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Proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, Dalston may look like the kind of inner-city slum best travelled through at great speed, but it’s currently one of the most creatively vibrant postcodes in London – the Guardian called it “the coolest place in Britain” in April 2009.
This corner of east London between Highbury and Hackney has a large Turkish and Afro-Caribbean population, and if you look behind the faded kebab shops and shady ‘members clubs’ you’ll find a pulsating underbelly of fashion, design and music.
Visitors wishing to sample the sights and sounds of the new Dalston cool could do worse than the achingly hip Barden’s Boudoir (38-44 Stoke Newington Road, 020 7249 9557, www.bardensbar.co.uk) and Dalston Jazz Bar (4 Bradbury Street); the former is a sleazy indie bar beloved of the likes of Razorlight and the Mighty Boosh crew, the latter offers very late-night dancing to a wildly eclectic funk and jazz selection, and both are always packed out with trendy young tyros. The Arcola Theatre (27 Arcola Street, 020 7503 1646, www.arcolatheatre.com) is a superb fringe venue with three performance spaces for cutting-edge new productions, and the Rio Cinema (107 Kingsland High Street, 020 7241 9410, www.riocinema.ndirect.com) is an independent picture house with lovely Art Deco styling and typically cool programming.
Another of London’s cultural landmarks has its heart in Dalston: Albert Square, the fictional home of the tragedy-strewn inhabitants of BBC1’s Eastenders soap opera is based on Dalston’s Fassett Square, Ridley Road Market became Walford Market and many of the real Walford Road’s housefronts have been recreated in the Elstree studio where the ever-popular show is filmed. Like its TV counterpart, Ridley Road Market is a cheap and cheerful cockernee place, and there’s a lovely farmer’s market closer to London Fields towards south Dalston.
Dalston Kingsland station (zone 2) is the overground rail station. Normally 4 trains per hour head Westbound via Highbury and Islington, and 4 trains per hour head Eastbound to Stratford. A new Olympic-funded East London Line station named Dalston Junction will open in 2010.
|Highbury & Islington Station||2||Victoria||2.02 miles|
|Arsenal Station||2||Piccadilly||2.34 miles|
|Holloway Road Station||2||Piccadilly||2.63 miles|
|Finsbury Park Station||2||Piccadilly - Victoria||2.75 miles|
|Old Street Station||1||Northern||2.76 miles|
|Dalston Kingsland Station||0.12 miles|
|Hackney Downs Station||1.03 miles|
|Canonbury Station||1.20 miles|
|Hackney Central Station||1.37 miles|
|London Fields Station||1.49 miles|