Canary Wharf is to London what Lower Manhattan is to New York: a financial powerhouse characterized by towering skyscrapers and finely pressed suits. Global banks and media houses attract some 100,000 workers daily. Canary Wharf is actually one of two main financial centers, sharing the title with the City of London. (See our video tour of the City of London here.) In fact, the second-tallest building in the UK, One Canada Square, calls Canary Wharf home. Canary Wharf has historical roots in shipping, and for 160 years was one of the busiest docks in the world. The docks were finally closed in 1981 after the port industry began to decline. Its current iteration is the vision of Michael von Clemm, who first came up with the idea to convert Canary Wharf into a bank office and business district in the late 1980s. As one of the most posh districts in town, a visit to Canary Wharf requires that you’re caught up on our basic tips for London etiquette.
Located on a little peninsula along the north of the River Thames, Canary Wharf and Docklands can be found in the east of London on the Isle of Dogs. Its northern borders stretch from Limehouse in the west to London City Airport in the east. For information on what else is in the area, check out our video tour of Hackney and the East End. This article will discuss the places in Canary Wharf and Docklands mentioned in our video, including Cabot Square, the West India Quay, the Thames Barrier, Island Gardens, and the Greenwich foot tunnel.
Cabot Square is the central square in Canary Wharf and the prestigious home of multiple global investment and retail banks. It was named after the famous Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (Anglicized to John Cabot), who was the first European to encounter mainland North America since the Vikings in the 11th century. The square is easily reached by the nearby Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station, and the first thing you’ll notice is the towering buildings of Morgan Stanley, Barclays, and Credit Suisse. The central fountain is a notable London landmark, and keep your eyes peeled for other works of art featured around the square.
Cabot Square is famous for having great London shopping spots. Look for luxury and big box retailers alike, as well as multiple restaurants like First Edition, Sri Nam, Boisdale, and Corney Barrow. Cabot Square is the premier shopping destination for luxury, so if you prefer your cotton to be Egyptian and your liquor to be Cognac, be sure to visit. Is it too rainy to go out? No problem; the indoor shopping center in Cabot Square is a great way to spend a rainy day in London.
West India Quay
Just a stone’s throw away from Cabot Square, the West India Quay is a district in Docklands just north of the West India docks. Its prime location was utilized even in the days of the Vikings, when it was used as a port. In its heyday it was the epicenter of the tea, sugar, and rum trade from the West Indies, and it now carries the title of a Grade 1-listed building. Walk around the West India Quay and you’ll see much of the same neighborhood character as when it was a shipyard, but the interior of the buildings have since been repurposed into residential housing, hotels, and restaurants for Canary Wharf locals.
Watch the London Marathon pass by the Quay or stay in a nearby apartment with a view of the Thames–you won’t be disappointed! And if you’re feeling up for a bit of culture, be sure to stop by the Museum of London Docklands. Once a Georgian sugar warehouse, it has since been transformed into a riveting museum chronicling London’s history as a trading port and rise as a naval power.
New York Habitat’s Canary Wharf and Docklands apartments
Whether you’re in London for a short weekend getaway or are navigating a corporate relocation, New York Habitat is well equipped to provide personalized service that specializes in matching you with your ideal apartment. Our website features multiple vacation rentals in Canary Wharf for shorter stays or move-in-ready furnished apartments for longer stays. Many of our Canary Wharf and Docklands apartments are known for their waterfront views and modern design, and all of them have been visited and approved for rental by licensed New York Habitat agents in advance of your arrival.
If you travel down to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs, you will find Island Gardens, easily accessed via the DLR. The first thing you’ll see is Millwall Park immediately to the north. In combination with Mudchute Park, it’s easily the largest park on the Isle of Dogs. Stroll around for a quiet moment of reflection, or walk south towards the waterfront for a great view of the River Thames and the Greenwich Hospital, the National Maritime Museum, and 1860s tea clipper Cutty Sark just beyond. It’s a great place to take the kids on a family holiday.
If you walk along the river for a while you’ll find the Greenwich foot tunnel, which was built in 1902 as a way to circumvent unreliable ferry traffic. This 370-meter tunnel will take you directly from the southern edge of Island Gardens to the Cutty Sark in northern Greenwich.
Towards the eastern end of Canary Wharf on the other side of The O2, you’ll find the Docklands and the Thames Barrier. As a tidal river, the Thames was prone to flooding and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. The Barrier was built in response to the North Sea flood of 1953, and guards the floodplain of all but the easternmost boroughs of Greater London. Construction began in 1974 and the barrier was complete by 1984. There is a museum on the other side of the river (tickets are under £5!) that details the construction and mechanics of the barrier. It’s a great inexpensive option for a family trip.
Check out London City Airport just north of the Thames Barrier. In addition to being London’s most central airport, it’s also a transatlantic hub that serves over 3 million passengers per year. The airport opened in 1988 and has been especially popular with the business crowd ever since.
Travelling between Canary Wharf and Docklands has never been easier. Some of the best travel options include the Thames Clippers waterbus service, the Jubilee Line of the London Underground, or the fully automated DLR.
With over 240 shops, bars, and restaurants, Canary Wharf is a gem of Greater London. It’s ideal for business travelers and those just looking for a quiet place to sit and relax. What’s your favorite place in the area? Is there something we missed? Let us know in the comments below!