Baseball might be America’s favorite pastime, but the rest of the world wants in on the fun, too. Since 1996, when Major League Baseball took the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets to Mexico for a three-game series, the brand has been expanding its global reach with games in Australia, Japan, Puerto Rico and soon (it’s rumored) South Korea and the Dominican Republic.
In 2019, the MLB brought the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees across the pond for the league’s first European game. And now, after a three-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the London Series is back June 24-25, and this time our own Chicago Cubs will square off against the St. Louis Cardinals, the start of a three-year contract through 2026 (with the 2025 game set in Paris).
The games are hosted at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s London Stadium, home to West Ham Football Club (hands up if you’re a “Ted Lasso” fan), in Stratford, east London. It’s an area that, prior to the 2012 London Summer Olympics, was industrial wasteland atop toxic marshes. And while some neglected Olympic locations fall into disrepair after the Games conclude, this one has grown into a vibrant community.
There are breweries and pubs, canal boats and canal-side dining and drinking, permanent art exhibitions, children’s parks, excellent restaurants, and eight amusement and sporting venues, like the London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena, home to pro basketball team the London Lions.
In the past decade, 4,300 trees have been planted on east London’s 30 acres of biodiverse woodland and along four miles of waterways which are now pristine and open for public and commercial use. To top it off, Stratford station is one of the best-connected transport hubs in the country, with 10 different rail lines and two bus stations.
If you’re headed to east London for the Cubs games — or at any time of the year, for that matter — bring along our guide to the best places to eat, drink, sleep and explore.
The Gantry (40 Celebration Ave., East Village, London; thegantrylondon.com) is part of the Hilton Curio brand, which means it’s got all the perks of the global chain but operates independently, so its style and ethos can mesh with its locale. The hotel opened in late 2021, with 291 rooms and an industrial-chic feel. Feeling homesick? STK Steakhouse, whose 18 U.S. locations include one in Chicago, is on the top floor offering great views and great food.
The Stratford (Olympic Park, 20 International Way, London; thestratford.com) feels new-age, with key card-accessible sliding doors throughout, rounded walls, and a cavernous lobby and restaurant. The first floors house 145 rooms that are sleek with pops of color, and above are 248 short- and long-stay apartments. Don’t miss live jazz at the Mezzanine Bar or the fine dining at Allegra.
Snoozebox (Pudding Mill Lane, London; snoozebox.com) is unlike any budget hotel you’ve seen before, and one of the smaller rooms you’d probably inhabit. Established in 2011 for the British Formula 1 Grand Prix, this adults-only portable hotel made out of shipping containers has given visitors at major events and festivals across the continent a place to rest their weary heads. With that small of a room, it’s important the sleep is good, and we can attest to the beds being really comfy.
Food and drink
Barge East (River Lee, Sweetwater Mooring, White Post Lane, London; bargeeast.com) is the closest restaurant to the stadium and a gem of a spot. Eat on the moored boat — a 122-year-old Dutch barge the owners brought over from Holland in 2018 and retrofitted themselves — the covered patio, or the alfresco garden, where produce and rare herbs are grown exclusively for the six-course tasting menu. The a la carte menu is great for sharing, too, or get your own massive maple- and jalapeño-glazed fried chicken sandwich with a side of panisse (fried chickpea sticks). For a pregame drink, breezy outdoor spaces beckon — try the IPA from nearby Hackney Brewery (hackneybrewery.com).
While no one is trying to compete with Chicago’s Italian restaurants, it’s worth mentioning that Gotto Trattoria (27 E. Bay Lane, London; gotto.co.uk) is an excellent option for a truly delicious, family friendly meal where chef Maurizio Pino uses his mother’s red sauce recipe, makes everything (including the pasta) fresh every day, and visits with customers when the kitchen is not too busy. The pizza crust is perfectly chewy, and they don’t skimp on toppings.
Haugen (9 Endeavour Square, London; haugen-restaurant.com) is an Alpine-inspired bar and restaurant. Go for the unique architecture, stay for the rooftop summer party vibe. The food is a modern take on classic Alps dishes like raclette, fondue, tartiflette — so, yes, cheese — but the menu is big and varied, so you won’t feel pigeonholed.
And if you want to really amp up the variety, walk over to Hackney Bridge Food Hall (Echo Building, East Bay Lane, London; hackneybridge.org/hackneybridgekitchens) for South Indian, Filipino, Japanese, Caribbean and many more global food options in an indoor/outdoor multiuse space.
Walking the paths that wind through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park or along the River Lee and its canals is fulfilling in its own right. Of course it is — the area was designed by the same man who did New York City’s High Line.
But beyond the simplicity of a restorative stroll, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy when ball isn’t being played. The ArcelorMittal Orbit (arcelormittalorbit.com) is not just a mouthful; the 374-foot-high structure with twisting slide is a towering eyeful as well. While the structure was commissioned for the 2012 Olympics, installation artist Anish Kapoor (who also designed Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate) added the slide in 2016. Make sure to take advantage of the viewing platform, since there’s no time limit once you’ve taken your turn on the slide.
See the sights another way with a canal boat ride with Lee Stort Boats (leestortboats.co.uk) or one of the Swan pedalos if you’re up for a bit more physical activity. The Milk Float, a bar and cafe next to Barge East, also offers canoe and kayak rentals through Moo Canoes (moocanoes.com).
Another family-friendly option where you can also get some grub is the superfun Four Quarters Arcade Bar (fourquarters.bar). Along with vintage arcade cabinets, it has Nintendo and Sega consoles to relive all your early 2000s gaming dreams.
In May 2022, the beloved Swedish pop group ABBA turned the clock back 40 years and invited us along to enjoy ABBA Voyage (abbavoyage.com) a virtual performance featuring digital avatars of the band from 1979 performing their greatest hits. If it sounds wacky, that’s because it is. But it’s also one of the top-rated shows in London, and so lifelike that suspending your belief for 90 minutes comes easily as you get lost in hits such as “Mamma Mia” and “Dancing Queen.”
For tickets to the London Series, visit MLB.com.
Valentina Valentini is a freelance writer.
Big screen or home stream, takeout or dine-in, Tribune writers are here to steer you toward your next great experience. Sign up for your free weekly Eat. Watch. Do. newsletter here.
Source: Berkshire mont