phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Discover London: A Walk Along London’s Canals

Discover London: A Walk Along London’s Canals

28 December 2016 Agnieszka Serdynska

The London Canals, running along busy throughways and meandering around some of the capital’s best-known locations, are still somewhat of a secret spot – if you overlook the occasional cyclist and a handful of joggers, walking along the waterways may leave you with an impression that you’ve claimed the city for yourself; it also gives you a thrilling opportunity to rediscover places you’ve passed by countless times. So instead of following the crowds to Winter Wonderland, put on a comfortable pair of shoes, and be on your way. (Warning: this trail is suitable for intrepid, tireless walkers only.)

Built in the 19th century to transport timber, coal and building materials as well as food supplies in and out of the city, the canals could not compete with railway transport and were largely abandoned until the late 1960s and 1970s, when England’s waterways experienced a revival. Although their original purpose has been forgone, barges still continue to travel up and down the canals, and you can see quite a few moored along the banks, many of them betraying signs of habitation: wisps of smoke coming out of a chimney, an array of artfully arranged flowerpots, or a cat sprawled on a rooftop, eyeing you curiously. Don’t let the humble appearances mislead you, though; apart from peace and quiet, you’ll also find cutting-edge contemporary architecture, a buzzing cultural scene and ample opportunity to fritter away your money. 
 
Paddington Basin

Located between Paddington and Edgware Road underground stations, Paddington Basin forms a part of the Grand Union Canal and is an extraordinary example of how a disused industrial space can be transformed into a striking vision of modernity – its imposing glass buildings and two extraordinary bridges will definitely catch the eye of both the architecture-savvy and those who simply enjoy a good design. It is well worth visiting Paddington Basin at noon on either Wednesday or Friday, or alternatively at 2 pm on Saturday, to witness seemingly inconspicuous bridges transformed into a remarkable architectural spectacle. The Fan Bridge, designed by Knight Architects, separates into individual blades like a traditional hand-held fan, while Heatherwick Studio’s Rolling Bridge curls into a round shape, which, at different stages of its movement, resembles the shell of a mollusc or an intricate hamster wheel. 


 
Little Venice

If you follow the Canal towards the North-West, you’ll discover Little Venice, where the Grand Union Canal meets the Regent’s Canal. The urban legend has it that the name was coined by the writer Robert Browning, who lived in the vicinity, and if this is indeed true, then his poetic fancy clearly got the better of him. London’s Little Venice doesn’t have much to do with its Italian counterpart; if a comparison is necessary at all, Amsterdam seems like a more accurate choice – and indeed, a Dutch element is present in the Rembrandt Gardens, a charming small patch of green adjacent to the Grand Union Canal. If Paddington Basin epitomises modernity, Little Venice is a window into the past – it doesn’t seem implausible to imagine that Browning and his contemporaries would have stolen a furtive glance into the very same narrowboats which are still there today.


 
Camden Lock Market

Past Regent’s Park, the Canal goes through Camden Lock Market, which has all the merits of the Stables Market – the vibrant atmosphere and this inexpressible quality of hip –  on a smaller, less overwhelming scale. If the walking hasn’t given you an appetite, the smells coming from Kerb’s thirty-five food stalls most certainly will. Once you’ve satisfied both your hunger and your cravings, make sure to have a look around the rest of the market, where you can get the most unusual, eccentric items, ranging from vintage games to tree leaf accessories by Thamon London


 
King's Cross

Further East, the Canal snakes around the back of King’s Cross. The station itself is a landmark location you’re undoubtedly familiar with. Approaching it from the other side, however, makes you look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Home to UAL Central Saint Martins and the House of Illustration, the austere brick buildings in Granary Square are understatedly cool and have a distinct air of artistry about them. King’s Cross is also becoming an important cultural hub – this autumn Donmar Warehouse constructed a temporary theatre space in King’s Cross to stage Phyllida Lloyd’s Shakespeare Trilogy, an all-female production of Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest.


 
If you continue North along Central Saint Martins, you’ll stumble upon Skip Garden and Kitchen, a portable garden created by young people, business volunteers and local residents, which grows plants that are then used as a basis for meals served in the Kitchen. Because it was put together using scraps of materials retrieved from the building site at King’s Cross, the place has a haphazard, slapdash feeling, and this devil-may-care eclectism accounts for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The garden also features Rachel Taylor’s Glass House Lantern, the exterior of which is made up entirely of sash windows, a stunning space which holds twilight gardening sessions.
 
