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Wanstead in east London is regularly listed as ‘one of the top places to live in London’ and we can easily see why. A nice neighbourhood with a village vibe, Wanstead has oodles of green spaces, a cavalcade of cafes and coffee shops plus some of the best beer gardens in London. Wanna know more about Wanstead? Read on for our things to do in Wanstead guide:
Things to do in Wanstead
We start our Wanstead walk with Wanstead Park, one of our favourite parks in the whole of London. This is a gorgeous green gem comprising 140 acres of parkland to peruse and potter around, with several ponds and ornamental waterways to explore.
Wanstead Park is Grade II listed and our highlight is the (slightly) magical and mystical Grotto, an 18th century ruin that currently has some restoration work underway. Wanstead Park Grotto was constructed in the 1760s and used by a former Earl as a boathouse until it fell into disrepair before being rebuilt over the years.
The grotto’s lookout changes over the seasons – visit in the winter and you’ll see its mirror reflections on a lake but visit in the summer and you’ll see a glade of purple petals all springing up with no water in sight.
Wanstead Park also has waterways and lakes including the Heronry Pond, the Shoulder of Mutton and the most beautiful of them all, the Perch Pond (mirror-like on calm days). Popular with fishermen, there are lots of wildfowl and birds who reside here; be careful of the swans – they can be vicious!
The Wanstead Park Temple is open most weekends, manned by volunteers with information and interpretation panels inside detailing the park’s history. In April, the ‘secret’ Chalet Wood also becomes awash with a field of beautiful bluebells.
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You could be forgiven for thinking you’d left London when you step off the Tube station at Wanstead Village – a charming, neighbourhood strip of shops, bars and restaurants, many of which are independent and artisan. On a warm summer’s day, the high street is thronging with people eating or drinking outside the various cafes and bars.
Wanstead Pubs and Bars
Wanstead has a wide variety of pubs and inns, most of which are located within Wanstead Village. Our favourites are listed below as these all feature Wanstead’s best beer gardens and outdoor areas:
The Bull, Wanstead – Formerly the Manor House, Wanstead’s newest pub, The Bull also appears to be its most popular (at least when we visited on a warm Saturday July afternoon, several days after it opened). A nice spot for a Pimms or pint in the sun.
The Cuckfield Wanstead – with a large beer garden out the back and seating overlooking the high street on the pub, The Cuckfield has been doing it right for years. Loved by the locals (particularly for their Sunday roasts), this is an iconic and much cherished community boozer and one of our top things to do in Wanstead.
The George – located across from the George Green, the outdoor area here is a shaded spot with a view of the Wanstead Village sign (how Hollywood!) and lots of beer and food menu offers available during the week.
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Eating and Drinking in Wanstead Village
Wanstead High Street and Village is an eclectic mix of independent and locally run stores, along with a few of the usual chain delis and stops. Some of the more popular Wanstead eating and dining establishments include:
Harveys Deli – a proper greengrocer, with all the staples and finest produce (much of it organic) you’ll ever need.
Ginger Pig – we highlight this upmarket butchery (one of several in London) based on the fact that when we visit, there is always a huge queue of locals outside and if it is anything like Ginger Pig in Askew Road, West London, their bangers will be brilliant.
Robins Pie & Mash – a traditional, family run pie and mash shop established in the 1920s (one of five), serving pie, mash and liquor. Veggie and vegan pies are now also available.
Provender Cafe Bistro, Wanstead – French fare with a flair, Wanstead Provender ‘bourgeoise’ bistrot has proven hugely popular since opening five years ago, with an outdoor terrace overlooking Wanstead Memorial Park.
Gail’s – sweet treats and savoury pies, Gail’s for us is all about the spinach and feta roll!
Bare Brew Coffee Shop – serving Square Mile Coffee and Wanstead’s ‘best brunch’, this is an award winning coffee shop and full of beans (sorry).
Wanstead Greens – Memorial Green, Christchurch Green & George Green
When we say Wanstead is green and verdant, we mean it as there are several actual greens located within two or three minutes walk of each other, all very popular with picnickers and exercise enthusiasts.
Of the three, Memorial Green is the quietest and most shaded with a bronze war memorial that was installed in 1930 , dedicated to people from Wanstead who died fighting in WWI.
Wandstead’s Christchurch Green is the most popular of the three, a much loved and cherished community space with ample shade and park benches for all.
On George Green, you can see Wanstead’s drinking fountain, which was installed to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, which has been moved around Wanstead several times to accommodate road layout changes.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin
If you’re walking to Wanstead Park from Wanstead town, you’ll likely make the 10 minute walk via St Mary the Virgin Church, described by many as one of the finest Georgian churches in England. There has been a place of worship on this site since the 1200s and the current church was consecrated in 1790 – it said that the interior has hardly changed at all over the last 230 years. As you’d expect, the graveyard is very peaceful and also a serene setting with lots of trees and foliage.
Wanstead tube station is easy to access from central London, located in zone 4 on the Hainault loop of the Central line. The station is rather unremarkable other than the fact it took almost ten years to complete due to work stopping due to the war (it finally opened in 1947).
Snaresbrook, Snaresbrook Pond and Hollow Pond
We actually arrived to explore Wanstead via Snaresbrook station, as it is only a few minutes walk between the two and it is a nice welcome to the area, as Snaresbrook High Street and Wanstead High Street blend into one, a pleasant tree lined avenue of shops and cafes.
If you have time, make the five minute walk to Snaresbrook Pond, a little oasis of calm with gorgeous waterside reflections on calm days and plenty of wildlife, We’d recommend visiting nearby Hollow Pond if you have time, which feels like ‘London On Sea’ with its sandy embankments and rowing boats for hire.
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