Canary Wharf is perfectly located to explore the city - with many iconic East London destinations within walking distance. However, it is not necessary to travel outside of the E14 area to find plenty of great attractions. Canary Wharf hides a surprising amount of diverse local amenities and attractions, along with the neighbouring areas, and many visitors are surprised to find there is so much to see and do. Below is a list of just five top attractions in Canary Wharf:
The O2 arena
A modern icon, the O2, with its distinctive domed arena, is a thriving leisure complex that offers everything from music concerts to historic exhibits. Tickets and prices vary for different events, so it is always advisable to check the website for the current programme. For the more adventurous, it is also possible to climb the dome itself, with tours available for as little as £36 for a single adult.
Crossrail Place Rooftop Gardens
The Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a stunning oasis in the heart of London’s financial hub. Though something of a misnomer - the gardens are actually more or less on ground level - the stunning glass latticed roof and beautiful array of botanicals make this a fantastic, almost futuristic experience and offer a striking contrast against the surrounding skyscrapers. The garden is free to visit and open daily until 9pm.
Watch a Sporting Event
Canary Wharf offers some of the best venues to watch sport anywhere in London. Not only is the complex the venue for the Canary Wharf Squash Classic tournament in March, as well as being on the route of the London Marathon and Vitality half marathon, but in the summer months, big screen televisions are set up in Canada Square Park. Here spectators can watch sporting events such as Ascot, Queen's, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and Formula 1 races, whilst enjoying a drink or two in the open air.
Jubilee Park is a delightful green space with picturesque landscaping and plenty of floral arrangements and water features. Situated atop the Jubilee Underground Station, it offers a tranquil place for relaxation and also plays host to exhibits and live events throughout the year. Entry is free for all.
Emirates Air Line
Just a short distance from Canary Wharf is the Emirates Air Line - London’s famous cable car line, which crosses the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Victoria Dock, to the west of ExCeL London at an elevation of some 300ft - offering stunning views of the city. A standard single ticket is just £3.50, or £7 for a return. In addition, it is also possible to book the champagne experience for £28. The Emirates Airline runs from 0700-2330 Monday to Thursday, 0700-2300 on Fridays and Saturdays, and 0900-2230 on Sundays and bank holidays.
Despite being known for its ultra-modern architecture and as being at the forefront of finance and commerce, Canary Wharf is also just a stone’s throw from several world-class museums and points of historical interest, each one offering an engaging and informative afternoon out and in some cases offering a glimpse into the historic role of the Thames as well as showcasing the technologies that have helped keep London safe from flooding and at the forefront of world trade throughout the centuries.
Museum of London Docklands
Part of the Museum of London, the Museum of London Docklands offers a fascinating insight into the areas operational history, including historic tug boats and river vessels, as well as an exhibit devoted to the history of the slave trade. The museum includes videos presented by Tony Robinson and houses a large collection of historical artefacts, models, and pictures over two floors. It is open 1000-1800 every day except some public holidays and entry is free.
The Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is the last surviving tea clipper in the world and upon its construction in 1869 was one of the fastest vessels on the ocean. Located just across the water in Greenwich, this award-winning attraction features live actors telling stories from the ship’s past, as well as cabins and decks restored to their original appearance. Tickets are priced at £15 per adult and £7.50 for kids, with further discounts available for pensioners and students.
The Thames Barrier
Opened in 1982, the incredible feat of engineering that is the Thames Barrier was designed to prevent Greater London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. It is able to open and close to control the flow of the river, thus protecting the floodplain. The structure is impressive in itself and also features a dedicated visitors’ centre. However, once a month there is a guided tour before visitors can watch the gates being tested. Dates and times for this can be found on the government website (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-thames-barrier).
The Ragged School Museum
A museum dedicated to one of London’s famous ‘ragged’ schools - which provided free education during the Victorian era. The museum features plenty of dressing up and interactive exhibits, as well as educational materials charting the work of patron Dr Barnardo and his mission to provide free education to London’s poorest during the 19th century. As such, it’s a great opportunity for kids and adults to experience life as a Victorian pupil. The museum is open 1000-1700 every Wednesday and Thursday, and between 1400 and 1700 on the first Sunday of each month. Entry is free.
Landsbury Micro Museum
As the name suggests, The Lansbury Micro Museum is a small exhibition centre which offers different exhibits throughout the year. Part of the V&A, the museum often presents collections and exhibits of cultural and social significance, ranging from local history narratives to sub-cultural artworks. Open Fridays and Saturdays, 1200-1800.
