Doing Shoreditch on a budget: (nearly) free things to see and do


So you may have chosen for your stay in the UK capital – possibly in or around the City of London – a relatively luxurious hotel, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to preserve your pennies. Here’s how you can enjoy the Shoreditch area by spending barely anything at all…

Check out the Huguenot houses

(Wilkes Street/ Princelet Street E1)

Shoreditch has a reputation for being all about what’s new – but far from all of it is. A good example is the charming architecture of these two Spitalfields streets that date all the way back to the early 18th Century. Built by Huguenot (French Protestant) immigrants, who settled in London to escape persecution, many of the buildings served not just as habitation but also as the bases for weaving businesses. Note that No. 19 Princelet Street eventually became a synagogue for Jewish refugees – and can be visited on request.

Browse for bargains at Old Spitalfields Market

(16 Horner Square E1 6EW)

Spitalfields is, of course, most recognised for another of its historic aspects – its market. And, like many of London’s famed markets, it’s been operating a long time; up to 400 years, believe it or not. Perhaps it’s most celebrated era was just over a century ago back in the Victorian age, though, from which its iconic ironwork-roof dates and when it featured reams and reams of fresh produce. Today, it’s home to many multi-cuisine stalls and indie artisan vendors selling fashion, books, jewellery and more, while snack outlets and bars line its perimeter – perfect for a day out then should you be staying in one of the hotels in Shoreditch.

Get your ancient history fix at London Wall

(Noble Street EC2V)

You may not know that London’s one of the few cities in Europe whose origins go all way back to ancient times; having been originally named Londinium when established by those canny and cruel, but hugely industrious Romans. To wit, here and there around the City of London are extant bits of the Romans’ London Wall (the remnants of the invaders’ fortification to enclose and protect their burgeoning settlement) and, naturally, you can check them out entirely for free. Unlike in, say, Rome, these stone ruins weren’t left alone for posterity, but built on by building after building down through the centuries, until in recent decades demolition work – and legislation passed to preserve ancient remains – ensured they were unearthed and left for all to view as one of the really rather wonderful alternative things to do in East London.

Bask in the views offered by The Monument

Finally, last autumn officially marked 350 years since the Great Fire of London, which (starting in the fabulously named Pudding Lane) ravaged the capital as it rapidly leapt from wooden house to wooden house. Many fires have occurred in many cities down through the centuries, but the fact this one remains so legendary is testament to just how devastating it was – flattening so much of London (it’s ruination led to the construction of the ‘modern’ St. Paul’s Cathedral) and scarring its collective psyche. Proof of this is The Monument, a stone tower erected to commemorate the fire in 1677. And for a very small fee, you’re welcome to step inside and climb the 311 steps to its summit. Why? Well, not just to say you have – but to take in the glorious panorama it offers of the London skyline. Perfect for a sunny summer’s day, for sure!