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Shoreditch & Hoxton

Shoreditch and Hoxton are London at its most cool – the heartland of the capital’s designer creativity, with cutting-edge galleries, great clubbing and live music, slick restaurants and exuberant fashion and interiors stores. Even unlovely Old Street roundabout has become known as Silicon Roundabout, at the centre of a dotcom boom that at the moment shows no sign of busting. Some may find the area’s fashionista scene a little over the top, but if you want to see London at its most confident and expressive, it’s the place to be, no question.

History

The origins of the area are ancient: the straight-as-a-dye Kingsland Road, which cuts through it, was originally Roman, and Shoreditch Church stands at the point where Roman roads from various points in England met. And this has long been a place for entertainment: the first playhouse in England was erected here in 1576 by the actor James Burbage (Burbage was buried at Shoreditch Church) and Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the nearby Curtain Theatre. It was also a centre for the textile trade and for furniture production – history that is celebrated at the Geffrye Museum in Bethnal Green – but by Victorian times its fortunes had declined to the point where it had become a notorious slum. Shoreditch and Hoxton were hard hit during the Blitz, but by the end the 20th century the industrial buildings and warehouses of the area had become a focus for the arts, and for a good night out. The centre of this phenomenon was Hoxton Square, ringed by clubs and bars (the fluffy hairdo known as the Hoxton fin became a way of identifying local hipsters), since when the scene – much satirized, naturally – has migrated away from the square, and moved to the area’s characterful and intriguing back streets.

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