by Sarah Starrs
Hello, gorgeous! Welcome to East London. Today we’re going to explore the areas around Shoreditch and Spitalfields. These are the perfect stomping grounds for any heroine with creative ambitions. For years the low housing costs (by London standards, anyway) made it a haven for artists and writers. Shakespeare even lodged in nearby Bishopsgate and more recently, Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin made the area their home. Although it’s gotten more expensive as it’s become trendier, it’s still a colourful oasis full of inspiration for any babe who’s looking to live her own adventure.
Let’s head out on a Sunday. To begin, meet me at the corner of Columbia and Hackney Roads. This is within easy walking distance of Hoxton overground station or there are a number of buses that service the area (Journey Planner is always your friend).
> Columbia Road Flower Market.
A weekly pilgrimage to the flower market is routine for many East Londoners. For a few blocks each Sunday, Columbia Road is bursting with stalls of technicoloured blooms and the air is full of the auctioneer-like cries of the flower sellers hocking their wares.
> Cuddle the cutest creatures at Hackney City Farm.
If you find the hustle and bustle of London overwhelming, take solace in this opportunity to enjoy a slice of country life right in the city.
> Flip through pages at Artwords.
This book shop is a mecca of gorgeous coffee table books, independent magazines, and even a few books by locals, all centred on the themes of visual arts and culture.
> Stroll along Brick Lane.
On Sundays, this iconic road is bursting with market stalls selling everything from handmade crafts and vintage clothing to discount beauty products and baked goods. If you’re feeling peckish, pop into one of the famous bagel shops. Locals are vehemently loyal to one or the other (Team White or Team Yellow). I’m in the former camp, but take your pick.
> Soak in the street art.
Famous street artists from around the world flock to Shoreditch and Spitalfields to create their masterpieces; it’s a literal urban gallery. If you know where to look, you’ll even find a couple of Banksy’s early pieces. To get the most of this experience, consider going on one of the Shoreditch Street Art Tours.
> Revel in artistic genius at the Whitechapel Gallery.
Tucked away at the end of Brick Lane next to Aldgate East tube station, this free gallery showcases a rotating collection of contemporary art from around the world.
> Sip cocktails at The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.
I can think of no more heroinesque way to end the day then with drinks in a secret, underground bar. Step inside the Spitalfields location of The Breakfast Club and tell them you’re there to see the mayor. You’ll be ushered through the secret entrance (inside a refrigerator!) and downstairs to ‘secret’ speakeasy reminiscent of a Twin Peaks cabin, complete with moose heads, disco balls, and funky retro wallpaper. Enjoy!
> Xandra recommends: The Expat Diaries: On Saying Yes
> Fit for a Heroine: Weekly travel guides by fabulous guests. Going somewhere? Request a location in the comments.