London has historic buildings aplenty, but if you fancy a break from all ye olde cultural attractions (and the crowds of tourists that go with them) take a trip to Canary Wharf. Its iconic, post-modern buildings are a true London landmark, when you’re right up close to them you’ll feel like you’re walking through the set of a futuristic film - in fact, Canary Wharf tube station was used as a location in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There are plenty of good places to eat, drink and shop, plus it’s not all concrete, steel and gleaming malls - there are small parks, secret gardens and even a fascinating museum all waiting to be discovered here.
One of London’s two main financial districts (the second being the City of London) Canary Wharf was once the world’s biggest shipping port. The area got its name as it was the main docking point of fruit boats arriving from the Canary Islands in the 1800s (West India Quay and Canada Square getting their names in the same way). The docks went into decline from the 1960s to the 1980s, at which time developers began eyeing the area as a great location for offices and retail spaces. One Canada Square was the first Canary Wharf building to be built and, with its pyramid roof visible for miles around, remains the area’s most recognisable landmark.
Get your city break to this glamorous financial district off to the best possible start, by booking into a Premier Inn hotel near Canary Wharf. Our hotels are in a great location for exploring the modern landmarks of the area, but with great travel links, they’re also a short hop to East London’s other cultural attractions, such as Tower Bridge or Tower of London.
The underground Canary Wharf shopping mall connects the basements of the big tower blocks and it’s a bit of a maze. Apart from all the chains (of which there are many) you’ll find small boutiques and designer labels, along with fitness, beauty and homewares. Canary Wharf is also home to the largest Waitrose grocery store in the UK.
Forget sticky floors covered in popcorn and have a grown-up cinema experience at the Everyman Cinema. Part of an independent network of boutique cinema, the Everyman shows independent films and has sofa seating with cushions and footrests, a crazy amount of legroom and delicious food and wine that can be brought to your seat.
Parks and gardens
Escape the frenetic pace of Canary Wharf at Jubilee Park, a lovely picnic spot and the place to catch outdoor concerts and sporting events shown on pop-up screens. Or head to the green oasis that is the Crossrail Place Roof Garden. It’s packed with plants native to all the countries visited by ships of the West India Dock Company who used Canary Wharf in the shipping heyday of the 1800s.
You wouldn’t think about going to Canary Wharf to get your culture fix, but it has one of the largest collections of public art in the country. From installations to sculptures, there are currently 65 works of art on the estate and all are accessible to the public - even those inside buildings. You can pick up an Art Trail map at any customer information point inside the shopping mall.
What better place to relive the area’s rich history than at this museum, housed in a 200-year warehouse originally built to store sugar, coffee and rum? Thousands of fascinating objects and pictures tell the story of the area's history, from the arrival of the Romans to the rise of Canary Wharf in the 1990s. There’s also a great soft play area for accompanied under-eights.
The East Wintergarden event space hosts regular theatre shows - there’s anything from Shakespeare to ballet. Then there’s Canada Square Park which is transformed into an LED-lit ice rink between November and February each year. Canary Wharf is also a great spot to cheer on the runners at the 16 mile mark at the London Marathon held in April each year.
Canary Wharf has some first-class restaurants and bars, and they buzz with life long into the night between Mondays and Fridays. Once the business crowd have left for the weekend, some places might have slightly less atmosphere. Having said that, the weekend does see an influx of local residents and people from further afield, looking to sample some great restaurants when they’re a little quieter.
Such a favourite it’s consistently within the top 100 London restaurants on TripAdvisor, Goodman Canary Wharf is part of a chain of steakhouses, but don’t let that put you off. The great views across the dock from its window booth seating are a major draw, but what makes it such a crowd pleaser are its hunks of meat, from fantastic steaks to the best burgers in London. Not one for veggies, this is a meat-lovers’ dream.
With its dockside setting, many Canary Wharf restaurants are known for having fantastic views. But Plateau, with its huge floor to ceiling windows is one of the best. Inside you’ll find a designer showroom interior that’s bathed in natural light. Contemporary French food and impeccable service with a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. It is pricey (and portions are of the nouvelle cuisine side) but it’s an experience not to be missed.
If the weather’s warm there’s nothing better than a picnic in the peace and quiet of Jubilee Park. But forget sad cellophane-wrapped supermarket sandwiches and head to Garbanzos instead. There’s always a queue for this little van parked in Reuters Plaza, but it moves fast. There’s not loads on the menu, just fresh falafel, salad and hummus, all served in a deliciously warmed pita bread. But with food this tasty, you don’t need anything else.
A Scottish-themed bar in the middle of all the London skyscrapers? It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Boisdale is wall-to-wall Scottish kitsch, with kilt-wearing staff, tartan carpets and stags heads. Enjoy a cocktail on the terrace, then head to the bar to sample one (or two) of the 1,000 whiskies on offer. If you fancy eating, there’s smoked salmon, haggis and Scottish steaks on the menu. You can even round your evening off by listening to live music - there’s a different band playing every night.
Getting to Canary Wharf is easy - and can be an experience in itself. The futuristic-looking DLR takes you right through the heart of the district and at night, when it’s all lit up, you can’t help but be impressed by the sheer size and scale of all the skyscrapers.
Driving to Canary Wharf has improved in recent years, with the A13 being extended to provide a three-lane road that takes you all the way to the M25. Once you’re here, parking isn’t bad either. Canary Wharf has four underground public car parks, three of which lead directly into Cabot, Canada and Jubilee Place shopping malls.
By tube and bus
Canary Wharf has its own underground station on the Jubilee line with great connections to central London, plus it’s centrally located in Zone 2. There’s also a Dockland Light Railway station here for trains from Bank and Tower Gateway to Stratford, Beckton and Lewisham. Local bus services D3, D7, D8, 135, 277 all run to Canary Wharf.
There are several cycle routes connecting Canary Wharf to Riverside South on the London Cycle Network. Once you’ve cycled here, you’ll find more than 1,300 free bike parking places, with additional spaces in building car parks. Or you could hire a bike - several docking stations can be found all around Canary Wharf.
The Canary Wharf pier is just a few minutes’ walk from all the action, and it takes 30 blissful, traffic-free minutes to cruise up the Thames from Waterloo. In peak hours there’s a shuttle service from London Bridge to Canary Wharf that takes 13 minutes and runs every 10 minutes - and you can even use your Oyster card.
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