If you’re coming to London to practise your English, the best way to get to grips with the language is to live it. And where better than the capital of the UK? There are many great neighbourhoods in London and each one offers a different taste of the language and culture. Today we’re focusing on Shoreditch, one of the city’s most-loved, and most vibrant, corners.
What: Shoreditch, a little slice of East London, just north east of the City and its sky-high glassy towers, is the gateway to some of London’s trendiest streets for art, music, fashion, clubbing and drinking.
Where: To the east of the city center – it begins around a mile and a half east of Covent Garden. The triangle between Curtain Road, Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road is the main zone
Who: Fashion and media types (lots of the city’s brightest technology start-ups and creative media are based here); suited men from the City; models and bloggers taking pictures; everyone who wants to go out on a Friday or Saturday night.
Famous sons and daughters: Jack the Ripper (visit the pub called The Ten Bells on Commercial Street for a sense of Victorian murder), Shakespeare, The Libertines (who were based in Whitechapel, Jack the Ripper’s old home) Tracey Emin (she lives just round the corner from Old Spitalfields Market) and artists Gilbert and George (neighbours of Tracy Emin on Folgate Street).
Did you know?
Shoreditch is also the location of the first official theatre in London; on Holywell Lane. Here they are excavating the site, which was simply known as The Theatre. This site saw some of Shakespeare’s first plays produced and is sometimes referred to as ‘Shakespeare’s Theatre’.
The Theatre had to be built in 1576 outside the City walls, because all entertainment and ‘vice’ industries were banned from the City confines. Even now Shoreditch has retained its air of the alternative.
If Shoreditch is a body of streets, then Brick Lane is its spine and central nervous system. On Sunday you’ll find Sunday Upmarket which takes place across the whole Truman Brewery – a former site for making beer which can be seen easily because of its large brick chimney which reaches into the sky.
The market also spills onto Brick Lane and the other warehouses feeding onto the main street. Great buys are to be had, as well as some amazing food from the stalls that are centred around the bottom end of the Truman Brewery carpark complex, just behind Café 1001.
Shoreditch is also known for its high proportion of ‘hipsters’. In need of an introduction?
This is the place to go for spotting hipsters: facial hair, anchor tattoos, fixed gear bikes and careers in ‘media/music/freelance creative’ worlds are the stereotypes this song affectionately pokes fun at. Still, the hipsters have been very important in making Shoreditch a real going out destination. Our top three clubs to visit:
Supercool music that brings together the best in urban and electronic, from up and coming electronic groups soon to hit the big time, to massive dubstep DJs and international names. The space is nice too, with a more sedate bar on the top floor and then the slightly winding club/dancefloor downstairs.
2. Plastic People
Plastic People is a tiny space on Curtain Road (just off Old Street), but it was home to FWD>>, the definitive dubstep clubnight which introduced and showcased this London sound to the city. Acts like Skream (now one of the world’s biggest dubstep DJs) were made famous here, and it’s still worth a night out.
Just a little up the road from Plastic People, crossing Rivington Street, which joins Curtain Road to Shoreditch High Street, you’ll find Cargo. A huge bar/club, with two dancefloor areas and a great outdoor terrace that is perfect for the summer – come in the day for bbqs and to watch the football (their World Cup coverage will be unmissable); or at night for an varied range of music that travels the world but keeps it trendy. Hip-hop, cumbia, soul, reggae and techno.
Top 5 Shops in Shoreditch
A vintage clothes shop on Cheshire Street, just off Brick Lane. There are other branches in Dalston and central London, but this huge warehouse is the original, and still the best. The pub opposite is also great for roasts and winter drinking.
Less a shop and more an event – but still the best place to while away hours and hours on a lazy Sunday. You’ll find clothes, food, accessories, household gifts and jewellery in abundance.
Rough Trade Records
Just off Brick Lane and opposite the Truman Brewery, this is one of the best record shops in London, still proudly independent and with great staff who love their music.
Brick Lane Beigel Shop
So you can only really buy bagels here, but we think they are the best. This place is open all hours of the day and night, the salt beef beigel must be tried to be believed. Then you’ll be coming back every day for lunch.
Another vintage clothing institution on the Brick Lane main street, with dedicated mens and womens sections and loads to choose from.
Essential Shoreditch knowledge:
Tube – Old Street or Liverpool Street are the closest; it’s only 5-10 minutes’ walk from there.
Buses – Number 8 and 55 from the centre of the city pass through Shoreditch’s main drag. Also 149, 48, 243 go north to south, over London or Waterloo Bridges.
Overground – The very slick London Overground is the best way to navigate this part of the city: it’s clean and you can take your bike on it! Shoreditch High Street, Hoxton and Haggerston are the stops that will land you in the heart of Shoreditch. See www.tfl.gov.uk for more information.
Get a bike – you won’t want to get around by public transport much, and by foot can be a bit slow, if you’re hiking all the way up to Dalston (north on Kingsland Road).
Become a coffee addict – Shoreditch has become a haven for caffeine addicts; Nude Espresso (on Hanbury Street) and Allpress Coffee (Redchurch Street) are two examples of excellent coffee shops.
Shop vintage – Shoreditch is full of boutiques too but most fun can be had by mixing up the old and the new; there are lots of new designers making great clothes out of old materials, plus vintage spots that have some real treasures.
A car – are you insane? You’re on the edge of the congestion charge and it’s a nightmare to drive here. Don’t do it.
An early night – love your 9pm bedtimes? Don’t hang out in Shoreditch. It’s one of the few parts of the city that can still party until the morning.
Your native accent – moving to Shoreditch does something magical to people’s voices: they seem to blend together into one slightly nasal, a little dissonant, half-Mockney twang. Cultivate this and you’ll be fine. Don’t pronounce any of your ‘t’s.