Shoreditch, the liveliest part of London’s East End, is a hub of creativity and alternative culture. It’s a great part of the capital to explore and luckily, compared to much of the rest of London anyway, there are a lot of free things to do in Shoreditch.
The area has earned itself the reputation of being the ‘hipster’ capital of London, and in Shoreditch you’ll find a vibrant street art scene meaning that a simple stroll around turns into an experience in itself. There are markets and free museums to visit while you are in Shoreditch, alongside galleries and plenty of parks, too.
Put your wallet away, because to help you to plan your trip to this artistic, happening part of London, here are 21 fun (and free) things to do in Shoreditch.
- 1 Explore the Street Art
- 2 East End Graffiti and Street Art Tours
- 3 Visit the Geffrye Museum
- 4 Browse through Antique Shops (Just Don’t Buy Anything!)
- 5 Brick Lane Market
- 6 Brick Lane Gallery
- 7 Vintage Markets
- 8 Columbia Road Flower Market
- 9 Hoxton Street Market
- 10 Hackney Museum
- 11 Meet the Animals at Hackney City Farm
- 12 Enjoy Greenery at Haggerston Park
- 13 Uncover the Hidden History Behind Altab Ali Park
- 14 Find Fashion at Petticoat Lane Market
- 15 Box Park
- 16 Discover the Roman Ruins of Shoreditch
- 17 Old Spitalfields Market
- 18 Spitalfields Houses
- 19 Rivington Place
- 20 V & A Museum of Childhood
- 21 Shoreditch Park
Explore the Street Art
Shoreditch is a hive of artistic activity and you’ll see this reflected on the very walls of the borough itself. Walking through Shoreditch, you’ll find art on every corner, plastered across buildings and painted across fences.
It’s not just graffiti either, as some of the world’s top artists make an appearance here to paint murals, including famous works by Banksy, one of which can be found on Rivington Street. Head to Great Eastern Street to find two decommissioned rail carriages transplanted onto a rooftop and spray painted with art, or walk to Shoreditch High Street to look for sculpted faces left on the walls by an artist.
There’s a lot out there, and the best way to see it all is to simply wander through the streets of Shoreditch.
East End Graffiti and Street Art Tours
Of course, if you’d rather be guided around in search of the best street art in Shoreditch, then don’t fear, because there’s a free walking tour that does exactly that. This pay-what-you-feel tour takes you not only through Shoreditch but through much of the rest of London’s East End too, as you hunt out hidden masterpieces in the care of a local enthusiast.
You won’t miss those famous Banksy murals and, along the way, you’ll be given an intimate look at just how the streets of Shoreditch became the creative, artistic canvas they are today. The tour lasts around two and a half hours and, at the end of it, if you enjoyed yourself you can give a tip to your guide, but there’s no obligation, making this one of the best free things to do in Shoreditch.
Visit the Geffrye Museum
Found on Kingsland Road, the Geffrye Museum is one of Shoreditch’s hidden historical gems. It’s not particularly well known, particularly given the vast number of infinitely more famous museums to be found in London, but it will give you an unexpected insight into London life from the 1600s through to the present.
The best thing is it’s free to enter, meaning there’s really nothing to lose by swinging by the Geffyre Museum. It’s housed in a heritage listed building dating back to the 18th century, and inside you’ll find a mixture of displays and exhibits that will take you on a journey that demonstrates the evolution of simple home living through the centuries.
Browse through Antique Shops (Just Don’t Buy Anything!)
Shoreditch has an unusually high number of antique shops, representing the rich cultural history of the borough in the vast number of antiques collected across the district. With the ever-evolving hipster scene taking styles back to bygone eras, antique shops have a seen a resurgence too, as people look for quirky and interesting items to buy.
Browsing through old memorabilia and classics is a great way to spend some time in Shoreditch, and as long as you don’t actually buy anything, then it’s totally free too.
Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane Market is one of the best markets to visit in Shoreditch. Located along Brick Lane, a place famous for its excellent curries and multicultural nature, the market can trace its origins far back to the 17th century.
Ever since it humbly began as a small farmers’ market, it’s grown and diversified and is now one of the most interesting markets in London. There are shops and restaurants and cafes and bars here through the week, but on Sunday you will find street stalls and pop-up stands all over the market place. Even if you aren’t looking to buy anything, it’s a great place to simply wander around, soaking up the atmosphere.
Brick Lane Gallery
Brick Lane Gallery is an art space for contemporary artists to showcase their best work. It’s an exciting place to visit, and you’ll frequently find the gallery hosting excellent exhibitions displaying up-and-coming artists from across the world.
The exhibitions change constantly, so check which events are going on beforehand, but many will be free to enter.
The vintage markets are found in the Old Truman Brewery, a part of the wider Brick Lane Market, and they are fantastic places to browse through old retro clothing and vintage wares. The vintage markets attract sellers from across London and are open every day of the week.
It’s great fun looking through and trying on some of the old fashioned costumes, some dating back a century, while the vast collection of retro gear is unbeatable.
Columbia Road Flower Market
The Columbia Road Flower Market is held every Sunday, just off Hackney Road. Columbia Road is a small street, but it becomes absolutely packed with tourists and locals who descend here to soak up the lively atmosphere and admire the market stalls overflowing with colourful flowers.
