The Bethnal Green Area Guide: A Historical Overview and Top Attractions in the District

Famous for the medieval Tudor Ballad, the beggar’s daughter of Bednall Greene, Bethnal Green is a district in East London, about six minutes west of Shoreditch and 3.3 miles north of Charing Cross.

The district spans two boroughs, the Tower Hamlets to the south and the London borough of Hackney to the north. Despite being laidback, Bethnal Green isn’t a dull, sleepy district. It has a bit of everything, from historic to urban attractions. Check out a little more about Bethnal Green and some of its must-visit spots.

The History of Bethnal Green

Bethnal Green began as a settlement around the green in East London but rapidly grew into a wider rural area that was soon considered a hamlet of the Stepney Parish, Middlesex. Like most districts within the region, Bethnal Green also experienced a significant population surge due to London’s expansion in the 18th century. It was officially recognized as a metropolitan borough in the 19th century.

During this time, agriculture was the key driver of the district’s economy, but as industrialization began, residents began to offer their services to businesses and other industries in the nearby cities. By the beginning of the 20th century, Bethnal Green was considered one of the poorest in East London but is today one of the most acclaimed neighborhoods in the London Boroughs of Hackney and the Tower Hamlets.

Attractions in Bethnal Green

Bethnal Green is a small district with a surprisingly long string of attractions to explore. Here are some of the top:

Bethnal Green Road

Bethnal Green Road is where to go if you want a taste of old and new east London. Running east from Shoreditch High Street, the street is lined with a mixture of modern coffee shops, eateries, and cocktail pubs to rustic, arch brewery taprooms and even a museum.

Start your day at E Pellicci, one of the oldest and most famous cafes in East London, for an authentic cafe experience. Visit the Young V&A Museum of Childhood at the eastern end of the road for free and explore collections of childhood toys from different eras, such as dainty dollhouses from the Victorian era.

Stop by G Kelly Pie and Mash, an over 75-year old pie and mash shop, for a taste of Bethnal Green’s most famous and delicious pie and mash soup, and be sure to check out the Boxcar Brewery one of the best taprooms in the area.

The Working Men’s Club, a popular nightspot since 1887, is also a must-visit hotspot on Bethnal Green Road. Simply put, a day isn’t enough to explore all the fantastic old school and trendy attractions on Bethnal Road.

Paradise Gardens

Paradise Gardens is a historic grade II garden set at the junction of Cambridge Heath and Roman Roads. It’s a small beautiful patch of green with winding paths that lead to a row of 18th and 19th-century terraced houses known as Paradise Row. One of these houses belonged to Daniel Mendoza, the first Jewish prizefighter ever to become a champion and one of England’s legendary heavyweight boxing champions.

Other attractions to check out in Bethnal Green near Shoreditch include:

  • Stairway to Heaven memorial
  • The Columbia Road Flower Market
  • York Hall Leisure Centre
  • Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
  • Alcotraz Penitentiary
  • Bethnal Green Gardens

Discover Bethnal Green

For every trendy coffee shop that pops up in Bethnal Green, there’s always a traditional, brick-covered façade alternative nearby, meaning plenty of entertainment options for locals and tourists alike. An artistic community is fast coming up along its border with Shoreditch, so be sure to check out the new pop-up galleries too. Simply put, Bethnal Green is a small town with an equal mix of authentic and modern vibes that’s worth exploring on your visit to Shoreditch.