At first glance, it sounds like a myth made up by an eager young estate agent - a cool, young area with great transport links, plenty to do, and rental prices that are still halfway affordable for London. However, this is exactly what you'll find in Bethnal Green, a closely-knit pocket of E2 located just to the east of Shoreditch.
How Bethnal Green has managed to escape the rapid price rises that have enveloped Shoreditch, Hoxton, Dalston Junction and most of East London is perhaps the biggest mystery, but for now just thank your stars that it has and get hunting for somewhere to live immediately. That's not to say that the area hasn't changed - new developments are being built, high street shops are arriving, and it's quickly becoming a go-to restaurant spot due to all the excellent eateries under the railway arches - but it's still got that authentic East End character that's becoming harder and harder to find.
Mostly occupied by born-and-bred Londoners, Bangladeshi families and the young professional creatives who have made East London their patch in recent years, it's the perfect playground for those in their twenties and thirties who want to be close to all the best bars, clubs and nightlife, while also having an easy commute to central offices and not paying eye-watering prices for the privilege.
For green space Victoria Park is a short walk away, where you can enjoy the pond, do a spot of summer sunbathing, or attend one of the many festivals and events that take place here during the summer and winter. It might not be as easy on the eye as other parts of London, but with so much else to offer, you'd be foolish not to give Bethnal Green a go.
On a map
Bethnal Green in the Borough of Tower Hamlets is situated in East London, to the east of Shoreditch, north of Whitechapel and the south of Dalston. It's in Zone 2, and covers the postcode E2.
History of Bethnal Green London
Bethnal Green was originally known as Blythenhale, and for hundreds of years was merely a small parish surrounded by marshland, forest and a natural spring. During the 1500s it became a popular suburb for Tudor gentry, due to the proximity to the City while still having plenty of space for hunting and building large manor houses. As London grew and the Industrial Revolution arrived, Bethnal Green was absorbed into the sprawl and became a working-class area full of housing, factories, market gardens and slums. The silk-weaving trade was particularly well represented here, having spread from Spitalfields and bringing immigrant Huguenots and Irish workers with it.
Boundary Estate, the world's first council estate was founded on the border of Bethnal Green in 1900, and the infamous Victorian murderer Jack the Ripper also operated in Bethnal Green and Whitechapel during his spree of terror in the late 1880s.
Transport from Bethnal Green London
Being not far from the hubbub of Shoreditch and the City, Bethnal Green is well-connected to the rest of London via the undergound and various buses, and it’s possible to walk to many locations including Shoreditch High Street (10 minutes) and Liverpool Street (20 minutes). Bethnal Green Station is served by the Central line, making travelling to Central and West London fast and easy - Oxford Circus is a 13 minute tube ride, and Notting Hill Gate takes only 21 minutes.
Close to Bethnal Green Station is Cambridge Heath Station, which serves the London Overground on the Enfield and Chingford to Liverpool Street Line. It’s one of the best ways to travel further into East London, with Hackney Downs just a 5 minute journey away.
Cost of living in Bethnal Green London
While still certainly cheaper than neighbours such as Shoreditch, Dalston and Hoxton, the bargains that could be found in Bethnal Green just a few years ago are rapidly disappearing as the popularity of the are begins to grow. The Bethnal Green rental market even made the press a few months ago when a shed in the communal living room of a shared flat was offered on a houseshare website for £530 per month!
As of January 2016, the average rental price of a two bedroom apartment in Bethnal Green is £2070, although similar properties can be found starting from £1400.
Restaurants in Bethnal Green London
Tucked away in the elegant Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel, the Typing Room restaurant is renowned for serving seasonal European tasting and set menus alongside a modern wine list. The setting is pure Scandinavian cool with an open kitchen, while for the perfect nightcap the chic, understated cocktail bar Peg + Patriot is just across the corridor.
Address: Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF
Phone: 020 7871 0461
A relatively recent arrival to the Bethnal Green food scene, Paradise Garage has quickly made a name for itself as one of the essential new restaurants to try in the city. It opened in September 2015 to rave reviews for the industrial-chic setting and innovative British dishes, and has played a key role in putting Bethnal Green on the gastronomical map. Try the tasting menu for a real showcase of what they can do, and make sure you book ahead if you want to eat on the weekend.
Address: 254 Paradise Row, London
Phone: 020 7613 1502
Looking to get a delicious Korean lunch, but need a haircut first? If you find yourself faced with this unusual dilemma (or just want one of these two services), head directly to Hurwundeki, one of the many cool spots under the Bethnal Green railway arches. Serving fresh pastries and Workshop Coffee in the morning and traditional Korean dishes such as Bibimbap and Fried Udon throughout the day in the restaurant area, you can also get a quick, inexpensive haircuts next door. It’s a quirky concept that somehow makes plenty of sense.
Address: 298-299 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9HA
Phone:+44 20 7749 0638
Don’t be put off by the unusual name - there are no devil-worshippers here, only cocktail lovers looking for the next great drink in this dark and moody bar with taxidermy on the walls and 90s hip-hop playing over the sound system. The cocktail menu changes frequently so put yourself in the mixologists capable hands and ask for a recommendation.
Address: 343 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9RA
Phone: 020 7739 8362
Shops in Bethnal Green London
Stock up on animal products at this traditional butcher on Bethnal Green Road, which is also one of the only non-halal butchers shops in the area. The large selection includes beef, lamb, poultry and game and the prices are very reasonable considering the high quality.
Address: 374 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 0AH
Phone: 020 7739 8185
Treat the guitar-lover in your life with a visit to the excellent Vintage Guitar Boutique on Bethnal Green Road, which sells a wide range of used and new guitars and accessories from brands such as Gibson and Fender. Electric, acoustic and bass guitars are all available, and the staff are full of helpful tips and knowledge.
Address: 49 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA, United Kingdom
Phone: 020 7729 9186
Blend into the neighbourhood with a bike from Brick Lane Bikes, who supply many of the hipster fixie bikes you’ll see bearded locals riding around on. Selling mountain, road, fixed and vintage bikes, the wide range means your bound to find a two-wheeled vehicle for your needs and budget here.
Address: 118 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 6DG
Phone: 020 7033 9053
Start of your latest health kick with a visit to the G&T Organic Shop on Cambridge Heath Road, which sells all manner of vegan delicacies and organic produce from their tiny shop. Stop by on a Saturday morning for a hangover-curing cold-press juice and a vitamin-packed chocolate brownie.
Address: 204 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9NQ
Phone: 07956 355145
Things to do in Bethnal Green London
A genuine East London institution once under threat by changing times and attitudes, this old-school drinking den adapted to the 21st century and now hosts club nights thought the week, with cheap drinks, nostalgic vibes and a raucous crowd. A must-visit for anyone seeking to really get to know all that Bethnal Green has to offer.
Address: 42 Pollard Row, London E2 6NB
Phone: 020 7739 7170
Embrace the nostalgia of your youth at the V&A Museum of Childhood, sister institution to the main South Kensington museum of decorative arts. Housing the largest collection of childhood objects in the UK in a striking Grade II listed Victorian building, items on show include everything from a dolls house dating back to 1673, to 1980s lego sets and modern gadgets.
Address: Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9PA
Phone: 020 8983 5200
Bethnal Green may be in the heart of East London, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a pocket of countryside (and some farmyard animals) nearby if you know where to look. This city farm on Stepney Way is beloved by kids and adults alike, and includes a cafe and farm shop alongside sheep, donkeys, pigs, rabbit and other animals.
Address: Stepney Way, London E1 3DG
Phone: 020 7790 8204
Main image credit: Ewan Munro