Don’t miss this insider’s guide to the best things to do in Canary Wharf.
Love them or hate them, the gleaming skyscrapers of Canary Wharf have made their mark on London.
Thrust on an eastern limb in what was the old West India Docks, Canary Wharf is skyscraper city – a place seemingly moulded from glass shooting up into the clouds.
That’s not all there is to it though – scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find an area buzzing with public art, cool brunch spots, brilliant bars and a few nods to its history too. Ready to discover Canary Wharf? Let’s go.
Things to do in Canary Wharf
Camille Walala Street Art at Adams Plaza Bridge
Camille Walala’s bold mural on Adams Plaza Bridge instantly elevated itself straight to the top of the list of cool things to do in Canary Wharf as soon as it was put up in 2020. Walala, who’s been making quite a splash in London’s street art scene in recent years, created the work as part of the city’s first mural festival. Blending stark geometric shapes and striking colours, you shouldn’t miss it.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Canary Wharf might be a big bowl of skyscraper soup, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some lush green spots to hang out in when you want to.
Enter the gorgeous Crossrail Place Roof Garden – bursting with verdant growth mere steps away from the bustle and hubbub below. Stroll underneath the arched canopy and peek at the plants within – organised by hemisphere and representing Canary Wharf’s former life as a port when goods from around the world would have landed right here brought by the West India Dock Company.
Best of all, this botanical garden has free entry and is open until 9pm all year round, making it the perfect spot to get away from it all morning, noon, or night.
Discover Canary Wharf’s Public Art Trail
It used to be the case that Canary Wharf was thought of as a cultural tumbleweed but those days are long gone. Camille Walala’s mural is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to public art in Canary Wharf.
Taking a wander around the area in search of quirky sculptures and large-scale installations is one of the best free things to do in Canary Wharf. Need a little nudge? Check out our interview with Gillie and Marc whose sculpture Tandem Lovers sits a short walk from Canary Wharf station.
Museum of London Docklands
Sound dull? It’s not. The past is cleverly brought to life via interesting stories and tidbits – there’s even a full-scale reconstruction of Sailortown as it would have stood in Victorian times.
Other permanent galleries and exhibitions tell the story of the Docklands’ part in London’s rich history. From its time as part of Britain’s imperial trade centre, exploring the area’s role in the sugar trade and slavery, and the region’s story during World War II, this is an enormously interesting way to spend a few hours.
Visit Billingsgate Market
There aren’t many giveaways of Canary Wharf’s former trading past but Billingsgate Market stands as a rather sizeable reminder – even if it did only move from its former premises in the City of London in the 1980s.
The UK’s largest wholesale fish market churns into action each morning, shifting over 35,000 tonnes of fish per year. It’s a fun (albeit smelly) visit but be warned, you’ll need to get up early (it’s busiest around 4.30am) and bring some cold hard cash if you’re planning to buy something to bring home as many traders don’t accept cards.
See the Traffic Light Tree
You’ll have to go hunting for Pierre Vivant’s striking Traffic Light Tree (hint: it’s near the entrance to Billingsgate Market) – a curious conglomeration of 75 traffic lights nestled in the middle of a roundabout. What’s the meaning of it all you ask? Apparently the tree reflects the frantic pace and hectic schedule of those working in Canary Wharf. Sounds about right.
If you’re driving through the area, don’t get confused. The sculpture is designed to be a work of art and not actual traffic signals. Nonetheless, it’s well worth pausing and checking out.
Marvel at One Canada Square
When it was built in 1990, One Canada Square was the tallest building in the UK – a vision of glass and steel designed by Cesar Pelli. Even then, it wasn’t without its critics, with a mouthy Prince Charles telling TV viewers “I personally would go mad if I had to work in a place like that”.
Luckily, he never has, nor is he likely to. It’s now been shunted to third place but its pyramid-topped design is just as statuesque as ever, towering 236 metres over the centre of Canary Wharf, and with its pyramid-style top, it’s the most iconic building in Canary Wharf.
It’s not open to the public, but you won’t miss it when you’re in the area.
Go to Church on a Barge
London’s only floating church might be one of the more unusual Canary Wharf sights. The church, a re-fitted Dutch Barge, has been bobbing about in the area since 2004 and lays claim to being London’s only floating church. Services are held on Sundays and midweek.
St Peter’s Barge holds plenty of regular events, including talks, and outreach in the local community around Canary Wharf and neighbouring Poplar and is well worth a visit if interesting places of worship float your boat.
Hang out in Jubilee Park
One of the last things you expect to find in Canary Wharf is a few acres of gorgeous greenery. Yet, perched atop Canary Wharf Station is Jubilee Park, a rare oasis of green within the glazed jungle.
It’s relatively small but the sculptures, water features and grassy spots make it a nice place to hang out when the sun’s shining.
Catch a Film at the Everyman Cinema
We love film, and we love cute, unique cinemas even more. Believe it or not, Canary Wharf is home to one of our fave picturehouses in East London.
Skip the multiplex horror around the corner and catch a flick at the cosy Everyman Cinema in Crossrail Place. As with all Everymans, this cinema is kitted out with plush sofas, cushions and a full bar to elevate your film-watching experience. Not only that, you have the choice of the best films, great food, and if you’re lucky, drinks served to your sofa.
