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Whether you want to admire the water from afar or actually get out on the canals themselves, there is plenty to ‘float your boat’ at Little Venice, a little piece of Italy in the heart of west London.
As tranquil and picturesque as the name surrounds, the area’s title was supposedly coined by once local resident and famous poet Robert Browning in the 19th century. These days, you’ll likely more recognise it as playing a starring role in the Paddington Bear movies.
This cute and charming canalside area marks where several waterways converge (Regent’s Canal, Paddington Basin and the Grand Union Canal) and is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or Sunday stroll. Here is our guide to the top things to do in Little Venice:
Things to do in Little Venice London
1. Waterside Cafe Canal Barge
A picture postcard location directly on the canal, this is a moored up barge serving up breakfast, lunch and other assorted snacks all day as well as hot drinks. Most of the tables are alfresco seating nestled amongst the weeping willows and directly overlooking the canal.
2. Bridge House and Canal Cafe Theatre
The Bridge House pub is located just across the road from the main Little Venice waterway in Delamere Terrace. A cute and cosy bar with a small outdoor area, it is perhaps more famous for its Canal Cafe Theatre upstairs, hosting many comedy events over the years including the Eddie Izzard, The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentleman, plus the ‘world’s longest running live comedy show’, Newsrevue.
3. Cafe Laville
One of our Little Venice favourite haunts (more so for the setting than the actual food), this quirky cafe sits atop the Regent’s Canal, marking the start of a huge underground Maida Hill tunnel that the canal cruise boats go through.
Offering views overlooking one of the most attractive sections of the canal (houseboats and trees aplenty), we’ve been here several times for brunch. If you can secure yourself a table on the alfresco terrace, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent view (and pretty good coffee as it goes).
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4. Rembrandt Gardens, Little Venice
A little bit of Holland in Italy in …erm…London. Originating in the 1950s but renamed in the 1970s as part of a cultural programme with Holland and the city of Amsterdam, these small but perfectly formed canalside gardens are a quiet place to relax (toilets are also available here) – as you’d expect from the name, you’ll often see tulips here as part of the floral displays.
5. Little Venice London Canal Cruises
One of the first things you’ll notice as you meander around the Little Venice canal basin is the constant ebb and flow of cruise barges, whisking passengers between here and Camden canal via the Maida Hill tunnel. This is a rather relaxing way to see the waterways and hear more about the area’s history.
Jenny Wren Canal Cruises
Departs to and from Little Venice several times a day and costs around £15 per adult / £7.50 per child. walkersquay.com/jenny-wren
London Shell Co
These guys also offer a dining cruise aboard their Prince Regent barge, which costs £50pp – Saturday and Sunday lunch, and a 5 course dinner cruise on Tuesdays to Saturdays. londonshellco.com
6. Get on the water yourself in Little Venice
If a canal cruise is a little too sedate for your liking, there are a couple of ways you can get on the water for yourself. The most popular when we last visited was to hire a motorboat from GoBoat – we saw everyone from romantic couples to hen parties (the party hats and prosecco were a dead giveaway!) out on the water on GoBoat, which can hired from Merchant Square. No licence is required and each boat can hold up to 8 people with prices starting from £79 per boat for the first hour (2 hours for £109 and so on). goboat.co.uk
Secondly, the more energetic and inexpensive option is to either a hire a canoe or paddle board from Active360 in nearby Paddington Basin, costing from £30 per two hour hire session. active360.co.uk
7. Regent’s Canal Walk to Camden
After exploring the canal basin around Little Venice itself, one of the best onward walks is along the canal towpath from Little Venice all the way to Camden.
This 2 mile easy walk is uninterrupted all the way (very flat as it follows the canal) and takes in several sublime sights along the way, including Lisson Grove moorings (like a little, Little Venice!), lots of incredible regency houses (one used as the US Ambassador’s home) and most notably London Zoo – the last time we did this walk, we even got to see warthogs at play in the zoo from the canal towpath, as the zookeepers looked on.
As you walk through the London Zoo section, you’ll soon come across the Feng Shang Palace, a floating red pagoda restaurant that feels like it has come directly from the far east. London’s first floating restaurant and often used as a movie backdrop (most recently in Guy Ritchie’s 2020 film, The Gentlemen), this has been an iconic site along the Regent’s Canal since the 1980s.
8. Canal Cavalcade
A wonderful canalside cacophony of colour that takes place every May (usually over the first bank holiday weekend), this wonderful waterside celebration welcomes barges and canal boat owners from all over the country, many of whom dress up or take part in various demonstrations or activities. The area comes alive and is adorned with bunting and flowers and has been taking place annually since the early 1980s – there are also lots of food and drink stalls that pop up for the cavalcade along the towpath; a nice way to spend a May bank holiday.
9. Little Venice pubs and bars
Nearby there are several bars and pubs to visit including The Warwick Castle (hanging baskets galore in the summer and gorgeous woody panelling inside), The Waterway (a gastropub specialising in French and modern European fare) and The Union Tavern (slightly west of Little Venice but worth the walk due to its beer garden that directly overlooks the water – one of London’s best canalside terraces).
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- The ultimate guide to the Bermondsey Beer Mile
- Borough Market guide – London’s most famous food market
- Guide to Maltby Street Market in London
- Columbia Road Flower Market, London – a complete guide
- Top things to do in King’s Cross
- Old Spitalfields Market in East London – travel guide
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