London, Monica Byers, See — October 20, 2011 at 11:37 pm



Hoxton Square (photo by Monica Byers)



















LONDON – When you ask visitors what they’ve done or they’re planning to do in London….well, actually, why even ask?  The answers are completely predictable:  Buckingham (aka Bucking-HAM if you’re American) Palace, double decker bus tour, Tower of London, visit to “a pub” (apparently any will do), visit to Oxford Street.   And they’re all good things to do.  Except for Oxford Street, which is quite overrated.  One part of London I really love, though, is not quite picture postcard but is totally fab if you’re young, or even if you’re older but have yet to enter the phase of your life where you’ve become boring.  It’s one of the neighborhoods where I used to live – the Shoreditch/Hoxton area.

Where is it?  It’s just north of the City of London (the square mile traditional financial district), in an area that is significantly less overrun with tourists than the more famous West End.  The nearest Tubes are Old Street (Northern Line), Liverpool Street (Central, Hammersmith, Circle and Metropolitan Lines) and the Shoreditch High Street Overground Station.  If you’re like me, though, the Tube makes you a little bit grumpy (It’s bloody hot down there! It doesn’t run all night!), which makes buses and taxis the more attractive options – and both are plentiful in this area.

Would I actually want to stay in this neighborhood?  Possibly – I generally do, but if you plan to spend more of your time in the West End then maybe not.  If you’re game, my favorite hotel in this area is the Hoxton Hotel on Great Eastern Street.  Funky and inexpensive rooms, free (though small) breakfast brought to your door, free WiFi (yay!), tres cool bar and good restaurant.  Even if you don’t stay in the hotel, the bar is definitely popping into for a drink.  If you do stay, book early – this popular hotel fills up quickly.   A more expensive (and possibly cooler) option is Boundary (which houses the lovely Albion café) while another reasonably priced and better business hotel option is Crowne Plaza Shoreditch.  There is also Andaz, located not even a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street Station.

Where can I eat?  I wouldn’t call this neighborhood a foodie’s paradise but there are some good choices, including: Great Eastern Dining Room (great Asian fusion food), Lena (lovely Italian cuisine in a nouveau setting), The Diner (American-style diner – try the hard shakes), The Breakfast Club (all meal occasions despite the name), Beach Blanket Babylon Shoreditch (good food, eclectic bar scene), and Les Trois Garcons (a cool little French place, though I personally think the vibe outshines the food).  Or, just go to Hoxton Square where you’ll be surrounded by options.

More importantly, where can I drink?  Ahhh….that’s the best part of this area.  Two ways to categorize this:

  1.  Streets to pub crawl:  Great Eastern Street, Curtain Road and Shoreditch High Street are the main drags and there is no shortage of options on these.  But don’t neglect the little side streets and alleys – they are littered with fine watering holes off the beaten path.
  2. Bars of note aka my personal favesThe Light, Charlie Wright’s International (a reasonably well-known jazz hub disguised as a dive pub), the aforementioned bar at the Hoxton Hotel, The Elbow Room (a most excellent pool hall with a bar) and Zigfrid von Underbelly (a slightly offbeat joint in Hoxton Square where I once met a cute young Bolognese fellow – but that’s a story for a different time).

What else is around here?  From this area, you won’t be too far from the Monument (near the spot of the Great Fire of London), St. Paul’s Cathedral, Museum of London (which is free and quite good) and the Tate Modern.   Spitalfields Market, in addition to food/beverage establishments, has some interesting shopping in and near it.  Leadenhall Market is not far and worth a look – food, pubs and shops but the most interesting feature is the architecture (right out of Harry Potter – a few scenes from HP have actually been filmed there).  Finally, from this area you are within a 30 minute walk or a short bus journey to my very favorite part of London – Borough Market.

For more from Monica, follow her on Twitter at @MonicaJuniel.

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Zigfrid von Underbelly – Hoxton Square


St. Paul’s Cathedral

Charlie Wright’s – Pitfield Street


Red Dog Saloon, aka “Restaurant with an Identity Crisis” – Hoxton Square




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