The Best Things To Do in Stratford, London

View of the Stratford Olympic Park across the waterway with the AcellorMittal Orbit in the background

I’ve lived in East London for seven years now, with almost three of those spent in Stratford. It’s not a place you regularly see travel guides about, as many London visitors often don’t find their way here. But I genuinely love living here and showing friends from out of town around my local area. If you want to know more about the best things to do near Stratford – including great places to drink and eat – read on!

(no, not Stratford-upon-Avon, that’s somewhere else – but I’ve got a guide on how to spend a weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon too!)

Stratford is one of the best-connected areas in London, with the Central, Jubilee, DLR and Overground lines, as well as national rail services from East Anglia, running through Stratford Station. Plus, you’ve got Stratford International, where the high-speed Javelin service gets you to and from St Pancras International in just 7 minutes. The coach from Stansted Airport takes between 40-50 minutes, so it’s also a great spot to drop in on if you’ve got a layover at Stansted.

The sizeable area of Stratford is divided by the behemoth of Westfield Stratford City. To the north, you’ll find the plush East Village and Queen Elizabeth Park, an area redeveloped heavily ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. To Westfield’s south, you’ll find ‘old Stratford’, which is a less gentrified and more diverse area. To outsiders, it may be a little rougher around the edges, but there’s a sense of local community here as well as some great independent local businesses worth supporting. 

Sights & Attractions in Stratford

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Stratford is best known for being the epicentre of the 2012 London Olympics, and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was purpose-built to host many of the Olympic games. Within its borders, you’ll find London Stadium, the London Aquatics Centre, Copper Box Arena, the athletes village and much more. You can also check out the 2012 Olympic Rings just west of the Olympic Village.

ArcelorMittal Orbit

This towering red structure of twisted metal was designed by artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond, as a lasting legacy of London hosting the Olympic Games. At 376ft high, it’s Britains tallest piece of public art, and offers an observation platform as well as the world’s longest tunnel slide. Got a head for heights? You can even dangle above the Olympic Park with the UK’s highest freefall abseiling experience.

London Stadium

This multi-purpose outdoor stadium was purpose-built for the 2012 Olympics and hosted both the opening and closing ceremonies. It’s primary use now as as a home ground for West Ham football club, but concerts and events also take place here. West Ham FC offer London Stadium tours that cover the history of both the club and the Stadium itself. 

Since 9/11 Sculpture

Often overlooked in the sizeable park expanse, this twisted piece of metal was recovered from the World Trade Center after the 9/11 bombings. One of only six parts of the World Trade Center to be sent overseas, artist Miya Ando created a sculpture from the steel. Today, it stands near the London Aquatic Centre and serves as a harrowing reminder of the events of that day.

Stratford Boat Tours

See the Olympic Park and surrounding area from a different angle with a boat tour! This three hour guided river tour takes you past the key sights in the park and surrounding area. Tickets cost £19 (with cheaper tickets for children and concessions) and can be booked here (summer months only).

Swan Pedalo Hire

Prefer to get out onto the water on your own steam? Give your legs a workout as you glide up and down the Stratford Waterfront in a swan pedalo. You can rent them at Stratford Waterfront Pontoon, during the summer months only.

London Aquatics Centre

Take a swim where champions have built their legacy – the London Aquatics Centre hosted Olympic swimming and diving events, and is now open to the public to use. Even if you don’t fancy a dip, check out the spectacular design by legendary architect Zaha Haddid, including a ‘wave’ shaped roof.

Lee Valley Velopark

Cycling enthusiasts will know Lee Valley Velodrome and BMX Park as the venue for the 2012 Olympic Cycling events. It’s now open to the public to experience the world-class cycling facilities. You don’t even need to bring your own bike, as the Velodrome and Velopark offer cycling experiences with included bike and gear hire.

Westfield Stratford City

Not somewhere I often venture, but if you’re looking for something specific, chances are Westfield Stratford City shopping centre will have it. One of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, Westfield opened in 2011 and has around 250 shops, including the second Sephora store in the UK, Primark, H&M and New Look. It’s also a leisure destination, with around 80 restaurants, an All-Star Lanes, Vue Cinema, Puttshack Mini Golf, Sixes Social Cricket and a bouldering wall.

The centre gets very busy during weekends, and I find the best times to beat the crowds are weekday mornings – most shops are open from 10am.

East Village

The former residences of Olympic athletes are now high-end flats, and the whole area feels like a whole different city. A pedestrianised central area punctuated by green spaces, it’s the perfect spot for al fresco summer dining or drinking. I’ve recommended some of my favourite eating and drinking spots here later on in this post!

Roof East

London has it’s fair share of rooftop bars, but Roof East is more than just a bar. Of course, it still serves up drinks and delicious street food, but you can also get involved in a variety of fun activities here, including batting cages, bowls and crazy golf. There’s even a Rooftop Film Club, where you can watch a movie against the backdrop of London’s skyline.

(Roof East is only open during the Spring, Summer and early Autumn months)

Theatre Royal Stratford East

First opened in 1884, Stratford’s Theatre Royal is a 460-seat Victorian style theatre hosting plays, comedy shows and other theatre performances, a short walk from Stratford station. Prices for most shows start at just £10, check what’s on and book your tickets on the Theatre Royal website.

