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West is best. So say us as previous residents of Shepherd’s Bush, who spent many a day shopping, supping or strolling around there.
In days gone by, it could be said Shepherd’s Bush was primarily known as the home to the BBC TV centre, the much missed Walkabout pub (now sadly demolished but its legacy lives on) and Goldhawk Road. Now thanks to Westfield, the rebirth of Television Centre as a social hub and nearby White City, Shepherds Bush is a West London hot spot
Having lived in Shepherd’s Bush (mainly on Goldhawk Road) and Brook Green for around four years, we look back on our time in She Bu (or ‘chez boo’ as most locals don’t call it) affectionately. From live music and theatre performances to food and drink, here is our guide to the best things to do in Shepherd’s Bush, west London:
Things to do in Shepherd’s Bush
1. Shepherd’s Bush Market
One of London’s most historic street markets (over 100 years old – the fruit and veg here is fresher though), a walk through Shepherd’s Bush Market with all its stalls, traders and food kiosk is like stepping into an episode of Eastenders or Only Fools and Horses (and weirdly, it also featured in the London set episodes of ‘24’ with Kiefer Sutherland).
There are all manner of market traders here from children’s toys and fine fabrics to fresh fish and food stalls, plus about five or so falafel stalls – but none as good as Mr Falafel (more on this later).
It is nice to see some attempts at change here, particularly with the appealing new Italian coffee shop opening towards the Uxbridge Road end but is fair to say that Shepherds Bush market has seen better days (we noticed the decline even in the few years and we hope the new owners try to breathe some new life into one of London’s most loved street markets).
2. Westfield Shepherd’s Bush
Love or loathe retail therapy, there is no denying that the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush (the largest shopping centre in Europe) is a mecca for shopping and definitely one of the main catalysts for the transformation and gentrification that is underway in Shepherd’s Bush. So much so that a 5* hotel, The Dorsett has now popped up on Shepherd’s Bush green, mainly to cater for domestic and international guests who have come to London.
All the usual chains can be found here, plus a luxury shopping village area for the likes of Gucci and Armani. The food options here are also ample with a dedicated food court plus several bars and restaurants lining the outside perimeter. Make a day of buying here if that is your (shopping) bag or just duck in to escape the rain or inclement weather – it can get mega busy in here so if you want to avoid crowds, best to go early or late to avoid the peak retail rush.
3. Shepherd’s Bush pubs and bars
There are so many good drinking places in Shepherd’s Bush that we used to feel spoiled for choice – from regular live music at the Sindercombe Social to cosy lounge lagers at the Defectors Weld, we used to enjoy our Shepherd’s Bush sessions and had many ‘happy hours’ here.
So much so, that we wrote a dedicated guide to all our old hangouts – so here are the best pubs and bars in Shepherd’s Bush>
4. Television Centre / White City
Once home to the former BBC TV Centre where our childhood days were full of Saturday morning kids shows broadcast from here like Going Live or Live & Kicking (if you have to ask, you weren’t there). This area of West London on the borders of Shepherd’s Bush and White City is fast becoming one of London’s property hotspots (if only we’d bought a flat here a few years ago).
Television Centre is still a TV studio so you can see some ‘Loose Women’ in Shepherd’s Bush (not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d write). Recently, ITV have shifted a lot of their daytime TV programmes here whilst their South Bank studio is being refurbished – think This Morning, GMB, Lorraine (if you are reading this from outside the UK, these are all famous daytime TV shows). You can even see them broadcasting from the courtyard outside in summer months.
We’ve also been to several BBC TV recordings here in recent years including The Graham Norton Show and Have I Got News For You. You can apply for tickets in advance but you often don’t know what dates you’ll get so it can be hard to plan to coincide with your trip if you are coming from overseas.
Television Centre is also home to several bars and restaurants plus a swanky White City House private members club (it isn’t what you know but who you know)…
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5. Goldhawk Road
Primarily known as a place for fabrics and materials, there is so much more to explore along Goldhawk Road. We lived towards the far end of Goldhawk Road for two years and always enjoyed either eating local in one of the numerous restaurants or side street pubs.
Alas, the famous Cookes pie and mash shop has now closed down (it has become some form of arts space), but new restaurants have moved in such as Hoja Taiwanese (very good) and Cho Sim Korean. Head a little further along and you’ll come across Goldhawk Road Social Club, a live entertainment venue where many legends got their first break – there is even a blue plaque of sorts on the wall dedicated to when The Who performed there in their early days.
6. Mr Falafel, Shepherd’s Bush Market
Whilst in or near Shepherd’s Bush Market, make sure you find time to visit Mr Falafel, a Shepherd’s Bush institution and home to possibly the best falafel in London (we’ve ate loads of falafel wraps in our time and we still yearn for this one and head back every time we visit).
