O my mum hipsters were those low-rise pants she peered at, disapprovingly, over her glasses when I was a teenage girl.
Today hipsters have beards, wear clothes their grandads might have thought old-fashioned and gather like moths to a flame in the bar of The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch, London.
The Hoxton is a favourite haunt for MacBook jockeys with its free wifi, smart leather couches and the endless gurgle of brewing coffee.
It’s pleasingly cool. Somewhere to people watch in the bar, have a terrific dinner in the restaurant from a splendidly restrained menu, and overnight in the smart if self-consciously contemporary rooms.
Breakfast you can have back downstairs but the Hoxton has a trick up its sleeve. Unlike the restaurant, their breakfast bags are part of the tariff. Leave yours on the room door handle and it will magically fill overnight with yoghurt, muesli and a banana.
There’s also free fresh milk and water in your fridge and unlimited top ups from reception should you need them.
Visiting this part of London for the first time I found the East End to be surprisingly central.
Old Street Tube, the Hoxton’s nearest stop, is only 10 minutes from the main north London railway terminals, with the Tower of London, the sights of the City and the Barbican arts centre are all within easy reach.
Not to be missed is the free Museum of London, which tells the story of the capital from a sparsely settled riverside to eight million-strong global metropolis. The Victorian walk-through streetscape exhibition is particularly well done.
From the Hoxton’s front door, Redchurch Street is where the guide books point you for an “independent shopping scene”.
I was slightly underwhelmed. Much better to press on across Bethnal Green Road to Brick Lane, which is vibrant, exciting and fun, even on a weekday afternoon. A shop selling locally made leather goods was fantastic value. The shopkeeper was on the phone ordering more skins as I rifled the gorgeous bags.
The streets and churches off Brick Lane are worth a look too.
The brick terraces are now smart townhouses but so steeped in history that, once darkness falls, it is easy to imagine Jack the Ripper stalking from the shadows. Whitechapel, after all, is but a short drive away.
There is no shortage of places to eat and Brick Lane’s influence spills into surrounding streets. We enjoyed a very late lunch at Dishoom in Boundary Street on the walk back to the Hoxton. Highly recommended.
Later, we took the Northern Line to Elephant and Castle for the short walk to another free attraction, the Imperial War Museum. I could spend many days wandering around this amazing building but the Extraordinary Heroes exhibition is a must-see.
It is the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses and tells the stories of the people awarded them. Check out the First World War gallery too. Historical interpretation, whether you’re five or 95, doesn’t get any better than this.
From the museum, it is a 45-minute walk to Covent Garden where we enjoyed an early dinner at Tandoor Chop House, where the quirky menu is not your standard sauce and rice place. Instead the melt-in-your-mouth meat comes with sides and breads. Very different and very popular too.
Saturday night in the West End is usually show time but instead of a big budget musical, we took the Tube again (this time to Tower Hill) and a short walk to Wilton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel.
Wilton’s has survived life as a warehouse, Hitler’s bombs and chronic neglect to become the world’s oldest, operational grand music hall.
It’s worth a visit even if you’re not seeing a show – and provides an atmospheric end to any East End expedition.