Canary Wharf is usually thought of as a major financial centre, known for its high rise buildings and fast-paced business culture. However, the complex isn’t all about work, work and more work. There are plenty of opportunities to unwind in the area - including leisure facilities offering a great mix of entertainment and activities. Below are the top five places for fun and games in Canary Wharf:
Mudchute Park and Farm
Mudchute Park and Farm is London’s largest city farm with over 32 acres of countryside in the middle of the Isle of Dogs and home to pigs, horses and ponies. There is also a pets' corner, with animal encounter sessions, making this a great attraction for families. The farm is open to visitors daily from 0900-1700 and is free to enter. Feed and grain for the animals can be purchased from the shop and there is also a delightful cafe on site.
Escape rooms have become hugely popular in recent years, offering a fun challenge for young and old alike. Canary Wharf is fortunate to have several within its vicinity, with Escape London being the most noteworthy, with themed rooms and multiple locations. Prices start at £66 for a two-person session, rising to £132 for a party of six. Open daily from 1000-2230.
Delta Force Paintball
Anyone looking for some more adrenaline-fuelled fun will find Delta Force Paintball London is within easy reach of Canary Wharf - offering fast-paced action in specially designed scenarios, each offering different battle formats and missions. Prices start at around £14.99 for entry and kit hire, with paintballs priced at £9.99 per 100. It is also possible to book the venue for corporate events.
Everybody loves bowling and there are two great locations very close to Canary Wharf - one within the O2 and one in Surrey Quays, both operating under the Hollywood Bowling brand. Prices start from £6.59 per game and centres are open 7 days a week.
The Workhouse is a popular leisure centre that offers a variety of sports and games - including five-aside football and gym facilities. The centre also has an exhibition centre and regularly holds community events, such as fundraisers and sporting challenges.
Given its prestigious reputation and central role in London’s commercial and financial industries, Canary Wharf features some fantastic night spots, including bars, pubs, wine bars and restaurants. Below are five of the most popular social hotspots in Canary Wharf:
A spacious oak-panelled pub with plenty of outdoor seating on its stylish terrace. Provides the traditional pub experience, with a great menu and huge array of guest ales.
28 West Bar
Describing itself as ‘industrial-chic’, this refined waterfront establishment offers cocktails and canapes as well as a seasonal menu. This is an extremely popular venue, so those looking to eat are advised to book a table well in advance.
Capeesh Sky Bar
Capeesh Sky Bar is a fashionable bar serving exquisite cocktails and a refined Italian menu. Boasting incredible panoramic views of the city, this 48th-floor venue boasts not only great views of the city, but also prides itself on its high-end range of spirits and liquors.
Another highly chic venue, Plateau offers contemporary French cuisine in a modern space with Saarinen tables and terraces overlooking the iconic Canada Square. Once again, booking in advance is strongly advised.
Boisdale offers sophisticated Scottish cuisine - both traditional and modern - along with the chance to taste some of the world’s finest whiskeys. There’s also an oyster bar, cigar room and terrace. The Boisdale is hugely popular, especially at weekends when it regularly hosts live music.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Canary Wharf is its diverse selection of walking tours and operators. Visitors can choose to walk around some of London’s most impressive buildings, explore lush parklands or take in some contemporary artworks. Alternatively, it's also easy to mix all three without travelling far from the complex itself. Below are five popular routes and providers of walking tours in Canary Wharf:
Free Tours By Foot
Free Tours By Foot is a London-wide provider of fun, engaging and, more often than not, free walking tours. Effectively it is a platform for independent guides to offer everything from specialist history tours to bespoke sightseeing walks. The London Docklands tour includes the Canary Wharf complex and is held every Tuesday at 2pm. Alternatively, the company offers other tours all over the city, details of which can be found on the website (https://freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours/).
London Top Sights Tours
Based on the Isle of Dogs, this tour operator offers a huge selection of walking tours, covering all of London’s major landmarks and including themed trips such as the famous Ripper walks - easily accessible from Canary Wharf - or a Harry Potter-themed tour for families. Tickets start at £15 for a basic tour and go up to around £70 for those that also include entry to landmarks.
The Line Sculpture Trail
One of Canary Wharf’s hidden gems, the Line Sculpture trail is a free, self-guided walk stretching from North Greenwich to Stratford, between The Greenwich Peninsula (The O2) and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The trail is London’s first and only dedicated sculpture walk and features examples of contemporary and classic styles. Further works are expected to be added throughout 2019.
Canary Wharf exhibits not only some of London’s most stunning architecture, but also has some intriguing topography, with its internal docks, the banks of the Thames and even some sprawling farmland. As such, a fantastic local walking tour can be started from Promenade Canary Wharf, with its stunning views of the river, before looping around the peninsular through Milwall and the Isle of Dogs, before returning to Canada Place.
Occupy London Walking Tours
Finally, for something a little more unusual Occupy London Tours are a volunteer-run organisation offering tours that teach visitors about the pitfalls of modern finance. Meeting at Canary Wharf tube station, the tour effectively tracks the 2007/8 financial crisis. The tour takes place in the evening; the exact time is revealed when you book your place.