Places to Visit, Shop and Relax in London Docklands
London’s Docklands lie to the east of the City of London and are mostly north of the River Thames. They stretch from Tower Bridge to Woolwich and are the legacy of the trading power of the British Empire. The docks went into decline after the Second World War, but in the 1980s the regeneration of London’s docklands started. While most of the warehouses and wharves have been demolished many have been converted into apartments, and on the Isle of Dogs the Canary Wharf financial district has been created.
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) makes travelling around docklands easy. Views from the railway are often stunning and the experience is heightened by the elevated sections and sinuous route. Children love sitting in the front seats and pretending to be the driver (the whole system is computer controlled and very efficient) The train captains who govern the system make a point of encouraging children to “drive” the train!.
Canary Wharf is in the heart of London’s docklands and because of its facilities makes an excellent hub from which to explore – as well as being in the centre of the West India Docks it has a stunning array of shops, restaurants, bars and parks. It is connected to Central London to the west and Stratford to the north by the fast Jubilee Underground Line. In addition fast riverboats provide a regular and scenic connection to Central London piers. The Docklands Light Railway connects Canary Wharf to Stratford in the north, Greenwich and Lewisham in the south, Beckton and Woolwich in the east and the City of London in the west.
The Museum of London’s Docklands is a 5 minute walk to the west of Canary Wharf. It documents the history of the River Thames and London’s docks and it is located in a 19th century warehouse on West India Quay which is an old working dock. Refreshments are available nearby – the rest of the warehouses on the dock have been converted into restaurants and bars.
Further to the west of Canary Wharf beyond the Museum of London Docklands is the area of Limehouse which can be explored from Westferry DLR Station. There you will find the maritime church of St Anne’s Limehouse, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the 18th century and Grade I listed. It flies the White Ensign from its flagpole (a flag normally only flown by the Royal Navy) and has the highest church clock in London. Beyond St Anne’s is the Limehouse Basin which is the starting point for walks along the Regent’s Canal and the Limehouse Cut canal.
Even further to the west you can alight at Tower Gateway DLR Station and visit Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
To the south of Canary Wharf is Mudchute Park and City Farm which is 13 hectares of land raised up over the surrounding area, it’s a peaceful place to walk or picnic and there are great vistas with views of Canary Wharf and Greenwich Park in the middle distance. The farm is best reached via Crosshabour DLR station from which it is a 4 minute walk. When alighting walk directly across the road and through the supermarket car park where you’ll find an entry at the back right hand side to Mudchute Park and Farm.
Further south on the same line is Greenwich which has an enormous range of things to do and see, from visiting the Cutty Sark clipper ship in dry dock to having afternoon tea at the Fan Museum and viewing some of its collection of more than 4,000 fans.
To the east of Canary Wharf is the Thames Flood Barrier, a good view of which can be had from the Thames Barrier Park next to Pontoon Dock DLR Station. Further along the same line on the south side of the river is Woolwich Arsenal DLR station where you can alight to visit the Royal Artillery Museum.