ABBA Voyage

Speaking of entertainment – over 1.5 million ABBA fans have flocked to Pudding Mill Lane, on the outskirts of Stratford, to watch this groundbreaking live music experience. The ‘virtual concert’ is one of London’s premiere entertainment attractions, featuring lifelike holograms of the Swedish pop legends, with all their top hits. Stratford is the perfect area to stay in if you’re making the voyage to the ABBA Arena, with plenty of hotels and restaurants in easy walking distance. Tickets for ABBA Voyage start at £55.

Hackney Wick

It isn’t *technically* Stratford proper, but it’s so close by, I had to include it. On the north-western side of the Olympic Park, you’ll find Hackney Wick – a lively, colourful area packed with canalside bars and restaurants. Vibrant street art covers the walls, including the iconic Lord Napier Star pub. Some of my favourite Hackney Wick spots are:

Randy’s Wing Bar – delicious chicken and cauliflower wings
Crate Brewery – epic pizzas and craft beers alongside the canal
Hackney Bridge – a massive beer garden that comes alive in the sunshine
Grow – sustainable food, music and culture in a tucked-away canalside spot
The Italian Job – ridiculously good pizza

Discover Children’s Story Centre

If you’re visiting Stratford with kids, the Discover Children’s Story Centre is an immersive play space where children’s imaginations can run wild. The magical Story Worlds and Story Garden will take little ones through caves, castles and a tree house with chicken legs, alongside special exhibitions and storytelling sessions. Find out more and book your visit on their website.

Where to eat in Stratford

Kotch Pizza (Maryland)

Hands down one of my favourite pizza spots in the whole of London, and I go out for pizza a lot. They also offer a gorgeous, rustic-style brunch with vegetarian and vegan options. (fun fact, I once tried to order a pizza AND chips here, and accidentally ended up with chips ON my pizza)

55 Leytonstone Rd, E15 1JA

XIX Nineteen (Stratford Broadway)

A Ukranian restaurant serving up a mixture of fresh breakfast and brunch dishes, Ukranian specialities and sharing platters. One of my favourite hidden gems in the Stratford area – the food is delicious, and I’m obsessed with their homemade dumplings!

369 High St, E15 4QZ

Sawmill Cafe (Stratford Broadway)

Another Ukranian-owned spot, Sawmill Cafe offers a cosy brunch and bakery atmosphere. One of my favourite spots to take visitors for a lazy lunchtime hangout and a cake to take away for later!

51-53 W Ham Ln, E15 4PH

Neighbourhood (East Village)

Affordable pub grub in a contemporary sports bar-style spot.

52-54 Celebration Ave, East Village, E20 1DB

Darkhorse Restaurant (East Village)

A more upmarket but relaxed vibe, Darkhorse pairs industrial chic decor with a European menu built on seasonal ingredients sourced in the UK.

16 Victory Parade, East Village, E20 1FS

Pubs and Bars in Stratford

Whether you fancy a quirky cocktail, or a pint in an old-school boozer, Stratford has a diverse range of drinking holes popular with locals and visitors alike.

Escape Bar (Stratford Broadway)

One of my absolute favourite local spots and my go-to London Pub, Escape Bar is all about good beer on the taps, every board game you can imagine on the shelves, and consoles to play basically any game under the sun on. They do a banging pub quiz, Rock Band karaoke nights and more – and as they don’t have a kitchen, you’re welcome to bring in your own food.

25 W Ham Ln, E15 4PH

King Edward VII

For an old school East London pub experience, the 19th century grade II listed King Edward II is a true traditional British boozer. It’s mint green exterior stands out on Stratford High Street, and inside you’ll find original tiling, etched glass, and a cosy fireplace.

47 Broadway, E15 4BQ

Cart and Horses (Maryland)

This simple corner pub next to Maryland Station is well known in alternative music circles, as it claims the title of ‘the birthplace of Iron Maiden’. The iconic metal band played some of their earliest shows here, and the walls are packed with photos and memorabilia spanning Iron Maiden’s career. A must visit for any Maiden fans visiting East London!

1 Maryland Point, London E15 1PF

Mother Kellys (East Village)

A lovely taproom spot with outdoor seating, perfect for soaking in the buzz of the East Village during the summer months. Enjoy a range of draught beers from independent breweries, a great wine selection plus a whole fridge of canned drinks – they also do great toasties if you’re after a bar snack!

27-30 Victory Parade, E20 1FS

Love taprooms? Check out the ultimate guide to the Bermondsey Beer Mile!

Tina We Salute You (East Village)

Bringing back street Dalston to the East Village, Tina We Salute You takes you effortlessly from morning coffee to evening cocktails. A cosy spot with an artistic vibe on the very edge of the Olympic Park.

2 Olympic Park Ave, E20 1FT

Where to stay in Stratford, London

The aforementioned great transport links between Stratford and the rest of London makes it an ideal place to stay for a trip to London – and hotels are often far cheaper here than in more central locations.

For budget travellers, Premier Inn and Travelodge both have a presence in the area.
Opened in 2018, the Moxy Stratford is colourful and contemporary.
Heading to ABBA Voyage? Snoozebox Olympic Park is close by.
The Westbridge Hotel is a 4-star hotel in a Grade-II listed 18th century building.

Summary: Is Stratford a good place to visit?

Stratford may be overlooked ahead of more upmarket and tourist-centric areas, but for a real local experience, there’s plenty here to do, see and eat. From the OIympic legacy and attractions in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the delicious independent restaurants and abundant shopping at Westfield Stratford City, Stratford is a well-connected and buzzing slide of London life.

More London Area Guides:
The best things to do near London Bridge
12 awesome things to do on a day trip to Greenwich

Similar Posts