CK Travels

32 things to do in Canary Wharf & Docklands, London

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A booming blend of high rise, retail and restaurants located on the waterfront, Canary Wharf and Docklands may not be at the top of everyone’s London hit-list, with locals and tourists alike thinking it is mainly for city workers who work in the skyscrapers.

However, scratch beneath the surface of Canary Wharf and Docklands and you’ll discover rooftop gardens, art installations and some of the best shopping spots in London, without the usual queues and hubris. Combined with great transport links (and even some interesting ones like the Emirates AirLine), here is our guide to the best things to do in Canary Wharf and Docklands in East London

Things to do in Canary Wharf

1. Crossrail Roof Garden

Although overshadowed in popularity by the Sky Garden, the fact not so many people visit Crossrail Roof Gardens is actually a blessing as there is no need to book in advance and whilst the views aren’t as spectacular, it is a jarring and joyous juxtaposition of nature against the sleek sky-scrapers of Canary Wharf.

Opened in 2015 and accessible seven days a week, Crossrail Roof Gardens also have a varied series of events from half term programmes for families through to pop up art installations or trails.


2. Crossrail Place at Canary Wharf

Below Crossrail Roof Gardens on the ground level, you’ll find Crossrail Place, an eclectic mix of retail shops, cinemas, gyms and restaurants. There are some really good foodie places to try here from the diner style food at Breakfast Club to Taiwanese Tea at Yi-Fang as well as the asian flavours of ramen joint Ippudo.

Crossrail Place at Canary Wharf restaurants

3. Pergola on the Wharf, Canary Wharf

Pergola’s latest dining space (replacing the sadly defunct Streetfeast / Giant Robot site), Pergola on the Wharf is located right next to the Crossrail botanical garden, with the floral theme continuing as you step inside.

With ample indoor and outdoor dining space, Pergola on the Wharf is a swish casual dining affair, with brunch and dinner options, plus two bars at the rear with a good beer selection on tap and lots of cocktails to choose from.

Pergola on the Wharf, Canary Wharf

The balcony at the back of the Pergola is a particular favourite with stunning cityscapes of the docks and nearby Billingsgate Market.

It is also nice to a real mix of people here from family lunches to birthday bashes and city workers all enjoying the cuisine and cityscapes through the huge windows.

Pergola on the Wharf, Canary Wharf

4. Market Halls Cargo Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf’s newest street food emporium (for now) and hot on the heals of Street Feast’s recent transformation to a new branch of Pergola, Market Hall’s latest food foray on the capital’s culinary scene is a shiny, spick and span food hall with opulent interiors, a beautiful island bar and large bay windows looking out on the waterfront.

Market Halls Cargo Canary Wharf

With 8 street food kitchens including tasty tortillas from DF Tacos (around £8 for two), splendid spaghetti from Pasta Evangelists and on the money dim sum from Baoziin, we’d also highly recommend the lamb murtabak or roti from Gopal’s Corner, magnificent Malaysian food from an offshoot of beloved Euston restaurant Roti King.

Other branches of Market Hall can also be found near Victoria Station and Oxford Circus.

DF Tacos

5. MMy at Wood Wharf / Mercato Metropolitano at Canary Wharf

Mercato Metropolitano’s newest branch recently opened in Wood Wharf, the newest neighbourhood and waterside living area at Canary Wharf. We’ve already been to Mercato at Elephant and Castle and the rather impressive church based one in Mayfair so in terms of stature and size, MMy Wood Wharf falls somewhere in the middle.

As we first approached, we could see a really busy outdoor seating area, lush and green and just a few metres away from the water’s edge (so a perfect location for takeaway food and views)

MMy at Wood Wharf / Mercato Metropolitano at Canary Wharf

Inside MMy Wood Wharf, there were around 10 different street food stalls, a central seating area plus a craft beer bar and Ethika cocktail bar. One of the highlights is the beautifully laid out fresh produce store (think cheese, meat, preserves and all manner of foody goodness) – plus we popped our heads into the basement jazz bar; stunning! A welcome addition to the Wood Wharf neighbourhood, Mercato Metropolitano deliver again in Canary Wharf.

