To many Globe Town is a place you travel through to get to somewhere else, to Bow or Bethnal Green maybe. From the top of the number 8 bus, it’s easy to dismiss Globe Town as somewhere unremarkable. On closer inspection though, you will find that Globe Town is one of East London’s most avant guarde neighbourhoods, and is an intoxicating mix of the very real with the very pioneering. Far from being one of the unhealthiest high streets in London as one recent survey claimed, Globe Town is actually one of the best places to live in terms of health and wellbeing. We bet by the time you reach the end of our Globe Town area guide, you’ll agree.
Best places to unwind in Globe Town
Thanks to the presence of the London Buddhist Centre, over the years Globe Town has become a mecca for wellbeing and alternative medicine practitioners. As well as the traditional Turkish Baths at York Hall; the embellished shrines and meditation halls of the Buddhist centre, and regular arts and creative programming at St Margaret’s House, you can’t move in Globe Town for tripping over a homeopath or rolfer – the perfect place to unwind and depollute from city life.
London Buddhist Centre
Located in a Victorian Grade II listed former fire station, the London Buddhist Centre has been welcoming Londoners to OMMMM in its expert-led meditation, yoga and mindfulness classes since it was founded in the 1970s. Although it first started as a squat, now it offers a serene place for people looking to find a peace of mind, with soulful events and classes happening all year round.
York Hall Turkish Baths
It might be known by many as England’s most famous boxing venue, but tucked away in the bowels of York Hall you will find one of London’s last remaining traditional Turkish baths and spa. Open to men and women, Spa Experience at York Hall is a place to heat up in a Hammam in winter or cool down in a plunge pool in summer.
Local resident Julia Empey’s new osteopathy clinic on Roman Road is already doing a galloping trade with dogs, horses and humans alike. Unusually for an osteopath, as well as treating human patients in her Globe Town clinic, she is also qualified to treat animal patients in their owner’s homes, including dogs. Given neighbouring Victoria Park is the pooch capital of East London, Empey has been busy since she opened her clinic in the summer of 2018.
The Plane Tree
The Plane Tree offers therapists from the fields of rolfing, acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy and more. It’s name is inspired by the London Plane tree. Like much of London, Bethnal Green is home to many Plane trees, originally planted here because of their natural ability to process pollution, helping to purify the air.
St Margaret’s House
Just round the corner from Roman Road St Margaret’s House is one of those long-established charities who have been supporting the community and local creative life since it was set up in 1889. From its elegant, Georgian premises on Old Ford Road, St Margaret’s House now offers the vegan Gallery Cafe, a yoga practice called Yoga Nest, a gallery space and Ayoka, it’s charity shop with an eBay store.
Best public places in Globe Town
The East End’s landscape was irrevocably marked by World War Two. Globe Town is noticeable for remaining Victorian buildings that survived the war, including Bethnal Green Library, York Hall and the V&A Museum of Childhood, and its post-war housing estates, including the Cranbrook Estate, which is considered by most architects as one of the finest examples of innovate social housing. Another important landmark to visit is the RIBA Award winning Stairway to Heaven memorial, remembering those that died in the Bethnal Green tube disaster during the war.
Bethnal Green Library
Situated in Bethnal Green Gardens at the entrance of Bethnal Green Underground station, this Grade Two listed building hides a fascinating past. It used to be a part of private mental asylum, before it was redesigned into a public library. Admire the grand Victorian interiors while getting comfy on a sofa with a fascinating book or stroll around the Bethnal Green Gardens, known by locals as Barmy park.
It might be an unusual way of spending your afternoon, strolling through the Cranbrook Estate, but this iconic post war estate is a must-see for architects and design lovers. It opened in 1964 and was the first council estate in the area, replacing notorious slums. The design is a work of Russian émigré architect Berthold Lubetkin who pioneered modernist design in Britain in the 1930s and went on to design the penguin enclosure at London Zoo. The estate is still an example of urban community design, with an active community centre and the Cranbrook Community Food Garden.
V&A Museum of Childhood
Other than being a museum with interesting past, exhibiting toys and entrancing people with nostalgic memories of their childhood, it is also a peaceful place to study and work. Entry is free and you can bring your own snacks to nibble on while sitting in the open-space cafe on the ground floor. We recommend to visit the museum before it closes for a new refurbishment.
Stairway to Heaven Memorial
Stairway to Heaven Memorial stands only few meters away from the original stairs where 173 people died in Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster. In March 1943 crowds trying to reach safety during a false air-raid alert squeezed into the narrow and badly-lit staircase down to the underground shelter, which had no safety railings, and were crushed by the surge. The memorial features a set of stairs, with names of the victims engraved into them. In 2018, shortly after opening, it received not one but two RIBA architecture awards.
