A Free Street Art Tour of Bethnal Green and Hackney Road in London
This year has seen a further shift in the centre of gravity of street art in the city. Further east from its heartland of Shoreditch artists have been finding spots around Bethnal Green and Hackney. Not that these areas were untouched before it’s just that this year in particular has seen a dramatic rise in activity around these places.
Of course this is perhaps to be expected! More and more development is taking place around the Brick Lane and Shoreditch areas, for so long the epicentre for street art in the city. High rise buildings are beginning to take over the spots were street art was once king and as usually happens in this scenario it means that the artists themselves are pushed ever further away.
Of course it isn’t just Bethnal Green where artists are beginning to find new areas to paint. We’ve already covered quite extensively other activity that is taking place in the likes of Brixton, Hackney Wick and Camden and these areas in particular are beginning to garner a real reputation as go-to spots. The recent street art festival in Brockley has shown that in areas that you would least expect street art is becoming a must have. Whilst in Dulwich, the outdoor gallery there has established itself as one of the most unique open art projects around.
So for this post I thought we’d look at Bethnal Green and in particular the art you can see along the Cambridge Heath Road that runs into Hackney. The tour starts at Bethnal Green tube station, finishes in the same place and should take no more than two hours.
Bethnal Green tube to Paradise Row
Exit the tube station and you’ll come out at the crossroads of Bethnal Green and Cambridge Heath Roads. In order to get your bearings find St. Johns Church. This sits at the north eastern corner of the junction. Follow the road north it leads into Hackney and towards the regents canal. Carry on east it takes you towards Mile End and Bow, South leads you towards Whitechapel whilst west takes you towards Shoreditch and the city.
Paradise Row is literally just over the road directly opposite the church. There’s a little area of green before it and a little street with some lovely Georgian style houses is nestled just behind, backing up to the railway bridge. Head towards there and walk up the row. The houses will soon give way to the railway arches which have now been converted to cool bars and restaurants. Opposite those is the first stop, a long wall with plenty of street art. Keep heading around the corner by the petrol station onto Nant Street and you’ll find yourself back on Cambridge Heath Road.
Cambridge Heath Road to Hackney Road
Turn left on Cambridge Heath Road and walk past the petrol station. If you are feeling adventurous then, on the opposite side is the V&A museum of childhood. Further down on the same side as the museum is the home of British boxing, the famous York Hall which alongside hosting bouts also doubles as a leisure centre.
Walking along Cambridge Heath Road you will notice the odd bit of street art dotted around so keep your eyes peeled on walls and on shutters. At the time of writing, works from Sweet Toof, Mr Shiz and Alo can all be seen if you look hard enough. It will take you about 5 minutes to get to the junction of Hackney Road which is next to the Cambridge Heath national rail station.
Turn left, walk under the railway bridge and left again to take you into Clare Street. Here the area has been transformed by recent street art activity and some impressive pieces can be seen. Have a good explore up and down Clare street before heading back to Hackney Road.
Hackney Road to Regents Canal
Hackney Road is a great place to wander along and see street art. Carry on walking left and it will take you into the heart of Shoreditch and comes out at St. Leonards Church. We won’t be walking that far for this trip but we will be taking a little detour along it prior to heading to the Regents Canal.
From the junction with Clare Street turn left and walk along the the Hackney Road. Again it is likely that you will see art dotted around, not least from the likes of Milo Tchais, Sweet Toof (again) and Mr. Penfold. When you find a safe spot, cross over and look for Pritchards Road. Walk down and after about 100 metres you’ll see a painted building with some pretty impressive pieces of art.
Head back down the way you came towards Hackney Road then turn left, this will take you back to the junction with Cambridge Heath Road. Once you get there turn left and once again keep your eyes peeled for artworks dotted around from the likes of Stik, Zabou and Pez. Keep going until you reach the canal and straight in front you will see a building covered with street art with works from Conor Harrington and Nemo.
Regents Canal to London Fields via Broadway Market.
Don’t cross over the canal just yet. First stay on the side you are and turn left. The cobbled street you are on is called ‘Corbridge‘ walk down and take your first left into a grimy tunnel. Throughout this tunnel there can be found some impressive street art. Have a wander along and then come back the way you came. Now you can cross over to the other side.
Once over, follow the canal to the left and keep walking until you hit Broadway Market. You’ll pass some old gas storage containers on the opposite side and see plenty of barges on the route, it’s a nice walk. Go no further than the first bridge you see as that is Broadway Market. Turn right and walk up the road making sure to stop off at Ada Street which is the first turning on the right and which, at the time of writing, has a couple of great works from Zabou and Kef. Keep walking up until you get to London Fields but make sure to grab a coffee or a bite to eat, this place is one of the best spots in town for cool little eateries.
London Fields to Cambridge Heath Road via Mare Street
Turn right along Westgate Street and follow until it takes you back to the junction with Mare Street. Before you do though have a wander around London Fields itself, common ground for many years it was once used as a stop off for drovers moving livestock into the city, resting to pasture before the next stop. It’s been common ground ever since and also hosts the most famous lido in the city.
Once you get to Mare Street turn right and head back down. You’ll soon come to the junction of the Regents Canal and realise that you’ve just come full circle. Once over the canal you’ll be back on Cambridge Heath Road once over the bridge there will be a little turning down Vyner Street. There may or may not be some street art down here. Continue to the pub called ‘The Victory’ and then head back, you never know what you might find.
Once back at Cambridge Heath Road keep walking down and keep your eyes peeled for the entrance to a little car park which has a whole load of cool pieces. The car park is unnamed but can be found between Vyner Street and the turnoff to Hackney Road. If you get to Hackney Road you’ve gone too far.
So, that’s pretty much the end of the tour. Continue down Cambridge Heath Road but as before keep your eyes peeled there will be loads of street art to see. If you wanted to catch the train you can get on at Cambridge Heath Road station and that will take you to Liverpool Street. Otherwise carry on for an extra five minutes until you get to Bethnal Green tube station which is where you would have started the walk.
The street art of Bethnal Green and Hackney is very likely to change and a number of the pictures shown within this post are likely to change too. Many of the spots featured have only started to host street art over the past year so it’s likely that other places may be found and also likely that the existing art may be changed. A big shout out should be given to the Hidden Streets of London who have really helped to break in these new areas and who have arranged for much of the work to be created. For more places to find street art in the city have a look at the 10 best places to spot street art in London post.