Many know Stratford as the site for the 2012 London Olympics, but since then, what has the town become?
Before 2012,Stratford was labelled as a no-go part of Greater London, and despite much public apprehension, the £9 billion Olympic Games promised to turn the slum around. And it was worth it.
Two years after the Olympics and Stratford is fast becoming one of the major metropolitan centres for East London, including parks and shopping to rival those in central London.
The town has a colourful history and there are still reminders of that history scattered around for visitors to find.
Originally,Stratford(made up of the words ‘Street’ and ‘Ford’) was occupied by the Romans who built a causeway for travellers with a ford at Old Ford. Romford Road follows the route of the Roman road to Colchester and at Stratford it met up with the road to Cambridge so that all travellers crossed by the ford.
With everything from an Opera House built in 1895, to plenty of interesting historical sculptures, Stratford can be a great place for history buffs to wonder.
There are historic, waterway and wildlife walks in the area which take visitors on a one-and-a-half hour, audio-guided tour exploring the high streets, back streets and waterway spaces to learn aboutStratford’s past, present and future.
With the inception of Westfield Stratford City shopping center in September 2011 in preparation for the Olympics,Stratfordis on the map for one of the best shopping experiences in Greater London.
Hailed as the biggest shopping centre in Europe, Westfield in Stratford is the ultimate shopping and leisure destination in one complex.
Westfield has a unique mix of haute couture alongside edgy urban trends, high street favourites as well as the latest catwalk fashions and celebrated home and lifestyle brands. With over 250 shops, you are sure to find what you are looking for all in the vicinity of one shopping complex.
Along with hours of shopping experiences, Westfield alone has over 65 restaurants and Stratford has a handful of relaxed pubs scattered around with great dining specials.
Westfield has an amazing mix of eateries from fast food chains to world cuisine options and bespoke top class restaurants.
After shopping and satisfying their hunger, visitors can indulge in the many leisure facilities which include the 17-screen Vue Cinema (which is one of the largest in Europe), go bowling at the All Star Lanes or try their luck at the 24-hour Aspers Casino which is the biggest casino in Europe.
Want to visit the site where the Olympics was held? Now you can. In April this year the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was opened as a public park. The opening saw over 50,000 people coming out in support of the park.
The actual stadium is under redevelopment and will open again in 2016 when it becomes the new home of West Ham United Football Club and the National Competition Centre for athletics.
But visitors can still swim and dive at the Aquatics Centre, play badminton at the Copper Box Arena or cycle at the Lee Valley VeloPark.
The Timber Lodge Café, which is designed to blend into the natural landscape, is the perfect place for a quiet and relaxed lunch after a morning exploring the park. The café has a special playground, theTumblingBayadventure playground, which has loads of activities for children.
For breathtaking views of the stadium and East London, visitors can stand at the top of the strikingArcelorMittalOrbitTowerwhich isBritain’s largest piece of public art.
Stratford is also a cultural hub, with the arts and entertainment being a big part of Stratford life. Opened in 1884, Theatre Royal was saved from the bulldozers in the 1970’s and continues today as a Victorian gem that is home to some of the UK’s best new writing and performing talent.
Just around the corner is the Stratford Circus, where visitors will find comedy, cabaret, exhibitions, dance and music performances.
Nearby is the Discovery Children’s Museum and Story Centre,London’s only children’s museum. It is a place where children and their families can enjoy playing, learning and storytelling. The centre has exciting exhibits including a forest, tea party area and a story garden.
With all these amazing activities focused on family outings, Stratford is more than just a town, it is a lifestyle destination and is well on its way to becoming one of the best places to live, invest in and visit in Greater London.