Four Corners is a learning, production and exhibition centre for film and photography. As well as providing training for local young people, it has a gallery space and holds regular exhibitions, talks, events and screenings about film, photography and contemporary visual arts. Four Corners was a radical photography space back in the sixties when it was Cameraworks, and still focuses on socially engaged work today.
Best green spaces in Globe Town
You can’t get away from the fact that this stretch of Roman Road in Globe Town looks a bit dull and grey. All the better for keeping people away from its secret green spaces and eco warrior groups including Meath Gardens, the Cranbrook Community Food Garden, and some great allotments. It is also bordered by Mile End Park and the Regent’s Canal.
An unexpected upside of living in Globe Town is having Regent’s Canal on the doorstep. Stretching from Little Venice, near the Paddington Basin in West London all the way East, across London to the Limehouse Basin where it meets the Limehouse Cut and joins the River Thames. In recent years unconventional communities have formed on the waterways with floating cafes, bookshops and cinemas. It also provides a bucolic route for jogging and cycling as well as a car free 10-minutes walk to Victoria Park.
Meath Gardens, formerly Victoria Park Cemetery, is one of East London’s most private green spaces. It is remarkable for not being bounded by any roads. You can reach it over the Regent’s Canal footbridge near the Palm Tree and the Mile End Climbing Wall, or from a small passage way from Smart Street. In 2015 The Friends of Meath Gardens was officially set up by a local forester to make this green space even more community-friendly, preserve its heritage, and encourage development of wildlife habitats. A veritable oasis in the heart of the East End. Plans to reopen the underpass between Queen Mary University and Meath Gardens will open this space up to hip, young students.
Best places to shop in Globe Town
Thanks to the benevolent presence of St Margaret’s House and London Buddhist Centre, you can rely on Globe Town to offer a preponderance of ethical organisations and that’s no different with its shops. Among the convenience and hardware stores (great for cheap household goods) you will find charity shops, second hand book shops, a cyclist’s paradise and ethical fashion.
Bamboo & Bee
Verry Kerry, 10tacled and Magpie’s Loot are the creative trio behind Bamboo & Bee, Roman Road’s ethically-minded designer-maker emporium. Stepping inside the shop is like entering a different world, full of colours, sparkling jewellery and hanging plants. Pop in if you’re looking for some unique pieces, gifts or just to soak up the harmonious atmosphere.
‘You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike and that’s pretty close.’ Paradise Cycles is a community workshop in the heart of Globe Town. Not only these guys will repair your bike at a friendly price, you can also tune up your ride here and buy other relevant necessities. You might find their bike fixing workshop also quite helpful, as it shows you how to quickly stitch up your bike when it breaks down in the worst possible moment.
Who said charity shops had to be tacky? Lama’s Pyjamas, the official charity shop for London Buddhist Centre has all the edgy stuff you’re looking for. Whether it’s the ‘new’ Levis jeans, funky plant pots, vintage jewellery or the ultimate summer dress, stop by this funky shop and give used things a new lease of life. Check out St Margaret’s charity shop Ayoka on Old Ford Road too.
The shopfront of Jambala, the bookstore that is run by the London Buddhist Centre, looks like it has been painted by smurfs. It’s heavenly-blue colour makes it stand out from the crowd and lures visitors to pop in and pick up a rare find. Books are piled up in multiple bookshelves, making this little place even more cosy than it looks like from outside. If you’re looking for a unique gift or just love the smell of dusty old pages, this is the place to be.
This traditional gentleman’s outfitters offers customer service East End style circa 1950 – check out the old till. This family business specialises in menswear but also has an excellent alteration service. Pick up some great suits or get one made bespoke. When owner Ken or his son Mark greets you with a measuring tape slung round their neck, you know you’re in safe hands.
Best cafes in Globe Town
Fine coffee? Vegan treats? Turkish shatsuka breakfast? Cooked English? Or a pint of cockles and Vinney’s from the East End’s oldest fishmonger business? While Globe Town isn’t the biggest high street, it does well to offer something for everyone. And with many businesses safely in the hands of two large charitable organisations (St Margaret’s House and the London Buddhist Centre), you can rest assured that Globe Town is safe from a total gentrification wipeout. An uncommon quality in East London.
Sazzy & Fran
Vegan pancakes, matcha lattes and Taco Tuesdays. Sazzy & Fran is best known for its delicious plant-based food and as well as being a tranquil little oasis in the middle of the busy East End. Everything here is vegan, and almost everything is made in-house, apart from the pastry which is delivered fresh every morning from a little bakery in Hackney. Not to add that the food all comes looking like it’s made for your Instagram feed.
