Taking in a new city is all the more fun - and eco friendly - on wheels. We took to the saddle and biked around East London.
London is pretty serious about cycling. In the last ten years alone, the number of people cycling to work has more than doubled and the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has committed to spend an average of £169 million per year on cycling.
It’s plain to see as soon as you arrive - people zoom in and out of traffic on their way to work and tourists make the most of the Santander Bikes. Of course, there’s no denying that there are plenty of picturesque routes to take. East London - which encompasses popular areas such as Shoreditch, Hoxton and Liverpool Street - is a hotbed for cyclists who are keen to amble along the cobbled streets at a slow pace, with their ingredients for dinner happily jolting in the front baskets. If you’re looking to cycle in London, this side of the city is certainly a good place to go to.
Good To Know
Now, even though I just painted a rather pleasant picture of biking around the East, it goes without saying that cycling in London is not for the faint hearted. The traffic is intense at all hours of the day and there’s little patience for those who don’t ride with complete confidence. If you don’t want to be scarred for life by the experience, avoid rush hour altogether (and in London that means the hours between 7 and 10 am and 5 and 7 pm). Cycling on the left is an absolute must and always, always remember to wear a helmet.
Explore your adventurous side and head out on your own adventure with our tailor-made guide to cycling the sights of the city centre
Distance: Approximately 10.4 Miles
- Start the day on Shoreditch High Street, which has a wealth of cafes and restaurants you can dip into for a hearty or healthy breakfast. From there, you can cycle up Kingsland Road to Shoreditch Park, where you can spend some time relaxing on the grass or attempting to scale the climbing wall.
- Once you’ve had enough climbing for the day, exit the park onto Bridport Place and make your way to King’s Cross St Pancras. Here, you can stop in the newly redeveloped Granary Square and have a walk around the various independent shops before stopping for drink at one of the pavement bars that overlooks the water feature.
- This marks a good spot to get on the Regents Canal Towpath - a pretty and quiet canal side path. Cross over the bridge and head back towards east, cycling all the way to Broadway Market, which is open on saturdays and transports you to an area of homemade cakes and bakes, street food and organic beauty products.
- Cycle past Hackney City Farm, where you can drop in to learn about the environment, locally grown produce and keeping animals in the heart of the city.
- If you’re around on a Sunday, pop down to Columbia Road, where the world-famous wholesale flower market will be in full bloom.
- After that, you can cross back over Kingsland Road and drop down onto Old Street - famous for being the hub of London’s tech industry.
- Finish the day at the Barbican Centre, where you can catch a play, art exhibition, dance recital or concert, or simply soak up the atmosphere in the courtyard.
Tours and Shops
Founded in 2002, Tokyobike is an independent cycle shop that originally started in Tokyo and now has a shop in Shoreditch. The bikes here are works of art: each one is meticulously crafted and finished in a range of stunning colours and the great news is, you can hire one, along with a helmet, lights and a lock, for just £18 a day. The focus is on comfort over speed, here, so riding around on one of these will be a joy.
As for tours, the best one in East London is the Alternative London Bike Tour. This four hour tour takes in East London’s biggest hits, including much of its famous street art and peaceful canals. See if you can spot a Banksy and enjoy a drink at a local pub on this relaxed and easy-paced adventure.
Apps, Sites and Social Media
Download Santander Cycles App if you plan to use the London hire bike system. This will help you find your nearest parking spot and allow you to pay for use online rather than when you pick up.
For a decent cycle route, look no further than the Cycle Map app - simply select London as your city and type in your desired destination. It will calculate a variety of routes for you, including the fastest and the quietest and will even let you add in points of interest along the way.
You’ll be really spoilt for choice if you choose to stay in East London - there are more hip hotels than you can shake a stick at. One of our favourites is The Culpeper - a rustic restaurant with rooms just a stone’s throw from Aldgate East station. Aside from the fact that it looks beautiful, it boasts one of the most beautiful rooftop bars in all of London.
Known as the ‘garden’, it has its very own greenhouse (in which many of the ingredients used in the restaurant are grown) alongside shabby chic tables, tumbling plants and views across Spitalfields. Best of all, it has a truly excellent cocktail menu.
Cub in Hoxton is a collaboration between several big names in the restaurant business, most notably Mr Lyan (owner of Dandelyan, White Lyan and Super Lyan) and Doug McMaster, who pioneered Silo - Brighton’s first zero-waste restaurant. The menu is consciously compiled to include ingredients that have mostly been grown on site and sustainable methods are used to create dishes that are as good for the planet as they are beautiful and delicious.
Krug Champagne is also a partner and we can’t think of anything better than relaxing in the warmly understated dining room at the end of a long day of cycling with a glass of something fizzy in hand.
Words: Biance Barratt