MMy at Wood Wharf / Mercato Metropolitano at Canary Wharf
MMy at Wood Wharf / Mercato Metropolitano at Canary Wharf
Basement jazz bar

6. Open Swimming at Canary Wharf

New for summer 2022, Canary Wharf’s first open swimming venue has opened in Middle Dock – dare you take the plunge? This is some serious swimming action with stunning cityscape views – where else in London can you swim (legally) surrounded by skyscrapers and the sounds of cappuccinos being supped from nearby waterside cafes?

Literally ‘soak’ up views of One Canada Square and the new Newfoundland building. Note that membership is required (£15 for one year) and that sessions start from £8 for 3 to 4 hours, with regular free events too. 


7. Museum of London Docklands

Many people visit the main Museum of London in the city centre, but they also have a smaller outpost in London Docklands, which has free admission and is open seven days a week.

Focusing on the River Thames and the development of the docks and local area, the museum is suitably located in a former port warehouse and opened to much fanfare in 2003, featuring artifacts from the main museum as well as the Port of London Authority archives – it all looks ship-shape!

 Museum of London Docklands Canary Wharf

8. Go Boats and floating BBQ boats/hot tub boats

Canary Wharf with its surrounding quays and docks is the perfect place to hire a boat (of sorts) and experience the modern metropolis from the water  – there are a couple of hire places, Skuna and Go Boats.

Go Boats have several sites across London including Paddington, Kingston and now Canary Wharf. Based in Bellmouth Passage, boats can be hired for an hour or more with prices starting from £89, and you are allowed to take your food and drink on board (including booze, within reason).

Skuna offer something a little different – floating BBQ boats and hot tub boats. Many is the time have we’ve alighted at the Docklands Light Railway at West India Quay to see a hot-tub hen party of BBQ boat bucks party float on by, much to the bemusement of people on the footbridge and quayside.  Although a more unique experience than GoBoats, prices are more expensive with a floating hot tub starting from £225 and BBQ boats from £149.

9. Big Easy Canary Wharf

This laid-back American style restaurant is one of the most popular places to eat in Canary Wharf and specialises in home smoked BBQ, fresh lobster, cocktails and ice cold beers. The restaurant has a huge roof terrace with views over the whole of Canary Wharf, plus live music every night.

During the week they have daily specials such as unlimited BBQ, chicken wings or shrimp, and on weekends they have a boozy brunch menu where you can drink bottomless prosecco, beer or frozen cocktails with your meal for a set price.

Big Easy Canary Wharf is located in Crossrail Place and advance booking is highly recommended. You’ll find three other branches of Big Easy in nearby Stratford, plus Covent Garden and Chelsea.

Big Easy Canary Wharf London. Copyright CK Travels

10. One Canada Square

One of the most iconic skyscrapers in London which can be seen from all over the capital. It is the third largest in the UK and whilst not open to the public (stick to the Shard), it is pretty cool seeing it close up, especially as you approach via the DLR.

A financial powerhouse and beacon of industry, this whole area of the Docklands was once the main seat of commerce in the capital outside of the Square Mile so you can see how the money has been spent as waterfront bistros jostle for space with boutique stores.


11. Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf

A little oasis of calm hidden away below the looming towers and skyscrapers, Jubilee Park is a little like Kyoto Gardens in Kensington, West London with long, snaking waterways and fountains with several statues and art installations. Popular with city workers on their lunch-break, this is suitable serene spot to eat your takeout, if you don’t fancy sitting inside the mall directly.

Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf

12. Canary Wharf Malls

Reminiscent of the underground malls of Montreal, the shopping centres in Canary Wharf are practically all underground making it probably the best place for wet weather shopping in the whole of London (it also never gets too crowded, unlike say Oxford Street on a hot summer’s day).

Canary Wharf Malls Jubilee Place Mall
Jubilee Place Mall

There are several interconnecting malls including Jubilee Place Mall and Churchill Place Mall. On your first visit, it can be a little easy to get lost as all the tunnels and walkways can look quite similar after a while.

You’ll also find lots of regular high street chains like Waitrose, M&S and Boots, as well as one off chocolate shops and high end clothing companies, plus one of our favourites – Crosstown Doughnuts.

