Why is Hackney London's best borough?

Its diverse history, culture, architecture and people mean it's one of the more interesting areas. Part "proper" East End, part hipster mecca, it has authenticity, vibrancy and eclectic charm. Despite having no Tube station, it's really easy to get around; with overground train lines, numerous buses, cycle tracks and walking routes, and its central location, just north of the City, means it's not far to mainline transport links.

Where's best to be based?
Hoxton or Haggerston: both these areas are close to all the delights of the borough, but are quiet enough to get some sleep - as long as you're not above a pub. They give you an insight into the real Hackney but are also quite central. Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Angel, the Olympic Park and the City are all minutes away by bus or maximum half an hour by foot.

Where's the first place you take visitors?
Broadway Market; it's the heart of Hackney, connecting London Fields park with the Regent's Canal. Both sides of the street are lined with independent boutiques, cafes, pubs and restaurants. On a Saturday, the whole road turns into a bustling market, which extends into a school playground and a disused car park, and is bursting with artisan foods, unique local craft and vintage clothes stalls.

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Where's your favourite place for breakfast?
The Barge House on the canal towpath in Haggerston has huge windows and outside tables overlooking the water. They also serve great Bloody Marys and "breakfast in bread" - your favourite breakfast goods in a hollowed out loaf. For a chilled atmosphere, amazing coffee, and the Hackney Hipster's obligatory - and delicious - smashed avocado, head to Long White Cloud on Hackney Road (unsurprisingly, it's run by Kiwis).

What about a pub lunch?
The Hemingway - this gem is nestled on the south-east edge of the borough, with friendly staff, delicious pub fare, a log fire for winter and outside tables for summer. You can also work up an appetite or work off your traditional roast or fish and chips with a walk in Victoria Park, just a stone's throw away. This great local park (although not "officially" in Hackney) is one of the best green spaces in London, surrounded by beautiful Victorian architecture on one side and the Regent's Canal on the other.

For special occasions, where would you recommend?
The Merchants Tavern, in a Victorian warehouse and former apothecary in the centre of Shoreditch, is my favourite London restaurant. It serves a seasonal, European menu and although it's not cheap, it's great value as the standard of food is wonderful. It also has a great bar, with unusual cocktails, live DJ sets, ambient lighting and cosy booths.

Where would you go for drinks?
New bars seem to be constantly springing up on Kingsland Rd - the main thoroughfare from Shoreditch to Dalston so you'll be spoilt for choice. Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes is a Shoreditch institution - taking its name from the fashion wholesalers that used to occupy the building - and Pamela, nearer the Dalston end, is a classy take on a cocktail bar. For a relatively traditional English pub with a comfortable atmosphere, I would head to The Talbot near Dalston or The Rosemary Branch, further south, just off the canal.


Clissold Park is massive and feels almost rural - with slightly undulating grounds, an aviary, goats and a small herd of fallow deer - you could almost forget you're in the capital. It is also feet away from Church St in Stoke Newington, another local shopping street that's worth a visit, if you like cake shops, vintage finds, Scandi-inspired interiors, oh, and graveyards - Abney Park is one of the "magnificent seven" garden cemeteries in London.

Where are the best markets?
This is why Hackney is famous - Chatsworth Rd for second-hand furniture, Hoxton St for bits and bobs, Broadway Market for food and vintage finds, Netil Market for unusual gifts and Roman Rd for a mix of everything. There are also pop-up markets in Hackney and its surrounds on an almost weekly basis so you'll never be stuck for somewhere to mooch.

What's your must-see museum or art gallery?
The Victoria Miro Gallery between Hoxton and Islington occupies a really cool building, with interesting exhibitions and a tranquil garden out the back, which is also used for installations. The Geffrye is a pretty unique "Museum of the Home". It's housed in stunning 18th-century almshouses in Shoreditch and inside, you can walk through 400 years of domestic interiors.

Any good spots to learn more about the history of Hackney?
The Hackney Museum, housed in the Central Library next to the lovely Town Hall, has a permanent exhibition about the history of the borough starting with the first Anglo Saxon settlers. It also shows temporary exhibitions on interesting subjects, like Black-British art and activism or the history of mental asylums.

Are there any good attractions for visitors with children?
Hackney City Farm is great for young kids. This wonderful community resource houses small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs as well as being home to a few pigs, goats and two donkeys. They also run environmental education courses, art classes, a locally-grown vege box scheme and there's even a fabulous organic cafe.


Hackney local Deborah Ball is the designer/creator of Nest & Bumble.
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