10 of the best things to do in Stratford

Blogger Antonia Windsor Antonia Windsor of London City Diaries
If you were one of the millions of people who tuned in to watch the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, then you’ll have seen some of the landmark buildings that make up Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford - the late Zaha Hadid’s Aquatic Centre, Anish Kapoor’s twisted helter-skelter landmark, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, and the large laurel wreath of the Olympic stadium. These buildings and the acres of parkland that surround it now form the centre of a vibrant and popular leisure destination.

On the edge of the park is the phenomenal Westfield shopping centre packed with the UK's best retailers, as well as countless restaurants, cinemas and bowling alleys. Nearby is a top-notch theatre, a children’s story centre, a rooftop film club and numerous independent bars and restaurants that reflect the dynamic and creative community that live in the area.

Just 15 minutes from London City Airport on the DLR and 20 minutes from Oxford Circus on the Tube, read on to find out why a day out in Stratford should definitely be on your London itinerary:

1. Slide down the ArcelorMittal Orbit

ArcelorMittal Orbit

This red tower of twisted metal is the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide. Created by Belgian artist Carsten Höller, this giant slide will transport you at speeds of about 15mph in a 40-second descent. If you're not brave enough to zoom down the slide, take the lift to the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, where its viewing platforms offer unrivalled vistas of London from the east.

2. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park boat tours

A Lee & Stort boat tour is a great way to find out about the park and explore some of the waterways that run through it. Tours leave every hour from midday, seven days a week from Easter to mid-September and last 45 minutes. Look out for some of the 84 species of wildlife that occupy the 560 acres of the park.

3. Roof East 


Glorious sunshine! #roofeast #bluesky #bar #streetfood #deckchairs

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A cinema on top of a multi-storey car park? Of course, this is Stratford. Roof East offers regular film screenings from May to September. If it’s raining, you’ll be given an umbrella and a poncho and the show will go on. Grab a hotdog and a deckchair and sit back to enjoy your favourite movie against an urban skyline. The rooftop also has a bar and street food stall.

4. Westfield Stratford City shopping centre

Westfield Stratford City arcade 

For retail therapy, Westfield Stratford City has extended its opening hours until 9pm, but you’d still need a couple of days to explore every nook and cranny of this enormous mall. Head to the “Street” for some nourishment, where restaurants such as the Real Greek serve up delicious plates of food.

5. Aquatics Centre

You can go for a swim in the Olympic pool in this wonderfully light and sunny building. To nurture your inner child, try one of the Aqua Splash sessions where they put giant inflatables into the pool.

6. Theatre Royal Stratford East

A dynamic theatre with a tradition of developing new plays and musicals, Theatre Royal Stratford East's work is always relevant to and informed by modern Britain.

7. The Sawmill

The Sawmill is an independent cafe that serves up delicious cakes and coffees, home-cooked lunches and a big dollop of charm.

8. Discover Children’s Story Centre

This dedicated children’s space has a wealth of activities for young children. Expect craft, dressing up and plenty of interactive exhibits, as well as an outdoor playground.

9. Tumbling Bay Adventure Playground and Timber Lodge

At the north end of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, this state-of-the-art playground has plenty for children of all ages to explore and discover, from a hidden piano, nest-like dens, wobbly walkways and an elaborate sequence of sand and water diggers and pulleys.The Timber Lodge cafe serves excellent coffee and a selection of healthy lunches.

10. King Edward VII

Known locally as the King Eddie, this is a great traditional British pub within walking distance of the Olympic Park. Try a craft beer and a homemade pie and enjoy the atmospheric dark wood furniture, low ceilings and open fires.

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