Crosstown Doughnuts London

13. Canary Wharf temporary art installations

Canary Wharf is proud of its parks and gardens as well as its permanent art collection and statues dotted all around – it also regularly hosts temporary installations and pop-ups. During our last visit, we stumbled across an incredible installation by Camille Walala, Captivated By Colour, which had taken over a whole walkway tunnel (sublime!)


14. West India Quay / London Quayside Quarter

Located just north of Canary Wharf, West India Quay has a row of 19th century Grade I listed warehouses along the waterfront that were once used to store imported goods from the West Indies, such as tea, sugar and rum. Nowadays the area (also known as London’s Quayside Quarter) has been redeveloped with bars, restaurants, a multiplex cinema, hotel and the Museum of London Docklands.

Pizza Pilgrims at West India Quay

15. Bokan 38 Bar and 39 Rooftop

Who doesn’t love a bit of outdoor rooftop and bar action? Here at CK Travels we are big fans of alfresco drinks with altitude – located across the 37th to 39th floors with sprawling views of Canary Wharf, London city and the docklands, Bokan has to be a contender for one of the best rooftop bars in London (and certainly one of the highest rooftop bars in London).

Located atop the Novotel London Canary Wharf, this (very) high-end hang-out boasts a specialist gin bar, daytime sun beds plus an epic terrace.

As at summer 2022, signature cocktails start from £14.50 (not sure about asking the bar man for the ‘Pleasured’). For food at Bokan, their bar meu consists of tacos, cheese-boards and bruschetta style dishes with a full menu served in the Bokan restaurant.


16. Wood Wharf

Whilst it can be hard to keep track of all the new ‘neighbourhoods’ and residential areas in Canary Wharf, certainly the largest and most up and coming area is Wood Wharf, a sprawling 23 acre waterside estate, boasting beautiful boardwalks, parks with public art and multi-million pound high rise luxury apartment complexes, with stunning city views.

Wood Wharf Canary Wharf

Wood Wharf also welcomes several news bars and restaurants including a floating branch of Hawksmoor (more on this later), Mercato’s latest street food and dining venture MMy Wood Wharf (opening soon) and local Italian restaurant, Emilia’s Crafted Pasta.


17. Hawksmoor and the Lowback Bar, Wood Wharf

Time to ‘Steak’ out fine dining at Hawksmoor in Wood Wharf, Canary Wharf’s chic new floating bar and restaurant, with a lower level (and slightly cheaper) bar called the Lowback below deck.

Famed for its best of British steaks and prime meat cuts along with sublime and sustainably sourced seafood, this is one floating steak house you can really …push the boat out (sorry, we really couldn’t resist!).

Hawksmoor Wood Wharf

Hawksmoor Wood Wharf is one good looking restaurant, a combination of classic interiors and futuristic exteriors. We are very intrigued by Hawksmoor’s first ever outdoor eating area here too, with a terrace (and sun loungers!) out the front, and a prime view of the wharf and nearby wildfowl.

If Hawksmoor is a little out of your price range, the Lowback Bar is pretty reasonably priced with say a top notch double cheeseburger starting at around £15.


18. Wharf Kitchen, Jubilee Place

A subterranean street-food joint located in the Lower Mall area of Jubilee Place, this dining outlet has a boujie basement vibe with low light interiors (yep, it is pretty dark in there) and a subtle as location tucked away in the corner of a mall.

Street food vendors at Wharf Kitchen in Canary Wharf include Rainbo Gyoza, vegan favourite the Vurger Co, Mama’s Jerk Caribbean food and Poke House.

Wharf Kitchen, Jubilee Place Canary Wharf

19. Eat Korean street food

If you are a fan of fried chicken then you simply cannot miss out on Canary Wharf’s latest restaurant offering – Seoul Bird. Here you can try buckets of delicious Korean Fried Chicken which we recommend you pair with a spicy gochujang mayo and some homemade Korean iced tea. This is a popular spot so food waiting times can be a bit long at peak hours.


20. Electric Shuffle Canary Wharf

When we first heard about Electric Shuffle in Canary Wharf, we thought it might be some form of retro discotheque but it is in fact related to the classic ‘shuffleboard’ game.

