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Hackney & Dalston

It remains one of the poorest boroughs in London, perhaps in Britain, but Hackney’s undeniable charms never fail to bubble to the surface; a busy, ragged, intensely multicultural, inner-city neighbourhood that never ceases to reinvent itself. It has a strong and vibrant street life, a growing art scene, and is a magnet for youth culture in the capital, with a good dose of the city’s best clubs and bars, and hippest hangouts. At its heart is a core of grand buildings – the extravagant Hackney Empire theatre, an imposing 1930s town hall and a new multi-level Picturehouse; there’s also tree-lined London Fields, and the market, bars and restaurants of Broadway Market, just a stroll away. Further west is Dalston, long-time home to a large Turkish community. There you find the cutting-edge Arcola Theatre and experimental music venue Café Oto. Wherever you go in the area, you won’t be far from a great bar, a good meal and a fun night out.

History

Hard as it is to believe now, Hackney was a country village in Tudor times. The only remnant of this is Sutton House, a National Trust property now surrounded by tower blocks, but Henry VIII had a palace here, and – even harder to believe – the area was something of a wealthy resort. The sylvan charms of the village began to disappear at the end of the Georgian period, and with the coming of the railway during the 19th century, Hackney became a dense urban area that fast grew into one of the capital’s poorest districts. These days, Hackney is on the up, something that is most evident in the mushrooming of great places to eat and drink. There’s the foodie paradise of Broadway Market on a Saturday, minimalist coffee shops that blend and grind their own beans, and quirky designer bars. But some of the best eating comes from Hackney’s long-established communities: a huge number of Vietnamese people came to the borough in the 1970s and set up terrific eating places on the Kingsland Road.

Hackney was hard hit by the riots of August 2011, which revealed the problems of poverty and disaffection, particularly among young people. But a strong community spirit was also evident in the rapid clean-up of damaged shops and streets. And Hackney continues, as it always has done, to absorb people from all corners of the globe.

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