Regent’s Canal is one of the gems of London. It cuts through some of the cities most interesting and unique neighborhoods. You will find Londoners strolling, running, biking, eating, drinking, and shopping along its banks. For me, it’s worthy of a day long tour.
Designed and built by John Nash, Regent’s Canal was completed and opened in 1820. The Canal links the River Thames at Limehouse to the Grand Union Canal junction at Paddington. It was built too close to the start of the railway age to be financially successful and at one stage the Regent’s only narrowly escaped being turned into a railway. But the canal went on to become a vital part in southern England’s transport system. It carried huge quantities of timber, coal, building materials and food in and out of London. Long-distance traffic continued to use the canal into the 1960s. Today the Canal passes through Little Venice, Regent Park, Camden, Islington, and Hackney and provides a scenic and uniquely peaceful green corridor for London.
Check out this map: https://goo.gl/maps/kyxtMuKTfxj
This walk is about 7 miles. If you’re up for it, it can be done in a full day. You can also rent a Santander Bike for part or all of it. Start at the Paddington tube stop (the Hammersmith and City / Circle Lines is the closest). Just walk up the stairs toward the Paddington Basin. The first stop will really set the tone for your tour as it is one of the most beautiful and quintessential: Little Venice.
Little Venice, otherwise known as Maida Vale, is a tranquil area filled with independent shops, waterside bars and restaurants, as well as the Canal Café Theatre and the Puppet Barge. It’s beautiful canals and waterways, can be found just to the north of Paddington. Positioned where the Grand Union and Regent’s canals meet, this picturesque neighborhood is home to quirky waterside cafes, cozy pubs and charming restaurants. From canal boat rides to puppet shows, there are plenty of things to do in this charming London area. Check out The Bridge House, a traditional British pub overlooking the canal, if you are ready for a pint.
Continue up the canal path. Eventually you will come to the Maida Vale Tunnel and you will need to walk on the road. One back on the canal path, keep walking along the canal and you will reach Lisson Grove. Continue along the canal towpath, underneath the Lisson Grove Tunnel and pass the moorings with the brightly colored narrowboats. You’ll see some graffiti and a few other interesting site then you’ll reach Lisson Wide. This is an quirky stretch of the Regent Canal. It will feel as though you are wondering through the moored boats private gardens. Many of the houseboats moored there are somewhat permanent, and residents developed the path into their own backyards. Follow the towpath and when everything turns green you’ve reached Regent’s Park.
Originally John Nash had intended to have the Regent’s Canal running through the middle of the park. He was persuaded to abandon that plan due to concerns that the bad language of the barges would offend the refined residents of the area. Nash had plans to build 56 villas in Regent’s Park, however only eight were completed. The beautiful white villas were built to Nash’s original designs during the late 1980s and early 1990s and drew inspiration from the architecture of ancient Greece, Rome the Renaissance period.
As you progress onward, passed the large mansions on your right. You will be well into Regent’s Park. It’s a massive park that is worth exploring if you have the time. Circumnavigate the entirety of the park to end up back along the canal. Keep in mind that a stroll around Regent’s Park will likely add an additional hour to your walk
On the opposite side of the canal is Primrose Hill, which offers some of the best views of London. Wander to the top for some photo ops, and then continue back down on the canal. Though this is also a slight detour. Haunt of rock stars, actresses and their yoga instructors, Primrose Hill is a hamlet of exclusive boutiques, restaurants and gastro pubs along Regent’s Park Road. You’ll find quaint bookshops, organic greengrocers, and shops.
Hopefully you’re ready for lunch! When you get to Camden you will see a market on the north side of the canal. You’ll find a number of food vendors from Polish to Mexican. Grab and beer and if you can find a place to sit, take a load off. There are also many stalls selling clothing, bric-a-brac, and interesting crafts. The area is also known for it’s music scene and cool pubs. As you move up the canal you will see the Camden Locks. Hang out for a bit and hopefully you can watch some of the narrowboats moving through.
From Camden to Angel
The walk from Camden to Angel is pleasant and quiet. You’ll pass many moored narrowboats with some open for business. My favorite is the London Boat Barge. If it’s open (check the facebook site linked and even contact them to find out) climb aboard and check out the interesting selection of books.
As you approach Angel the canal will go through a long tunnel. You will walk on streets through Angel until you can pick back up along the canal. It’s a great opportunity to visit a couple of local stops there. Once you are off the canal head to the Islington Green and pop into a favorite bookstore, Waterstones. When you are done there head down to The York for a pint. From there is a short walk to pick back up on your canal walk.
Angel to Shoreditch
The walk from Angel to Shoreditch is pleasant. You’ll pass a handful of great restaurants, cafe’s, and coffee shops. Pop into the ones that look good to you. When you reach Kingsroad in you are in need of a coffee break there is a great coffee shop called Curio Cabal just north of the canal.
Shoreditch to Broadway Market
You can end your tour at Broadway Market. If it’s Saturday it will bustling with vendors selling everything from cheese, olives, interesting crafts, and food.
Congrats on a great local day spent in London!