Shopping on London’s East Side

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One of the challenges of visiting any city is getting outside the tourism-circuit and seeing how people actually live in the city. This is also the challenge when someone comes from out of town to visit – you want to show them the other, tourist-free sections of the city.

So here’s my advice for you – the London Tourist Who Wants to Go Shopping. When you come to London, a lot of people will tell you to head straight for Oxford Street in the heart of central London.

But you should ignore the people who tell you this!

Oxford Street is full of chain stores on an unimaginable scale. Want to see a Primark that’s as a big as a city block? A Top Shop so full of teenagers you have to queue to get on the escalators that take you from floor to floor?

Instead, head to the east end of London to an area called ShoreDitch. A respite from tourists and chains, and the home of the trendy and young, this is the place for shopping and culture.

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One of the quirks of the area is its mix of grunge, poor, and up-and-coming. Here you will find interesting coffee shops, quirky restaurants, and the remnants of industrialisation and derelict shop fronts.
One of the quirks of the area is its mix of grunge, poor, and up-and-coming. Here you will find interesting coffee shops, quirky restaurants, and the remnants of industrialisation and derelict shop fronts.

A cool side-effect of this is the quantity of graffiti you can find – keep one eye on the skyline and one eye on the walls of alleys and you’re sure to be in for a nice surprise.
Another plus is the sheer quantity of amazing vintage clothing stores that you can come across. I would recommend starting at Blitz Vintage Department store, and then wending your way down different side streets. In  a day, I’ve managed to hit 6 different vintage stores, along with a couple pop-up vintage markets.

Blitz is a great place to start your London shoppings, and offers a warehouse with two stories of vintage clothes (head to the basement for the real bargains). Do keep an eye out for fake-non-vintage stuff, though. Although I did manage to find some beautiful dresses and skirts. Definitely worth a look!

The vintage shops in Shoreditch do vary quite significantly – from tiny pop-ups run by individuals, to warehouses like Blitz, to high-end vintage designer (Think £220 for a beaded 1950s Chanel ball gown).
Where are your favorite shops to go to in London?

Getting there and away
Liverpool Street Station is a good option, with connections to the Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines. Shoreditch High Street station is also close by, but only connects to the London Overground network.
From either station follow the signs towards Old Spitalfields Market. Be sure to stop at a cash machine – most small shops won’t accept card.

Emma Wells
After living in America and New Zealand, Emma Wells moved to London where she began to cover life, work and travel in and around London on her blog On London Time. She shares advice for newcomers, travelers, and visitors alike. Beyond London, she writes about traveling on the cheap across Europe and around the world as well as food, books and tea.
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