Shoot Clay Pigeons
Here’s a novel idea for a bar. You can get drunk at a clay pigeon shoot. Ok, we should add that they don’t have real guns – this is Britain after all.
It’s also the 21st century, which means that at Clay’s you can do clay pigeon shooting on a giant interactive screen. You still get to hold a gun, though it’s one that shoots virtual bullets.
Just as well because that leaves you free to knock back cocktails like there’s no tomorrow and not pose a danger to your friends or the service staff.
For fans of computer games from the late 80s, think Duck Hunt for the modern day!
Hit an Adult Fun Fair – Fair Game
Remember the feeling of hitting the fun fair when you were a kid? That excitement for games and food and more games, and then after that, even more games.
Well, at Fair Game you can relive those wonderful childhood moments shame free as an adult. They’ve set up a giant arcade and fun fair and added a few bits and bobs to really up the stakes.
That mainly comes in the form of a state-of-the-art points system that allows you to keep exact track of the winners rankings with your friends so there can be absolutely no debate about who’s the top dog at the fair.
There is, of course, elevated takes on fairground food, done here by some big shots on the pizza and burger scene, and booze galore.
Whether or not you’ll get excited about Canary Wharf’s Crossrail Place shopping centre will largely depend on whether you like designer brands or not.
If WHSmith, Primark and Superdrug is your vibe, you’ll be disappointed. If you like all things chic, charming, and with a little glitz and glamour, you’ll be in your element.
In other words, it’s a largely high-end affair.
Go Electric Shuffle Boarding
Electric Shuffle is one of the most awesome competitive nights out in Canary Wharf. With the increase in competitive venues, such as darts, cricket, axe throwing and almost anything else you can think of, we’re huge fans of shuffle boards.
And this venue in Cabot Square is awesome. With ten playing areas and two bars in which the champions of the evening can soak themselves, and you, in victory champers (or beer, or wine, or a soft drink of their choice).
They have an awesome range of food and drinks available, with the small plates and sharers perfect for a night out with friends or colleagues as you battle for top spot on the rankings.
Go Boating with GoBoat
You’re never that far from water when in London, and Canary Wharf is one of the prime pieces of riverside real estate.
For us, the only thing better than being by water is being on water. And one of the best ways to explore the river under your own steam is by renting a GoBoat craft, and charting your own course through the Docklands at your leisure.
Explore Harbour Quays, cross the Thames to the O2, drop into the Blackwall basin or find something fishy at Billingsgate market.
Eating & Drinking in Canary Wharf
If you’re too late for brunch, then this is the place to get the best fresh lobster in town. Not into seafood? No problem, this southern-style eatery goes big on comfort food, from BBQ ribs to thick juicy steaks, burgers and sandwiches to more sides than you can wave a stick at.
And all this with the best southern US hospitality going, what’s not to like?
Six by Nico
Concept menus are really popping off in the capital in recent years – and not always successfully. Luckily, Six by Nico is proof that this can work. And superbly, may we add.
The restaurant curates a brand new six-course menu every six weeks, with offerings spanning France, Italy, Greece, and more.
While we can’t vouch for them all, the Greece menu is the current offering and it was a resounding success on our visit. Standout dishes included the Moussaka, a wholesome bowl of lamb ragu, pickled aubergine, cheese espuma, and potato tuile, as well as a deliciously elevated take on chicken gyros.
We opted for the wine pairing and it seriously impressed.
Regular readers will know how much we love our Japanese cuisine. Swanky Roka’s Aldwych and Mayfair siblings are the toast of the town and the high-end Japanese restaurant’s Canary Wharf sibling is equally brilliant.
Expect delectable robata dishes and another excellent weekend brunch, yet the real value for us is in their sushi and sashimi. If you’re expecting Yo! Sushi, think again, this is another level both in presentation and taste!
With all those skyscrapers around it’s only right that someone sticks a restaurant at the top of one of them and allows you the privilege of dining on multi-course tasting menus and sipping fine wines with one of the best views London has to offer.
That place would be Bokan, a sky-high restaurant on the 37th floor of a building just off the main drag of Canary Wharf. They do an ever-changing menu of contemporary European food in a fine-dining setting.
Best of all, food-wise, they’ve just launched an incredible three-course brunch menu including unlimited drinks and a live DJ set on their terrace.
The main draw is most certainly the view – sweeping scenes of London all the way to Tower Bridge and far beyond.
BBQ on a Skuna Boat
While we mentioned that one of the best ways to explore the Thames is by renting your own boat. There is one experience that manages to trump this.
How? Grab a Skuna Boat and head down the Thames with a BBQ slowly cooking the food of your choice. This is unquestionably the most leisurely way to host a BBQ without the stress of smoke bothering your neighbours, and enjoying an enormously relaxing cruise.
Not hungry? No problem. Grab one of their floating hot tubs to enjoy being submerged in warm water while floating along the often freezing London waterways.
Of all the culinary experiences in London, we rarely extol the virtues of good old Scottish scran. Boisdale in Canary Wharf is a two-storey venue in Cabot Square that, among its many charms, is home to a Scottish restaurant.
Of course, the main attraction is the Dumfrieshire Haggis, but we also love the Scotch take on the good old pizza, including those topped with wild venison and haggis, Scottish beef fillet, and smoked salmon.
Other treats at this exquisite nightspot include four private dining rooms, a garden terraces, the UK’s most extravagant whisky bar, a cuban cigar library, and live music.