As you’d expect from the team that also brought you dart-astic Flight Club, Electric Shuffle is all about having fun, with ten shuffle-board playing areas and one of the most beautiful bar interiors you’ll find in Canary Wharf, if not East London.

Every Thursday to Sunday, Electric Shuffle also offers bottomless pizza and prosecco brunch sessions (definitely a surefire way to improve your shuffleboard skills).

Based in Cabot Square, Electric Shuffle also has a summer pop-up terrace and bar that opens up for an alfresco cocktail, nibbles and brunch experiences – just look for the bright pink bar and orange seats.


21. Everyman Cinema Canary Wharf

Catch a movie at Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf at the Everyman Cinema, located on level 2 of the lower mall, within the same building as a gym (so you can work off the popcorn indulgence afterwards).

Canary Wharf’s Everyman Cinema has 3 screens showing a variety of movie genres and often holds events like movie Q&As and music performances – there is also a bar inside open to all.

18. Everyman Cinema Canary Wharf

22. Canary Wharf Christmas ice-skating rink

Get your (ice) skates on this Christmas to Canary Wharf! Ice skating comes to Canada Square Park during the festive period (2022 Canary Wharf winter ice-skating dates are still set to be announced). The usual hustle and bustle of bankers (not rhyming slang) and city workers transforms to a festive fair of hot chocolate, ice-skating and sparkling Christmas lights. 

Given the location, you also have a huge choice of family friendly restaurants (or bars) to unwind in after skating including popular restaurant chains like Roka, Five Guys and Wahaca. Also, there is usually a themed alpine style pop up bar with Czech beer, cosy fireside tables and blankets for all.

YOU MIGHT LIKE: The best Christmas events in London guide >


23. Billingsgate Market

Although it may sound (or even smell) a little ‘fishy, this historic wholesale fish market is also open to the public, although the regular traders may not appreciate you getting in the way to walk with caution. It is the largest inland fish market in the country.

Be warned that the main trading period is usually around 4am to 6am (closes at 8am) so you have to be up with the lark to catch Billingsgate Market in full swing – open Tuesday to Saturday inclusive.

Things to do in Canary Wharf and Docklands, London - Billingsgate market

Things to do in Docklands

24. The Gun pub, Docklands

One of London’s best riverside pubs with unrivalled views of the Greenwich peninsula and giant O2 arena, the historic Gun pub is a fantastic Fuller’s Brewery outpost with vintage interiors, waterside dining and a large beer garden overlooking the River Thames.

The Gun pub, Docklands

Hidden in the backstreets and just a 5 minute walk from the shiny skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, this beautiful bar offers excellent all day dining and a pop-up bar in the beer garden.

The pub is named after the cannon which celebrated the opening of the West India import Quay in 1802. Lord Nelson also used to live nearby and the story goes that he’d often meet Lady Hamilton for secret rendez-vous’ at this very establishment (the toilets are named in their honours, with the gents becoming the Nelsons.


25. Sunborn Floating Hotel

A luxury liner being used as a permanent hotel moored in Royal Victoria docks, this beautiful boutique boat dwelling is one of the more unusual accommodation offerings in East London.

Billed as a romantic getaway in the heart of the city, the Sunborn Floating Hotel is 108 metres long and has over 130 bedrooms – on board, dine in the Land’s End restaurant or consume cocktails with views of Canary Wharf and the city of London at the Sundown bar. 

The Sunborn Floating Hotel also offers midweek afternoon teas and overnight stays as well as regular romantic break offers (expect to pay a pretty premium around Valentine’s Day) – and remember, if the boats a rocking, don’t come a knocking!


26. Crossharbour and Harbour Exchange

One of the more established areas in and around Canary Wharf, Crossharbour isn’t so much a destination in its own right but has good transport links (there is a Crossharbour DLR station) and several nice waterside eating establishments and walking paths, and is a little more peaceful than the main hustle and hubris of say Jubilee Place or Cabot Square.

Harbour Exchange is one of main hubs of Crossharbour and best accessed via South Quays DLR. Head towards Millwall Inner Dock and you also discover Lotus floating Chinese restaurant serving legendary dim sum, Cantonese and Sichuan plus a shop on the lower level – surely this must be London’s only floating Chinese supermarket?


