A stroll on London’s Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to Limehouse

28 January 2022

A little history

Opened in 1816, Regent’s Canal was designed by architect, John Nash, and was named after flamboyant Prince Regent, later King George IV.

Until the 1960s, the canal was used to transport goods in and out of the city.

The canal today

These days, it’s used by narrowboats and is home to communities of colourful houseboats, which you’ll see as you stroll along the waterway. Some have even been transformed into shops, galleries, and cafés.

The walk takes in a variety of highlights including London Zoo, Camden, Islington, and Kings Cross.

What makes the wander even more of a treat are the oodles of pubs, parks, and markets to dip into as you’re going along.

London’s Little Venice

Take the Bakerloo line to Warwick Avenue, from where it’s a stone’s throw to the starting point at Little Venice.

Come out of the tube station onto Warwick Place, turn left onto Blomfield Road, and cross the bridge, where you’ll see steps down to the canal.

Little Venice is thought to have been given its name by English poet, Robert Browning, who lived there from 1862 to 1887.

Surrounded by mansions, Little Venice is where Grand Union Canal meets Regent’s Canal and is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.

Check out the 50-seater Puppet Theatre Barge, where super entertaining performances are put on between October and July.

You can’t miss the barge with its cheerful yellow and red striped exterior.

Before setting off along the towpath, kickstart your day with a ‘Big Little Venice Breakfast’ at the Waterside Café, which serves tasty breakfasts, sandwiches, and baked potatoes.

You’ll need plenty of energy for the miles ahead!

A houseboat community on the canal

At Maida Hill Tunnel, you’ll pass Café Laville, an Italian brasserie that has stunning views of the canal – the tunnel doesn’t have a towpath, so you’ll have to make a short detour.

A little further along, charming Lisson Grove Moorings is a community of permanent houseboat dwellers.

It’s fun to check out the different houseboats and they each have a distinctive character of their own.

Offering a glimpse into life on the canal, the boats are colourfully painted and many of them are decorated with plants and flowers.

In winter months, you’ll spot woodsmoke puffing out of the boat’s chimneys.

Regent’s Park and London Zoo

Just before arriving at London Zoo, you’ll notice a row of magnificent townhouses on the right-hand side. Among them is the impressive Hanover Lodge, also designed by John Nash.

Back in the 1870s, a narrowboat carrying nuts, coffee, and gunpowder exploded while passing under Macclesfield Bridge, killing three crewmen, blowing the roofs off nearby houses, and shattering windows.

Re-built and now known as Blow-Up Bridge, there’s a dedicated plaque that can be seen on the wall of the bridge.

The canal cuts through the zoo, which is in Regent’s Park and is one of eight royal parks in the capital.

As you walk along, you’re likely to see glimpses of the animals – the African hunting dog’s enclosure runs alongside the canal, and exotic birds can often be spotted in Snowden’s Aviary.

Approaching the Cumberland Basin, the eye-catching image of Feng Shang Princess, a floating Chinese restaurant, will come into view.

Serving a vast array of dim sum, it’s a nice spot for a romantic dinner if you happen to be in the area during the evening.

Shop for knick-knacks at Camden Market

It’s easy to get distracted at Camden Lock, probably one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods.

Funky and fun, there are markets and shops selling jewellery, clothes, and art galore and it’s especially lively at weekends, when the streets are buzzing with atmosphere.

There’s a tempting international street food market where you can feast on global tasty treats from all over the planet.

From Venezuelan arepas to Lebanon to Lebanese wraps, the tantalizing aroma of delicious foods fill the air.

A detour through Islington

At Islington High Street, a couple of miles further along, you’ll leave the towpath and take a wander through Islington before re-joining the waterway.

There are lots of indie shops and cool cafés to check out and there are markers along the pavement so that you can find your way back to the canal.

If you didn’t grab lunch back in Camden, The Narrowboat Pub serves hearty pub grub. An added bonus is the view of the canal from the balcony - a perfect spot on a sunny day.

The last leg: King’s Cross and Victoria Park

At King’s Cross, look out for Word on the Water bookshop which sits on a 1920s Dutch barge.

It’s also worth checking out the London Canal Museum on New Wharf Road, where you can learn about the history of London’s canals in a former ice warehouse.

The canal then runs along the western edge of Victoria Park, a sprawling green space with fountains, lakes, and gardens.

You’ll feel in awe of the red Chinese Pagoda and the various sculptures scattered around the park.

Tuck into Turkish food at Limehouse Basin

From there, it’s a two-mile walk passing through Mile End Park to the end of the walk at Limehouse Basin.

Once upon a time, ships unloaded cargo onto the narrowboats for their journey on the canal, but these days it’s a modern marina.

Enjoy a bite to eat at Kirvem, a fabulous little Turkish restaurant where the menu includes a range of Turkish pizzas, perfect with a glass or two of Turkish wine or two to wash it down with.

It’s a superb way to round off your adventure on the canal.  

After dinner, jump on a DLR train which will connect you with wherever you’re headed in London or beyond.