Hackney Wick: the ultimate guide to East London’s playground
Discover the best things to do, eat, drink and shop all in a day at the destination fun zone that is Hackney Wick, East London’s most playful neighbourhood.
Hackney Wick has come a long way from its visibly post-industrial days. Where once derelict factories and crumbing warehouses were markers of the area’s heritage of heavy industry, it is now fast becoming one of the most vibrant and exciting places to venture in the East End.
The solid brick cavernous warehouses are now being converted into giant venues, perfect for hosting raves, street food stalls or markets. Elsewhere, artists have made their home: the area houses the highest concentration of art studio spaces in the world, with over 600 individual venues clustered around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Many of these ventures are temporary, such as pop-up stalls, or kitchen residencies that might be here today, gone tomorrow. But with the area constantly changing, developing, and expanding (the sounds of drills and machinery never too far off), there is an ever-increasing number of things to do, see, hear, and taste.
So, one of the questions, if not THE question, is: when you are presented with so much choice, where should you go in Hackney Wick?
From partygoers to day-time chillers, and beer drinkers to fanatical foodies, Hackney Wick has something to offer everyone. We share with you the lowdown on the ultimate guide to Hackney Wick.
The Hackney Wick Horseshoe
The Hackney Wick Horseshoe is a cluster of drinking, dancing and raving spots that curls neatly around Hackney Wick Station. This is something of a mecca for those whose attention, and senses, look for constant stimulation.
At the end of Wallis Road, there is what, by day, appears to be a car park and junkyard. But, as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving. By night, it fills out into an adult fun-zone. Canal-side venture, Grow, is a great place to kick off your night, with food, drinks and a floating music stage. You’ll find Studio 9294, an evening events space, perfect for DJ nights, cabaret and comedy.
As you leave the car park, turn left and walk a few steps to Beer Merchants Tap, with its easily spottable pink elephant statue. Continuing up the road, and curving around Hackney Wick station, under the bridge of the overground, you’ll find the newly opened and refurbished The Lord Napier Star.
Stop in next door to HWK, a cool, airy cafe for some cocktails. Attached to the side of HWK, is The Lot, with a distinctly festival feel and which is attached to The Lot, a large indoor/outdoor space hosting day and night parties pumping house and techno.
The Hackney Wick Horseshoe ends at the infamous Queen’s Yard, now lined with bars but, all importantly for your night out, the multi-sensory Colour Factory nightclub that opens to the wee small hours. The giant disco ball adds some 90s fun to this low lit warehouse. It also houses a food court, including the UK’s only 100% vegan hog roast, suitably called The Hogless Roast.
Our pick of the best bars in Hackney Wick
Until recently, Hackney Wick famously didn’t have a single pub, but this changed when the infamous ‘Shithouse to penthouse’, aka The Lord Napier, rechristened The Lord Napier Star, opened in August to much anticipation.
While we do love a traditional East End boozer, the introduction of micro-breweries to the Hackney Wick landscape has added alternative hop-fuelled fun. Beer Merchants Tap is a craft beer bar and bottleshop in a laid back taproom, offering the widest range of beers in the Wick, and Crate Brewery has an impressive range of limited edition beers poured straight in the bar.
Newly opened in September 2021, Hackney Bridge sits over the canal, and on the other side of the Bridge to Here East. This giant, newly built space regularly does drinks deals and happy hours, and the sun-trap of a terrace is perfect for mid-week pints.
Our pick of the best restaurants
Soon after opening in 2018, Barge East was rated London’s #1 Restaurant on Tripadvisor 2019-2020. In a rustic, cosy setting, you’ll be served wholesome plates of delicious British produce. Barge East also has a herb garden, sheltered seating, and a weekend farmers market (see below).
Sustainability, carbon-neutral and zero-waste are favoured buzzwords for businesses seeking to make a positive environmental impact: Silo, on White Post Lane, definitely adheres to this principle. From fermenting just about anything, to projecting the menu on a white-washed wall to reduce paper waste, Silo is on a mission to prove that there is an alternative model to the current system of industrial food production.
The East End has had a long tradition of seafood cuisine, and Cornerstone, funded by This Morning and Great British Menu Chef Tom Brown continues this tradition by serving up a beautifully delicate menu centred around seafood. We like how the menu changes regularly based on the daily catch.
If you are wanting less of the restaurant feel, and more of the casual food-market vibe, then head to the south-end of the Hackney Wick Horseshoe, where you’ll find street food and kiosks aplenty, most open till 10pm. We like Maize Blaze, which dishes up Colombian Street Food from inside the Howling Hops and Brewery Tank Bar.
Our pick of the best things to do in Hackney Wick
From what you’ve been reading so far, you’re probably getting the impression that Hackney Wick is a destination zone for the night owls, and not for the early birds.
We’re here to prove that wrong: from bouldering to canoeing, book-binding to vintage clothing, Hackney Wick is just as alive and buzzing during the day.
For those seeking thrills, head to the Hackney Wick Boulder Project. Inside, you’ll find bouldering walls – indoor climbing walls without ropes – suitable for all levels of experience. From land to water, Moo Canoes wants you to get out and explore London’s waterways. You can choose from canoe, kayak or paddleboard to hire, all patterned with the iconic cow print.
A blind date during the day? Seek out Skeeters, who claim ‘Nothing smashes through social awkwardness like throwing an axe at a chunky target.’
If all this bouldering, canoeing and axe-throwing seem a little too high-energy, and you’re craving for something calmer, then the London Centre for Book Arts is for you. Dedicated to the craft of bookmaking, you can do everything from printing a single poster to producing a full book, binding and all.
Nothing signals a relaxing weekend more than taking a stroll through the gastronomic paradise of a farmers’ market. Barge East has a small but perfectly formed food market. Make sure to say hello to the cheese-mongers at Eager to Cheese, who specialise in British cheeses from Lincoln to Bath. You won’t find any of these fares in the supermarkets.
On the other side of Barge East, there is Vintage Hackney Wick at 92 White Post Lane. Accessible to pedestrians by walking along the Hertford Union towards the River Lea, this vintage shop-cum-market is packed to the rafters with suede jackets, retro ski wear, authentic 60s silk kimonos and funky retro go-go dresses.
It only remains to say that Hackney Wick should come with a government health warning – Caution: Likely to Cause Dangerous Levels of Fun.
If you liked reading this guide, then check out our insider’s guide to East London markets.
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