Last summer my twin, Ki, moved to Walthamstow in North East London. I’d never been before so when he said he was having a house-warming BBQ I thought it would also be the perfect time to scope out the area. Adding to that was the prospect of playing my favourite game besides chess: Articulate.
Since the BBQ I’ve been back plenty of times and could happily see myself living there too, especially since links into Zone 1 are so good, benefitting from both the Overground and the Victoria line. It has museums, green spaces, decent eateries and it’s one of the few relatively affordable-ish places still available to rent in London.
My favourite thing about Walthamstow is its diversity. It has artisan sourdough bakeries, craft ale stores and organic shops, whilst at the same time lots of markets and a few Poundland shops to keep the town grounded in its working-class roots. It’s one of the few places left in London where this kind of diversity hasn’t been entirely wiped out by gentrification…. yet. It’s still a place where you can find a Polish, Caribbean, Indian and Turkish shop all on the same street, and yes, there’s a regular Tescos if you really need it! If cooking is your thing, you won’t be disappointed with all the produce on your doorstep. As I live in Greenwich that’s something I really miss.
If you’re thinking about moving to Walthamstow or just simply want to add to your growing list of things to do in London, here’s your little guide to Walthamstow.
Drown in Neon at God’s Own Junkyard
Easily the most popular thing about Walthamstow is this neon paradise located on an industrial estate. God’s Own Junkyard is a shimmering Aladdin’s cave jam-packed with new and salvaged retro neon signage for the most unmanageable purposes. As well as all the religious iconography, disco balls and shimmering film props hang from the ceiling and smother every available surface. If I had money, I’d enjoy squandering it on something gaudy and highly unnecessary.
And because this place has a become a well-loved stop for tourists, there’s a cafe inside called The Rolling Scones – whoever came up with that pun is a genius.
Visit the William Morris Gallery
The William Morris Gallery was a sleepy little museum that was in danger of being run into the ground before the Council invested heavily in 2012 into bringing it back to its former glory. It won Museum of the Year 2013, seeing off competition from across the country, and is a charming little gallery with remarkable collections, new education facilities and an orangery-inspired café area.
William Morris was an artist, designer, craftsman, writer, textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and a socialist activist. Whether you are familiar with his work or not, sauntering around the museum to learn about Morris’ life and take in his designs is a special experience.
Have a Delicious Lunch at Bühler and Co
Head back up towards the high street and stop off at Bühler and Co, my favourite vegetarian café in the whole of London. Run by Meg and Rosie Bühler, sisters from New Zealand, the café serves devilishly delicious food.
Sit in the covered garden areas and have the quinoa cakes, poached egg and halloumi for lunch or the French toast and figs if you’d prefer a sweet brunch. If you’re a sucker for something more traditional then the veggie fry up is the one for you. The photos say it all.
Or maybe get a bite to eat at Wynwood
A couple of doors up from Bühler and Co is Wynwood, another lovely café. They are both super yummy so it’s a win-win situation which you decide to patron. I guess if you’re a veggie then Bühler is the obvious choice, and meat-eaters should perch up on a seat here. The desserts here are delicious, so I usually get savoury from Bühler and my dessert from here, that way everyone’s a winner. Occasionally this place hosts live music in the evening which might be worth checking out. Central London is certainly were you want to be for the best of live music but if you’re in the area and fancy something low key, then why not?
Mooch around: from the Market to the The Village.
The outdoor market on Walthamstow’s high street is the longest market in Europe, but I’m hasten to add it’s not the largest, so you won’t find it sprawling off onto side-streets like you do many others. It’s no Portobella Road – I must make that clear – but it’s the ideal place to go for everyday items that won’t cost an arm or a leg. In contrast with the market is Walthamstow village, with its quintessentially English buildings and attractive restaurants, the whole town has a little bit of something for everyone regardless of your budget.