Located in a small stall (just enough seating room for several tables) and right across from Shepherd’s Bush Market tube station, Mr Falafel does legendary falafel wraps. Order at the counter (there may be a small queue), grab a seat, eat and then pay at the end. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, bling up for your wrap with aubergine for a delicious lunch (I am getting hungry just thinking about it…)
7. Ichiba Japan Centre at Westfield London
As previous travellers to Japan and fans of Japanese cuisine, we enjoy our visits to the Japan Centre at Westfield. Whilst not the cheapest for say ingredients and sweet treats compared to other Asian supermarkets (particularly when say compared to similar shops on Uxbridge Road), the Japan Centre is all about the experience.
Grab some takoyaki or okonomiyaki from the hot food centre, sink a pint of Asahi (happy hour prices sometimes apply) and then pick some ingredients and food stuffs to cook at home (or grab some takeaway sushi if you are feeling lazy). Joyful Japanese goodness.
8. Kidzania Shepherds Bush
Family fun comes to West London with this indoor city centre created and curated especially for children. From flying an airplane to TV broadcasting, there are lots of awesome activities and ‘jobs’ that children can undertake and earn kidZos (a unique currency) that they buy rewards with in store.
Obviously this much fun comes at a cost (walk-up costs start from £38 per child and £18 for 4 hours!!!!) but it ain’t cheap to create a city for children so this could be a treat for tots to teens (ages 4 to 14 recommended).
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9. Shepherd’s Bush Theatre
Shepherd’s Bush Theatre is renowned for its theatre and performing arts productions, often focusing on new works and playwrights (many of which often to transfer to the West End). Heavily discounted tickets for Bush Theatre productions can often (but not always) be found by registering with www.centraltickets.co.uk.
If you don’t fancy (or have time) to see a play, the Bush Theatre also has a rather nice theatre bar open during the day with a big outdoor terrace.
10. Bush Hall
A live music and event venue particularly popular for performing arts and stand-up comedy gigs, Bush Hall is one of the most beautiful and intimate venues in the whole of London. We’d often go to the Bush Hall cafe for brunch but on our most recent visit, it now looks to have become more of a record store with some tables for drinks (which is cool).
11. W12 Shopping Centre, Shepherd’s Bush
OK, so whilst it not be as glitz and glam as nearby Westfield London, W12 has its certain charms and is much better if you want to do a quick in and out shop, or grab some cheap eats (or drinks) at either the Wetherspoons pub in there (with views of Shepherd’s Bush Green) or Island Buffet.
Budget stores galore abound in W12 Shopping Centre including Lidl, Poundland and Savers and there have been many attempts at pop-ups there. Note we’ve seen a few other bloggers talk about the (unofficial) Sherlock Holmes escape rooms based here but as at November 2021, it is boarded up and closed down, having been like that for months.
12. O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Formerly the Empire theatre and also once a BBC TV theatre (where Terry Wogan used to present his nightly chat show), the O2 Empire is now one of London’s most legendary music venues and one of the best things to do in Shepherd’s Bush at night.
In the last couple of months alone, it has hosted concerts by world famous artists like Coldplay and Ed Sheeran, although normally, the beauty of this venue is that you get to see both well known and also up and coming bands. In the past, we’ve seen bands here like Muse, Phantogram and Cold War Kids and it such a good venue, given the theatre style architecture and acoustics.
13. Shikumen dim sum restaurant
Housed inside the Dorsett hotel in Shepherd’s Bush, this beautiful restaurant with a Shanghai-style interior serves classic Chinese cuisine and creative cocktails.
The dim sum here is incredible with a range of reasonably priced steamed, baked, and fried dishes, plus highly recommended Peking duck.
14. The Hawk’s Nest
One of the newest things to do in Shepherd’s Bush is this hidden garden style al fresco restaurant and bar located in Shepherd’s Bush Market. The bar is covered and heated so suitable to visit all year round, and specialises in wood fired sourdough pizzas and creative cocktails.
Mondays are called Margarita Mondays where you can order a margarita cocktail and a margarita pizza for £12.50. There is also a pub quiz on Tuesdays and 2 for 1 student deals on Wednesdays.
15. Askew Road
An awesome enclave of bakeries, cafes and independent beer and wine shops, Askew Road has a village feel and is a Saturday / Sunday morning hot-spot when sunny, with numerous outdoor terraces (plus one of London’s best beer gardens at The Eagle pub).
16. Uxbridge Road
A hotch-potch hubris of shops, bars and incredible ethnic restaurants, whilst Uxbridge Road still is quite noisy and chaotic and a traffic rat-run, it is still a nice walk to check out the produce shops and supermarkets or watch life go by from the numerous cafes and hookah bars.
17. Brook Green
Shhh. We’ll say it quietly but we think Brook Green is one of London’s hidden gems and one of our favourite spots to go for a pint or morning fry-up (we lived in Lena Gardens for a couple of years).
Based around the gorgeous green itself, there are some really nice pubs in Brook Green (the Queen’s Head and Brook Green Hotel in particular) plus it is a prime picnic spot as you can get takeaway food from the nearby cafes or fish and chippy (Bears ice-cream now run the kiosk on Brook Green).
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