Places to eat in East London
There are SO MANY amazing places to eat in East London that you might feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry, we are going to tell all the places you shouldn’t miss while visiting this area!
For brunch, head to Hash E8, E2 &Moss, Black Cat, The Good Egg and Pavilion Cafe. If you are looking for the perfect food to deal with your hangover, then Temple of Seitan, a vegan fast food shop, is where you should head to.
Every Londoner loves a food market. It brings together the best parts of the city: the sense of community, the many cultures and languages and of course: amazing food for you to try! In Broadway Market, you are going to find delicious options for any kind of food you are craving. If you are lucky to catch the sun when visiting London, London Fields is just around the corner and it is the perfect place to bring your take away for and mingle with the locals.
In Shoreditch, there is a market specialised in vegan food with many options, such as: fish and chips, cakes, Brazilian food, etc. If you are more into “real” burgers, you are going to find a food market full of stalls and plenty of options. As you are in Shoreditch, we would recommend you try a very interesting combination: Korean and Italian food together creating a vegan dream. You should DEFINITELEY try Vegan Yes!
Where to stay in East London
If you want to be close to all the great bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes and museums of East London, Park Villa is the place for you. Located in the heart of the old East End of London, this boutique hostel is nestled in an old Georgian house, with all the modern facilities for you to enjoy your stay. They serve breakfast for only 3 pounds and have a kitchenette for you to cook your meals.
At Wombats city hostel you can expect a huge bar, a cosy hangout area and a welcome drink to start your London adventure. You will be an easy walk about from Shoreditch and only minutes away from sights such as the Tower Bridge and The Tower of London.
St Christopher’s Inn – Liverpool Street it’s surrounded by skyscrapers with The Gherkin on your doorstep and just 5 minutes’ walk from London Liverpool Street Station. You can start your day having breakfast in a traditional British pub, just below the hostel, for £4 and explore everything East London has to offer.
Feeling ready for your great British adventure? Whether you are in Central, North, South, West or East London, we know you’ll find plenty of amazing things to do! Check our full list of hostels in London to choose the perfect hub for your trip.
Have you visited any of the neighbourhoods we recommend here? Or maybe you have great tips on what to do in London that other backpackers should know? Let us know in the comments!