27. Traffic Light Tree by Pierre Vivant

Art in the heart of Docklands – the Traffic Light tree is a popular piece of public art in Poplar (try saying that after several beers) by the French artist Pierre Vivant, located on a roundabout just outside Billingsgate Fish Market.

Things to do in Canary Wharf and Docklands, London - traffic light tree

Comprising multiple traffic lights (75 in total) all blinking and flashing at random times, this illuminating installation has been located in various parts of London city centre before finding a permanent home in London Docklands. It was also once voted as one of the UK’s favourite roundabouts by motorists in an insurance company survey – hopefully this means no-one has crashed here yet!


28. Mudchute Farm

A day on the farm doesn’t necessarily need to take place outside of London. Along with Hackney City Farm (also in East London), you can see farm animals and other livestock at Mudchute Farm on the appropriately namely Isle of Dogs, based over 30 acres of parkland – it is free to visit and there is also a cafe called Mudchute Kitchen where you can dine overlooking the stables and courtyard.

Mudchute Farm Docklands London. Copyright CK Travels
Mudchute Farm Docklands London. Copyright CK Travels

29. Emirates Airline, Docklands

Not an airplane as such but more of a cable car in the capital. A bit of a transport anomaly in London, the Emirates Air Line opened in 2010, ready for the 2012 London Olympics to transport punters from the Royal Docks to the Greenwich Peninsula over the River Thames (or vice versa).

Things to do in Canary Wharf and Docklands, London - Giant Robot - cable car greenwich

It is also the closest thing we have to a funicular or cable car that London possesses, and is a distracting diversion albeit in a rather odd location. After the initial flurry of inquisitive visitors, the Emirates Air Line never really ‘‘took off” (sorry not sorry) and its future is still to be determined (it reportedly operates at a loss) so go before it closes down.

Emirates Airlines also features in our 16 things to do in East London guide >


30. The Thames Barrier

An engineering marvel opened in 1982 to protect London from flooding, the Thames Barrier located just across from the Royal Docks consists of several interlocking barriers that open and close depending on the water flow and tide of the river Thames.

It is a great place to visit on your bike or walk as part of the epic Thames path. It also has a free to visit viewing deck (and cafe) on the far side of the Thames (alas not so easy to visit by the Tube or public transport).

Whilst it isn’t necessarily an attraction, it is worth a visit if in the area, if only as it looks like something out of a sci-fi movie and it has featured in several films and TV shows including Doctor Who, Spooks and Top Gear.


31. Trinity Buoy Wharf

Similarly to Greenwich Peninsula, this oft-overlooked outpost in London Dockland’s has had a renaissance in recent years, with a huge investment in new housing developments here – we just hope the bohemian nature and regular art pop-ups experienced in Trinity Buoy Wharf doesn’t suffer as a result.

As well as incredible views of the Greenwich (the best spot to get pics of the O2), they have a retro American diner here called Fatboy’s Diner, plus in the summer, there is sometimes a beer garden overlooking the Thames. Visit Trinity Buoy Wharf now before gentrification ruins it.

Read more in our guide to Trinity Buoy Wharf >


32. Chrisp Street Market

In the shadow of Canary Wharf’s towers and supposedly the oldest covered street-market in the UK, this is a world away from the high end spending you’ll see in the shopping malls nearby. A genuine and authentic East-end market that is open 6 days a week (closed Sundays), this traditional market sells mainly fruit and veg and fresh goods.

Chrisp Street Market London

The streets around the market also have some burgeoning urban graffiti / street art layouts including a giant chihuahua on the side of a nearby tower block – read more about East London’s best markets >

giant chihuahua street art Chrisp Street Market

Places to stay near Canary Wharf / Docklands

Budget

Wombats City Hostel
Highly rated award winning hostel with both private rooms and dorms, onsite bar and a courtyard.

Mid range

Novotel London Canary Wharf
Modern hotel featuring a roof terrace with 360 views across the London skyline, on-site gym, pool and contemporary restaurant and bar.

Luxury

Radisson Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf Hotel
Contemporary hotel with rooms and suites that have river views, onsite restaurant, cocktail lounge and a terrace bar. Other amenities include a fitness centre, a spa and a business centre.


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