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A little piece of Italy on the water in west London, there is are many things to do in Little Venice, London
Whether you want to admire the water from afar or actually get out on the canals themselves, there is plenty to ‘float your boat’ here.
As tranquil and picturesque as the name surrounds, Little Venice’s name 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 in London (2023):
Things to do in Little Venice London
1. Waterside Cafe Canal Barge
A picture postcard location directly on the canal, the Waterside Cafe Canal Barge in Little Venice is a moored boat 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 – this has to be one of the best Little Venice vistas (and London views) there is.
Opened in 1995, this is one of Little Venice’s best things to do (and most delicious) and London’s original floating cafe- try their special Little Venice afternoon tea which includes fresh scones and clotted cream (a fine traditional English food)
Address: Waterside Cafe, Rembrandt Gardens Little Venice, Warwick Crescent, London W2 6NE
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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.
The Canal Cafe Theatre has hosted many comedy events over the years including Eddie Izzard, The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentleman, plus the ‘world’s longest running live comedy show’, Newsrevue.
Address: Bridge House and Canal Cafe Theatre, 13 Westbourne Terrace Road, Little Venice, London W2 6NG
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 to Cafe Laville in Little Venice several times for brunch.
If you can secure yourself a table on the alfresco terrace, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent view of the canals and Little Venice (and pretty good Italian coffee as it goes).
Address: Cafe Laville, 453 Edgware Road, London W2 1AT
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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.
A really nice way to enjoy the area is to have a picnic in Rembrandt Gardens overlooking the canals – one of the best things to do in Little Venice in London on a sunny day.
Address: Rembrandt Gardens, Little Venice, 6 Warwick Avenue, London W2 1XB
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.
Little Venice cruises to and from Camden are a rather relaxing way to see the waterways and hear more about the area’s history.
One the of longest running pleasure cruises in London, enjoy the beautiful Jenny Wren canal boat on a canal cruise in this wonderful part of west London.
Take in the sights of Little Venice, London Zoo and Regent’s Park with a 90-minute cruise that includes a guide’s commentary to the local area – you’ll also get to get up close with working locks and if you are lucky, see some wildlife (and that includes the bigger creatures of London Zoo!)
Departs to and from Little Venice several times a day and can be booked here >
6. London Shell Company dining barge
The London Shell Company Prince Regent cruising barge is a 2.5 hour local cruise that takes in the sites of Little Venice, Maida Vale and Camden Lock as well as offering the very best of British seafood.
From scallops to smoked haddock or Devon oysters with pickled jalapenos, the London Shell Co serves up some seriously delicious fish and seafood fare (although vegetarian and meat dishes are also available).
The London Shell Company offer a dining cruise aboard their Prince Regent barge, which costs £75pp as at April 2023 for a five course set menu– Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch times (12.30pm departure), and a 5 course dinner cruise Wednesday to Saturday (7pm departure). londonshellco.com
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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 were a dead giveaway!) out on the water on GoBoat, which can be hired from Merchant Square.
No licence is required for Go Boats and each boat can hold up to 8 people with prices starting from £95 per boat for the first hour for up to 8 people (2 hours for £109 and so on). Click here to book a goboat rental >
Like this? You can also rent Go Boats in Canary Wharf and Docklands >
8. Paddle board or Canoe in Little Venice / Paddington
Another thing to do in Little Venice is to either hire a canoe or paddle board from Active360 in nearby Paddington Basin, costing from £30 per 1.5 paddle board hire session or £50 for a 2 person canoe.
If you are new to paddleboarding, lessons are available too. active360.co.uk.
9. Regent’s Canal Walk to Camden
After exploring the canal basin, one of the best free things to do in Little Venice is a walk 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.
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10. Canal Cavalcade
A wonderful canalside cacophony of colour that takes place every April or 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 in Little Venice that pop up for the cavalcade along the towpath; a nice way to spend a May bank holiday.
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11. Little Venice pubs and bars
There are many Little Venice pubs to enjoy, many with outdoor views of the water and canals.
The best Little Venice pubs include 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).
Read our guide to the best London pubs on the river here >
12. Little Venice Puppet Theatre barge
A 50 seater puppet theatre on a barge surely has to be one of the most unique things to do in Little Venice (note that the Theatre Barge moves around a lot and is sometimes also based in Richmond upon thames.
All performances on the puppet theatre barge take place below deck so it is an all weather affair – they specialise in performances using long-string marionettes.
As well as puppetry theatre, live comedy and music sets also regularly take place on board. Find out more here >
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Other things to do near Little Venice
13. Paddington Public Art Trail
Paddington is peppered with public art installations, with over 20 different statues and structures installed indoors and out – download the full map and list here.
The Paddington Art Trail starts from the Unknown Soldier statue inside Paddington Station.
From Paddington Bear himself in Paddington Station (in good company with the famous statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel) to the Fan Bridge at Merchant Square, this is an awesome array of alluring art and functional structures.
14. The Cheese Barge bar, Sheldon Square
Heard about the brie-illiant cheese barge bar moored up at Sheldon Square, just a very short walk from Paddington Station on Regent’s Canal? It is the quintessential cheesy London experience, but in a ‘gouda’ way (so sorry – no more cheese puns).
Based on a beautifully restored and well fitted out barge, this double-decker floating restaurant (indoor seating is available as well as a smaller roof-top set-up).
From the brains behind the cheese conveyor belt (Pick and Cheese) in Seven Dials, Covent Garden and the Cheese Bar in Camden, the Cheese Barge is one of London’s most unique dining experiences, pairing cheese plates and seasonal dishes with exquisite wines, whilst you soak up the waterside views in Paddington Central.
The Cheese Barge is a 5 minute walk from Little Venice.
15. Sheldon Square Ampitheatre
Although not an attraction as such, the Sheldon Square Ampitheatre often hosts events and screenings on its big screen (popular for workers to watch sporting events at lunchtime like Wimbledon tennis or Olympics).
Sheldon Square is a prime picnic spot too, with an astro turf covering and several outlets around it selling takeaway food and drink, like Itsu, Starbucks and Sainsburys supermarket.
Sheldon Square is a five minute walk along the canal from Little Venice.
Our final thing to do near Little Venice
16. Go in search of Paddington Bear
From Peru to Paddington via Little Venice….no trip to the area is complete without seeing the statue of Paddington Bear with his suitcase and hat. Fittingly, key scenes from the Paddington Bear movies were filmed in Little Venice, on the walkway next to the Waterside Cafe.
The Paddington Bear statue at Paddington Station is located half way up platform 1 (you don’t need a train ticket to access this section of the station).
You’ll recognise it as the spot from the recent Paddington Bear movie where the Brown family first meet our hirsuite hero.
As well as the Paddington Bear main statue, there is also a Paddington Bear plaque, bench and dedicated gift-shop (marmalade sandwich anyone?).
If you can ‘bear’ any more, there are some outdoor installations of Paddington Bear too near the canal but the Paddington Bear statue in the station itself is the biggest and best.
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