You’ll find street musicians, boutique shops, great little cafes and food vendors too alongside the masses of flower sellers, making this a great place to spend a Sunday morning.
Hoxton Street Market
Shoreditch is the place in London to visit if you enjoy a good market, and another great one to explore is Hoxton Street Market. This market dates back to the late 17th century, and unlike many of London’s markets which have in recent years grown into more hipster-minded establishments, Hoxton Street Market has stayed true to its humble beginnings and offers you an authentic look at East End life.
Here you’ll find clothing stalls, bakers, fruit and veg stands, second-hand sellers and much more lining Hoxton Street every Saturday.
The Hackney District is an integral part of the wider Borough of Shoreditch, and at the local museum you can learn more about the area’s intriguing history.
The Hackney Museum is completely free to enter, and with Hackney being one of the most multicultural parts of London, you’ll be taken on a journey far back to the medieval era, as you discover the many different people from across the world that have emigrated here.
It’s a small museum, but it offers a fascinating insight into the cultural makeup of Shoreditch.
Meet the Animals at Hackney City Farm
You might be surprised to find a farm in the middle of London, but actually, Shoreditch is home to several of these City Farms, that offer a quick escape into the countryside in the heart of the concrete jungle.
One of the best to visit is Hackney City Farm, not only because it’s free – which is always a bonus of course – but because you can find a wonderful array of friendly farmyard animals in a setting that aims to educate both children and adults alike on the virtues of farming.
Enjoy Greenery at Haggerston Park
You’ll find Haggerston Park right next to Hackney City Farm, so once you’ve met all the farmyard animals, head into the park to enjoy the peace of this wonderful green space.
This is a real escape from the city, as the large park is home not only to playing fields and football pitches but to a nature reserve too.
Uncover the Hidden History Behind Altab Ali Park
Another great park to visit on the edge of Shoreditch is Altab Ali Park, part of Whitechapel, which is where the chapel that gives the area its name once stood. It’s a nice open area, but the story behind its name is perhaps more interesting to discover when you visit.
Until 1998 the park was known as St Mary’s Park, but the local council decided to rename the space in honour of a local citizen of Bangladeshi origin who was murdered in a racist attack here in the 1970s. Wandering through Shoreditch, you’ll realise that things have changed a lot since then and the area is now a haven of diversity, but a visit here will remind you that it wasn’t always this way.
Find Fashion at Petticoat Lane Market
Petticoat Lane Market has long been a hotbed for fashionistas looking to sell their latest styles. The market dates back to the 17th century, when newly arrived Huguenot refugees from France began to sell petticoats to Londoners here.
The market has remained a clothing market since, and you can find bargain clothing stalls alongside trendy, independent designers and a vast array of other stands and shops too.
Box Park is one of Shoreditch’s newest market and retail areas, but it well and truly conforms to both the borough’s historic legacy of marketplaces and the alternative hipster scene. Box Park only opened in 2011 but has already become incredibly popular. It’s a pop-up market but is really much more permanent than that suggests, because the shops and market stalls are all found within recycled shipping containers.
It’s a great concept. At Box Park, you’ll find everything from cafes and bars to independent shops and retailers to peruse.
Discover the Roman Ruins of Shoreditch
Despite its modern outlook, Shoreditch can still trace its origins back to the Roman days, when this was the edge of the City of London.
Although little remains today, you can find some sections of preserved Roman walls on Noble Street, just a short walk from Shoreditch by the Museum of London. In Shoreditch itself, you can trace the outline of the Walbrook River along Curtain Road, which was the boundary of Roman London.
Old Spitalfields Market
Yet another fantastic Shoreditch marketplace to visit is the Old Spitalfields Market. It’s hundreds of years old and has long been serving the East End community with local produce, handicrafts and excellent food.
Any day of the week it’s a busy affair and a great place to soak up the Shoreditch atmosphere.
In the Spitalfields area, head to historic Fournier Street for a historic walk along a historic lane. The street is famed for the large number of 18th century buildings and houses that are still found here.
The Spitalfields Houses, as they’ve become known, are a great collection of colourful Georgian architecture to admire.
In the heart of Shoreditch, Rivington Place is a public gallery that offers the chance to explore an international array of work by visual artists, including photojournalists and photographers.
It’s a unique space, and it’s totally free to visit the exhibitions.
V & A Museum of Childhood
Although this is technically Bethnal Green, a distinct area next to Shoreditch, the two areas overlap and it’s worth a visit to the excellent V & A Museum of Childhood.
This is for kids and adults, and you can take a trip through childhood and see how different generations grew up in London.
Found in the north of the borough before you reach the canal, Shoreditch Park is a great place to escape city life.
This large green area is perfect for walking or exercising, and you’ll find the open area and the fresh air a great relief from the urban confines of London. Bring a picnic, bring some friends and relax on the green grass in the summertime, or perhaps walk through briskly in the chill of winter to stay warm!
As London experts, we know a thing or two about the hip and creative area of Shoreditch. While you’re in the area, check out Premium Tours’ great range of London tours.