Canary Wharf is so named because it once was the heart of London's docks where fruit and vegetables arrived from the Canary Islands, but it was redeveloped as a modern business district starting in 1987. Its success as a business district was slower than originally anticipated, but these days, those who find themselves working in London in the financial services sector — and who aren't based in The City — likely will do some time in Canary Wharf.
Although the district receives more tourists now than it did 15 or 20 years ago — particularly as Greenwich Park to the south has become more of a major draw — it is physically a long way from the tour bus routes and conceptually a long way from the view of London that tourists expect to see reflected by attractions like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Notting Hill. When the Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) begins anticipated operations in 2018 — which will directly connect Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf in 40 minutes — it is a safe bet that visitor numbers will increase dramatically, too.
However, even post-Crossrail, travelgasm.com will continue to consider Canary Wharf — with its modern glass and steel architecture and shiny clean rail systems — as particularly worthwhile for a visitor to see as it shatters the often preconceived notion of London as some kind of Sherlock-inspired Victorian era time capsule. Although both are waterfront areas, Canary Wharf reminds us more of Singapore's Marina Bay than the Southbank in London's core.
As a business district, there are a large number of business class hotels — which can be more affordable than you might think in August when the weather is at its most inhabitable in London and the investment bankers are compelled to flee for annual holidays — but few formal tourist attractions. The lack of tourist attractions doesn't mean that there is nothing to do but work, though.
In addition to shopping, the largely interconnected malls of Canary Wharf — Jubilee Place, Canada Place, Cabot Place, and others — offer a wide variety of food and drink choices ranging from inexpensive mainstream chains to more exclusive places targeted toward those who enjoy draining a corporate expense account. Notable options along the waterfront Mackenzie Walk promenade include Amerigo Vespucci, Cafe Rouge, and All Bar One, for Italian, French, and International food choices, respectively. Around noon, there often also is a food truck or two with inexpensive meals on South Quay Walk just across the South Quay Footbridge.
We've mapped out our favourite walk through Canary Wharf below which includes a peek at Jubilee Park, a stroll along the waterfront, a quick photo opp of One Canada Square — the tallest building in the UK from 1990 until 2010 when it was surpassed by The Shard — and the curious mix of real and plastic greenery in Westferry Circus. It endeavors to minimize the time spent on unpleasant streets in front of inactive corporate buildings, also.
We prefer to arrive at the Canary Wharf Underground station and depart via River Bus to head back to the core of London in a convenient loop. At least when the weather is cooperative, the River Bus is a great way to enjoy the Thames for the cheap price of local transport, as well. The River Bus that commuters use is quite similar to a Thames River Cruise for tourists, although the commuter line obviously lacks an audio commentary.
How to Get Here: Although it also is possible to travel to Canary Wharf via DLR, the most logical method for the majority of visitors is via the Jubilee Line (Silver, Zone 2). We suggest taking the West Exit to Jubilee Plaza. If you depart by River Bus, make sure that you take the RB1 and head in the correct direction (odds are good that you want to go toward the Central Zone). Be sure to ask staff for confirmation if the boat or direction is unclear as not all boats stop at all stations. A convenient River Bus station for a visitor to reconnect with the London Underground is Westminster, which is far enough away from Canary Wharf to provide ample time to enjoy the view of the London waterfront, too.
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