This stylish venue at the Bethnal Green end of the Roman Road has Italian style written all over it. Coffee is all Caffe Molinari served however you want. Settle in with your latte here for some great people watching. You can bring Fido too if you sit at the front tables outside and it’s family friendly as well. Bonus points!
Once you have picked up a rare find at Jambala Bookshop next door, take it to The Larder, a vegetarian cafe run by London Buddhist Centre. With a fresh smoothie and a veggie salad by your side, of course. Their secluded little garden in the back is open when weather allows it and offers a peaceful get-away from the busy Roman Road.
Does what it says on the tin. Their delicious Turkish breakfast gives you an instant energy kick, as well as their fresh coffee and juices. It’s not unusual to see joggers and dog-walkers popping in as it’s one of the most affordable places to eat and recharge on this stretch of Roman Road. Top tip? Try the homemade banana bread – it’s soft, warm and delicious.
Best food shops in Globe Town
All guilty pleasures are catered for in Globe Town. There is traditional fish and chips from Victoria’s Fish Bar, one of the best chippies in the area; a well-reviewed Turkish restaurant (Meze); a sweet dessert eatery offering waffles and smoothies to the Muslim community, and, of course, the ubiquitous fried chicken shop when nothing else with do. Yet, like a village offering one of everything, there is also a fishmonger, a butcher, a greengrocer and an ‘eco’ general store. Everything you need to cook up a feast at home.
Downey Brothers fishmongers have been supplying the East End with fresh seafood for over 130 years. The stall of the two brothers, Roger and Del stands peacefully near Globe Town Market square, with occasional squeaks from a seagull called George – Del’s free-roaming pet bird. Make sure to stop by on Saturday to pick up fresh salmon, mussels, prawns or whatever fish your heart longs for.
It might look like a convenience store from the outside, but Simply Fresh is one of the most sustainable food businesses on the Roman. Here, you can find specialist cheeses and hams, a wide range of health foods, organic and free range options, plant-based products and even fill up your jar with eco laundry detergent. Because plastic is so 2000 darling. Owner Mehmet is one of the leading voices behind Plastic Free Roman Road campaign.
With a distinguishing BEEF graffiti on the roller shutters and delicious locally-sourced meat, Peckover Butchersis now one of the most popular and busy butcher shops on Roman Road. Gavin, the owner is all about quality and offers free-range meat alongside the traditional cheap cuts and salt beef that kept the post-war East End fed.
Leslie Herbert Fruit and Veg
Oh my. They don’t make fruit and veg market stalls like this any more. Marc Herbert, who has taken the mantle from father Leslie, offers the kind of shopping experience money can’t buy. People who have long moved away still come back on a Saturday to get a fix of real human interaction, as well as very affordable fruit and veg. Marc, who has market life in his blood, genuinely seems to enjoy every second of his day serving customers he knows and meeting new ones. His sunny personality in infectious and you find yourself returning to the stall to get a fix of wellbeing as well as your bananas.
Best places for a drink in Globe Town
Globe Town may well be the wellbeing capital of the East End, but it knows how to unwind over a cocktail or a pint. It has two of the best traditional boozers you will find for miles, and two new kids of the block for some serious cocktails.
The Florist Arms
With flower pots perched on the roof and hanging from the exterior walls, this friendly East End boozer has managed to embrace an element of coolness without having lost its local charm. Stone-baked pizzas are a bargain, only £7-£8 each, and you can choose from a variety of toppings, including wild boar. The Florist is a soothing, unpretentious place to cure a hangover in one of their comfy sofas or to enjoy some live jazz music with friends on the weekend.
This restored Victorian pub in the heart of Bethnal Green is a true gem. All backgrounds, ages and genders will feel comfortable in this weeny, welcoming space, even sitting on your own. Whether you fall in love the quirky interiors, with 1960s bronze pendant lights or their to-die-for pie and mash menu, we leave it up to you. In the summer, you can enjoy a pint of bitter (it sells Adnams) on peaceful pavement picnic benches outside on the pedestrianised Sugar Loaf Walk.
London’s first (beachless) Chiringuito opened this summer next to St Johns Church at the junction where Roman Road meets Bethnal Green Underground Station on Cambridge Heath Road. Formerly a public toilet it now serves Spanish tapas and Ibiza style cocktails – on its roof terrace when weather allows.
NOLA Roman Road
After being closed for what seemed like a decade, NOLA has finally reopened and is serving up amazing cocktails with a new menu, as well as bar snacks in its trendy interiors inspired by New Orleans (think Tiffany lamps, exposed brickwork and low lit interior). Try the Café Brûlot Diablo – a cocktail made of cognac and coffee which creates a fiery display in the glass.
If you liked this, you may like to have a look at the before and after photos in our Roman Road Market Then and Now gallery
Research by Dominika Kubinyova
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