Make the most of Christmas in Hackney

If you’ve left your Christmas shopping until the last minute or are looking for some fun activities over the holidays, Hackney has it all.

From the creative hub of Shoreditch with its bars, galleries and clubs; to the centres of international culture and cuisine in Dalston and Hackney Central; to the relaxed ‘villages’ of Stoke Newington and Victoria Park, Hackney has a great deal to offer by way of entertainment, quirky shopping and relaxation.

Here are just a few ideas for making the most of the festive season in our borough.

1. Entertainment
If you’re looking for traditional festive entertainment, the Hackney Empire pantomime ( has established itself as leader of the pack. Set in “the most beautiful theatre in London” (The Guardian), this year it features a fantastic version of Mother Goose.

Brighten up the dark December evenings at the Winter Lights Christmas Festival at St John-at-Hackney Churchyard, Narrow Way (Mare Street), central Hackney on Thurs 11 and 18 Dec, from 4 to 7pm.

Music and carols will be from a variety of groups including a steel pan band, drummers, local choir the Hackney Singers, and local classical band the Mediaeval Baebes. Residents and children will also have the chance to make lanterns during workshops with local artist Emily Tracy, and to take part in a parade around the churchyard.

Alternatively, if you wish to escape the obvious pantomime and carol services, try the award winning Arcola Theatre ( Or if music is more your thing, there’s The Vortex Jazz Bar (

Or why not visit Hackney Museum, Reading Lane, to see selected photos taken by residents over the summer as part of the Capture Hackney photographic treasure hunt around the borough’s cultural highlights? The exhibition is free and runs until 14 Feb 2009.

2. Last Minute Shopping
If you’re looking for presents with a difference, Hackney’s independent shops offer a wide range of possibilities. The best places to go are:

Stoke Newington Church Street for independent boutiques, second-hand bookshops, children’s clothes shops, Saturday’s organic farmers’ market and specialist music shops, providing an inviting offer for casual moochers and hardcore shoppers alike.

Similarly, Victoria Park Village ( offers designer boutiques, specialist interior shops, cafes, pottery and gift shops, florists, hair and beauty salons, pubs, bars and restaurants.

Between London Fields and Regent’s Canal, Broadway Market ( is lined with retailers, galleries, bars and restaurants. The Saturday market sells fantastic organic cakes, fruit and veg, cheese, bread, and meat.

3. Parks and Fresh Air
Visit Clissold Park for its tennis courts, animals including deer, goats and rabbits, children s playground, ponds, an organic nature garden and butterfly tunnel.

Springfield Park in the very north of the borough has a café which is perhaps one of Hackney’s best kept secrets and where the breakfast has been voted one of the best in London. Housed in the beautiful Grade II-listed White Lodge Mansion, it also provides a superb range of cakes and hot drinks for a winter’s day, and serene views across acres of grassy parkland, ancient trees and Walthamstow Marshes. (The café will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

Or if you’re feeling energetic, you may like to take a dip in the London Fields Lido - London’s only Olympic size, outdoor, heated swimming pool.

4. Food
You can virtually eat your way around the world in Hackney, with good quality, affordable cafes and restaurants. Take your pick from French, Italian, Turkish, Jewish, Thai, Caribbean, Mexican, Nigerian, Vietnamese and Russian to name just a few. And just in case you thought English cooking had been forgotten, pie and mash and jellied eel shops offer traditional local fayre.

The borough has established a reputation for great food, with award-winning eateries that attract visitors from far and wide. The Hoxton Apprentice, Fifteen, Yum Yum, LMNT and Mangal Ocakbasi are just a few of the culinary delights on offer.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: “Hackney is one of London’s most vibrant places with thriving town centres offering residents and visitors alike a great mix of shops, markets, restaurants, cafes and bars, galleries, museums and theatres.”