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A lush slice of London life, Victoria Park and nearby Victoria Park Village allow you to escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital, and is one of the city’s lesser known hip hangouts (a hidden gem unless you already live in East London).
One of our favourite urban areas to explore at the weekends (as we can easily access it by cycling along the canal), we love nothing better than to relax in the park and grab some food from one of Victoria Park Village’s numerous stores, or visit the Sunday Market.
Here is our guide to the best things to do in Victoria Park and Victoria Park Village. All photos are taken by CK Travels.
A guide to Victoria Park Village and Victoria park:
Green, gorgeous and gigantic – what is not to like?! Since moving to North East London, Victoria Park has become one of our regular haunts. It was also recently voted one of the best parks in the country in a public tourism poll and it is huge – more than 86 hectares / 213 acres of greenery. There is so much space and it never feels that full, even on hot summer afternoons (and you certainly can’t say that about nearby London Fields).
Situated between Tower Hamlets and Hackney, Victoria Park was built in 1842 and is the oldest public park in the UK. It was also known as the People’s Park and used for many rallies and political speeches, especially during the Suffragette movement.
Some of the best things to see and do in Victoria Park include:
Victoria Park Chinese Pagoda
It isn’t every London park that you find a Chinese pagoda! It moved here from another London Park (Hyde Park) after the famous Chinese Exhibition in the 1840s. Popular with picnickers and wedding couples taking photos, you are able to sit beneath it but the upper level isn’t accessible.
Victoria Park Boating Lake
You can hire a rowing boat or a pedalo (go for the pedalo – much more relaxing!) seven days a week during the summer months and can enjoy close up views of the Chinese Pagoda from the water (it costs £10 for a 30 minute session, as of May 2020). You can also grab snacks from the nearby Pavilion Cafe next to where you hire the boats from.
Victoria Park Sunday Market
The Victoria Park Market takes place every Sunday between 10am and 4pm on a pedestrianised street called the Nightwalk, located between Bonner Gate and Gore Gate. The stalls sell all kinds of gourmet goodness such as international street food, seasonal fruit and veg and sweet treats.
This one of the best alfresco markets in London and is always a lot less busy than the likes of Borough Market or Spitalfields Market – although do expect to queue a little for the most popular stalls, especially during the main peak lunchtime period.
Victoria Park boasts over 9 million annual visitors and most of these visit on a regular basis for keep-fit and sporting activities. The park is used by many joggers and cyclists – the whole perimeter has a circular and well paved path, wide enough to be happily shared between walkers, cyclists and joggers.
The Burdett Coutts drinking fountain is often used by local groups as an easily recognisable meeting point and is one of the few still standing structures that remain from when Victoria Park first opened in the 1840s (a lot of structures here were bombed during the war).
One of the best things about wandering around Victoria Park is seeing all the wildfowl and birds – there are geese galore and swans swimming. Whilst not wildlife as such, dogs are allowed but they must be kept on a lead at all times.
We’d also suggest you don’t wear nice shoes to the park as there can be quite a lot of bird poo around the main pavilion and boating lake area.
Picnics and Cafes
So much greenery and open space lends itself nicely to having a picnic – visit on any given day over the summer and you’ll see huddles of groups and big gatherings having all manner of celebrations – as with most London parks, you are allowed to take your own alcohol but dispose of your rubbish responsibly. There are also a couple of cafes in Victoria Park which offer takeaway food.
All Points East Festival
Victoria Park is also home to the annual All Points East festival, attended by thousands of revellers and launched in 2018 (alas the 2020 festival was cancelled due to covid19). We’ve been to All Points East festival twice and seen acts such as Metronomy, Beck and Bjork, and it is definitely one of the best organised day festivals we’ve been to in London.
Victoria Park Pubs
There are two pubs located right on the perimeter of the park. The People’s Park Tavern is the local’s favourite with a nice outdoor area, pop-up cocktail bar and BBQ kitchen – it also houses the Brew Lab from Laine Brewery knocking out ‘weird and wonderful’ craft beer collaborations.
Nearby, The Royal Inn on the Park is by the entrance to Victoria Park Village and has a beer garden that looks directly into the park.
Victoria Park Village
This isn’t London as we know it, more of a verdant and varied East end enclave (in South Hackney) and one of London’s best kept secrets in terms of somewhere to shop, eat and drink in sublime surroundings. The story goes that the area used to be better known by its street name Lauriston Road and Victoria Park Village was conjured up as a ploy by local estate agents to drum up more business in the area – it clearly worked…
With the main shops and bars focussed around Lauriston Road and Victoria Park Road, you can either choose to spend the afternoon here popping into the various independent shops before retiring to a bar. Alternatively, you can always procure your picnic pieces here – or treat yourself to a takeout and head on over to the park.
Booze hounds are spoilt for choice in Victoria Park Village – there are gastro pubs galore with The Empress (a highly rated neighbourhood bar from the 1850s), The Village Tap, The Lauriston and The Crown. If you prefer an alfresco ale or marvellous muscadet, try The Bottle Apostle store, a touch above your usual off-licence (it has wine dispensers), and specialising in all things crushed grape, with bottles of craft beer available too.
There are restaurants and cafes here to suit all budgets – one of the most popular is Elbow’s Cafe, serving various light bites such as sandwiches, paninis and a wide range of vegetarian options. My Neighbour The Dumplings is a family run Chinese Dumpling house with a lantern lit courtyard – you can’t miss the restaurant – just look for the huge mural on the outside of the restaurant.
We are also partial to getting takeaway fish and chips from The Fish House and enjoying them in the park.
Ginger Pig have one of their busier butcheries in Victoria Park Village, selling ‘farm-to-plate’ meat – every time we’ve gone past, there is always a small queue of hungry shoppers waiting for their finest cuts. The Village Organic store is also nearby selling fresh fruit and veg – they also have a nice line in ice-creams if it is a hot summer’s day.
If you fancy something a little more savoury and snacky, we’d recommend Gail’s Bakery for their baked goods and sweet treats – we are particularly partial to their spinach and feta roll.
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