With plenty to see and do, the London Canals offer an exciting opportunity to wander off the beaten track and discover something new - give them a try and you might just end up coming back time and time again.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Banknote Detectives at the Bank of England Museum

Banknote Detectives at the Bank of England Museum

Banknote Detectives is a free family activity running all summer at the Bank of England Museum

The City is Ours at the Museum of London

The City is Ours at the Museum of London

The Museum of London is holding a year-long season of exhibitions, commissions, events, talks and debates grouped together under the title City Now City Future.…

A Cultural Guide to Camberwell

A Cultural Guide to Camberwell

Camberwell lies nestled on a crossroads connecting Peckham, Brixton, Oval and Elephant and Castle. Some say Camberwell means ‘Well of the Britons” due to the sizeable…

The Best Music in London this August

The Best Music in London this August

August comes but once a year, and 2017 sees it arrive laden with an eclectic mix of gigs, shows and festivals to entertain the ears…

A first look at London’s new Postal Museum

A first look at London’s new Postal Museum

London’s new Postal Museum has opened its doors to visitors with a packed programme of family-themed activities over the summer holidays. Unfortunately its main attraction, Mail…

Saatchi, ISelf and I: Two Exhibitions of Self-Expression

Saatchi, ISelf and I: Two Exhibitions of Self-Expression

The thing we are most often enamoured with is ourselves. To prove the fact, two exhibitions are currently exploring the myriad ways in which we…

The Best Films in London this August

The Best Films in London this August

So, you’ve seen Dunkirk and Baby Driver and now you’re looking for something a little different? Our new feature rounds up the best independent cinema, film…

The Best Theatre in London this August

The Best Theatre in London this August

When the majority of theatre companies in the UK head to Edinburgh for the International and Fringe festivals, it can seem a little quiet on…

Top 5: Afternoon Tea with a Twist in London

Top 5: Afternoon Tea with a Twist in London

Here's a date for your diaries: 14 - 20 August is National Afternoon Tea week. We thought we’d celebrate by sharing our favourite afternoon tea spots…

Top 5 American Smokehouse Restaurants in London

Top 5 American Smokehouse Restaurants in London

BBQ season is upon us, so of course the heavens have opened. As such, we’re passing on the disposable barbies in the park and getting suited…

Most popular

Win a Viennese Afternoon Tea for Two

The Delaunay - Win a Viennese Afternoon Tea for Two

Treat yourself to a relaxing afternoon tea with an Austrian twist at The Delaunay in Covent Garden.
Win a pair of weekend tickets to a music festival on Blackheath Common!

On Blackheath - Win a pair of weekend tickets to a music festival on Blackheath Common!

Travis, The Libertines and De La Soul all perform at this weekend festival on Blackheath Common.
Win Film Tickets and Cocktails!

Rooftop Film Club - Win Film Tickets and Cocktails!

Watch Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, The Breakfast Club, or The Godfather on a London rooftop!
Win Stephen King Tickets & Cocktails

BFI - Win Stephen King Tickets & Cocktails

Don’t miss the BFI’s tribute to The King of Horror this autumn!
Win Tickets to The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Win Tickets to The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

We've got a pair of tickets to give away to this hilarious show.
Win Cocktails at a (not so) Secret Garden Bar!

Win Cocktails at a (not so) Secret Garden Bar!

Pull up a deckchair and enjoy delicious cocktails in the idyllic period gardens of Hoxton’s Geffrye Museum.
Win Tickets to A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Strawberry Hill - Win Tickets to A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Watch cycling troupe The Handlebards perform one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies at Stawberry Hill House & Garden!
Win a pair of tickets to the Young Women’s Empowerment Festival

The Jewish Museum London - Win a pair of tickets to the Young Women’s Empowerment Festival

You Know I'm No Good: Young Women's Empowerment Festival is a day of inspirational talks at the Jewish Museum London.
Win two tickets to Britney Spears: The Cabaret

The Other Palace - Win two tickets to Britney Spears: The Cabaret

Australian performer Christie Whelan Browne takes her acclaimed show Britney Spears: The Cabaret to London for one week only.
An interview with Billie Piper

An interview with Billie Piper

Billie Piper returns to the stage in Yerma, and London Calling spoke to her about life and her career to date.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!