While it’s certainly not the most popular of tourist hotspots in the capital, Victoria Docks still boasts plenty of great things to see and do. From an urban beach and a trans-Thames cable car to water sports and open-water swimming, there’s something for everyone at Victoria Docks.
Catch an event at ExCeL London
Occupying 100 acres of land on the northern quay of Royal Victoria Dock, ExCeL London is a 21st-century exhibition centre that stages conferences, ceremonies and events. Check what’s on at any given time on the website. As well as the X Factor, it’s hosted everything from cars, boats and motorcycles to gaming and home shows.
ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London, E16 1XL, United Kingdom. +44 (0) 20 7069 5000
Take a dip at London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming
Splash about in the open water of the docks with London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming. While this a fantastic activity for the summer months, it’s also open during the winter swimming season from October to March for anyone willing to brave the cold. Water is tested fortnightly, too, so rest assured it’s all suitably safe.
Ride the Emirates Air Line
Observe East London from the air on the Emirates Air Line, a cable car suspended 90 metres above the River Thames that travels back and forth between Victoria Docks and Greenwich. Admittedly, the views aren’t comparable to those of the London Eye, but at just £4.50 per journey, it’s considerably more affordable. Much of the area is still undergoing redevelopment but there are still a few sights worth catching, including the O2 Arena, the Canary Wharf financial district and the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Emirates Royal Docks, 27 Western Gateway, London, E16 1FA, United Kingdom. +44 (0) 343 222 1234
Chill out at Keir Hardie Recreation Ground
Grab a ball, pack a picnic, pick up some drinks and head to Keir Hardie Recreation Ground for a chilled out afternoon in the sun. It is named after Scottish politician and trade unionist Keir Hardie, who founded the Labour Party, served as its first leader and became its first Member of Parliament in 1900. While Hardie was all about labour, his memorial recreation ground is all about leisure.
Discover the Thames Barrier
Composed of 10 steel gates that each stand 20 metres high and together span 520 metres across the River Thames, the Thames Barrier is by far the most formidable element of London’s flood defence system. It has been protecting 125 square kilometres of the capital from flooding at times of high tide since it was opened in 1984. Each gate weighs a staggering 3,300 tonnes.
Relax on Urban London Beach
So you want to tuck into a nice, cold ice cream and feel the sand flow between your toes – but can’t be bothered to trek all the way to the coast? Well, with literally tonnes of sand, Urban London Beach does its best to bring the seaside to the capital from mid-July to the end of August, and it’s all completely free. So grab a deck chair and chill out, or dig out the bucket and spade and get cracking on a sandcastle that will rival the Tower of London.
Get active at London Watersports Centre
While the main attraction is the 2,000-metre, seven-lane rowing course, there are plenty of watersports for people of all ages and abilities to choose from at London Watersports Centre, ranging from canoeing and kayaking to bell boating, sailing and raft building. The website isn’t particularly comprehensive, so make sure to use the contact details to get in touch and find out more.
London Watersports Centre, 1012 Dockside Road, London, E16 2QD, United Kingdom. +44 (0) 20 7511 2211