One of the loveliest aspects of London is its continual ability to surprise. When you can cross from the grey concrete and relentless traffic of the city, down a path that suddenly opens to a serene canal with greenery, quaint barges and someone serving you a pinot noir, it’s only right to be taken aback. In fact, you may wonder if you’ve been transported to Amsterdam. Not everyone realises that London has a thriving canal culture with beautiful walks and idyllic alfresco bars and cafés along the water’s edge. In fact, because the canals are rarely at street level, they remain hidden, often even to locals.
The Regent’s Canal runs from Paddington and the appropriately named Little Venice through Regent’s Park, where there is open-air theatre in the summer; it travels past the famous Camden market, known for its vintage clothing and crafts stalls, before heading towards East London and finishing at Limehouse Basin. There are companies that offer boat tours but the real pleasure comes from ambling along on foot. The canal, which was completed in 1820, has a fascinating history, too. To find out more, check out London Walks, which operate a tour run by passionate boat owners who live in barges alongside the canal.
The canal runs through several neighbourhoods, including Paddington, Camden, Islington and Shoreditch. You needn’t do the entire walk; the Canal River Trust site has a map showing the course of the canal so you can just find the part closest to you. If you do wish to start at the beginning, the best tubes stations are Paddington, Warwick Avenue or Royal Oak.