East London is the area to the east of the city that stretches almost to the sea. Its eastern end is around the Tilbury Port in the mouth of the Thames where ships on North Sea cruises to Norway, St Petersburg Russia, and the Netherlands dock. Its westernmost boundary is virtually in Central London, encompassing Canary Wharf and London City Airport, the only airport in the city. In fact, many of the things to do in East London are in the neighborhoods around Canary Wharf, which is located near Mile End, the community named for the end of “The Square Mile” that once marked the medieval walls of the City of Westminster.
Although located on the south bank of the Thames River, the beautiful maritime town of Greenwich is considered one of the East London attractions as it is just across the river from Canary Wharf, and connected to it by a submerged walking tunnel. Things to do in East London include visiting the world-famous observatory at Greenwich and the museums that chronicle the maritime history of London and the River Thames. The Museum of the London Docklands and the historic lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf are fascinating.
This area includes a good portion of the London East End—an ethnically diverse community that once was considered run down. Today, upscale shopping venues such as Canary Wharf and Spitalfields, and world-class entertainment and nightlife venues including the O2 (capacity 20,000) and ExCel London have helped to gentrify this area.
East London is still rich with ethnic diversity, having been a place where waves of emigrants settled, beginning in the seventeenth century with the Huguenots. These were followed by Irish emigrants, Ashkenazi Jews, Bagladeshis, and other emigrants. There is also a large population of Muslim immigrants, and the East London Mosque is located here; it is one of the largest mosques in the UK with a capacity of more than 4,500 worshipers.
Many of the things to do in East London are free, which is of great importance to those on a family vacation. Many of these free activities include visiting the many parks and several museums. One museum that is great for children is the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green, which is affiliated with the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum in Knightsbridge. Bethnal Green is in the London East End near Victoria Park, and the museum contains one of the world’s largest and oldest collections of toys and childhood artifacts. There is an extensive collection of dollhouses, including the Nuremberg Hose that dates to 1673 and a collection of iconic Teddy bears dating as early as the first British bear made in 1906. Another East London attraction sure to delight children and fascinate adults is Mudchute Park and Farm, a 32-acre city farm on the Isle of Dogs just across the Thames River from Greenwich. This is largest inner city farm in Europe, with an equestrian center, and a working farm that breeds and raises cows, pigs, sheep, goats, donkeys, and even llamas.
There are some fine London East End hotels; the most expensive will be found in the area around Canary Wharf. But you can also find inexpensive bed and breakfasts as well as East End hostels. The further east you go, the easier it is to find countryside accommodation in places with gardens and grounds.