London has many classic experiences but the purpose of this blog is to find those that are a little less obvious. One of my favourite things to do with visitors is cruise the London canals by taking a boat trip from Little Venice to Camden Lock.
London canals – boat cruise
The United Kingdom has over 2,000 miles of canals and waterways some of which are over 200 years old. In the early years of the Industrial Revolution they served to transport goods across the country efficiently before being superseded by the railways. One of the most important canals in London is 8.6 mile long Regent’s Canal linking Paddington Basin in the city’s west to Limehouse Basin in the east.
Learn more about the history of Britain’s canal system
Take a narrow boat cruise down Regent’s Canal and view London from another side – one lined with trees and elegant Georgian buildings at one end and raw, edgy and industrial warehouses at the other. Along the way, you will get a sneak peek into the lives of people who live along the canal in their colourful houseboats.
The journey along Regent’s Canal
Little Venice | Warwick Avenue
Little Venice is an oasis in Central London. The focal point is picturesque Browning’s Pool where Regent’s Canal, The Grand Union Canal and Paddington Basin meet. I love the elegant Regency buildings that line the canal and pool overlooking paddling flocks of ducks and gliding swans.
The closest tube station is Warwick Avenue.
London Zoo | Regent’s Park
Houseboats line the canal from Little Venice. These colourful boats are often decorated with roses and castles motifs, a tradition that has lasted since the nineteenth century.
After just over a mile past Little Venice and after passing through Maida Hill tunnel you reach Regent’s Park. These beautiful landscaped gardens were the former hunting grounds of Henry VIII transformed by architect John Nash in the nineteenth century.
Under the shade of tall elm trees the canal flows along the northern rim of the park and through London Zoo. You can see the zoo’s aviary from the boat and there is a separate jetty and entrance to the zoo from the canal.
Camden Lock | Camden Market
After the leaving Regent’s Park the canal continues just over half a mile through Primrose Hill until it reaches Camden Lock. Flanked by converted warehouses on one side and the famous Camden Market on the other, the lock completes the boat cruise if you start at Little Venice. You can also join the cruise here.
I love crazy and chaotic Camden Market and it was one of the first places I visited when I first moved to London as a teenager. Somewhat of a rite of passage for anyone interested in punk and fashion, the market has grown from humble beginnings in the 1970s to become a major tourist destination.
You can easily spend a day browsing the shops and eating at the funky food stalls. The market is a lot more edgy than the experience you have on Oxford Street and is home to pop up shops and experimental retail ideas. I like the Cereal Killer cafe where you can try over 100 different breakfast cereals with 30 kinds of milk.
Houseboats of Regent’s Canal
Living on a houseboat is a unique way of life that I have always found fascinating. The boat tour along Regent’s Canal is a tantalising glimpse into this world. Here are some boats I spotted along the way.
Join the riverboat cruise with London Waterbus Company at Little Venice, London Zoo or Camden Lock. Boats leave hourly from 10am to 5pm in the summer with a reduced schedule during winter months. The trip takes 50 minutes one way from Little Venice to Camden Lock stopping at London Zoo and vice versa.
Adult fares start at £9 for a one way ticket. Concessions are available
I like to start at Little Venice as visitors love shopping and browsing the stalls and shops at Camden Market and grabbing a bite to eat at the many eateries by the lock. The return journey is lovely too and if you time it right you could enjoy your lunch or a drink at canal side pub The Bridge House after strolling around Little Venice.
More local tour ideas
Staying on the London canals
Has your imagination been captured by this cruise down Regent’s canal? We stayed on a houseboat in Amsterdam and it is an experience I would love to try in London. There are 8 London houseboats listed for rental on London’s best collection of inspiring places to stay – The Plum Guide. Time to start dreaming .
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