The Top Things to See and Do in Canary Wharf, London

While Canary Wharf is a major business district, it has a lot to offer, including sweeping views and lush green spaces
While Canary Wharf is a major business district, it has a lot to offer, including sweeping views and lush green spaces | © Jennika Argent / Alamy Stock Photo

There’s more to London’s financial nucleus than glistening skyscrapers. Stroll through the subtropical Crossrail Place Roof Garden, educate yourself at the Museum of London Docklands and visit the largest fish market in the UK, if you can wake up early enough.

Follow the snaking line of the River Thames east of the city centre, and you’ll hit Canary Wharf. Once the busiest dockland in the world, it was transformed into a business hub in the 1980s, with shiny towering office blocks to rival those of New York. Today, it’s a well-established financial centre as well as home to botanical gardens and fascinating museums. Here are Culture Trip’s top recommendations.

Gaze up at One Canada Square

Building, Park
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Sunlight reflected on One Canada Square
© Richard Barnes / Alamy Stock Photo
Visiting Canary Wharf can give you a crick in the neck from always looking up at the skyscrapers. It’s true that the skyline of this district certainly has a lot to offer. However, the most magnificent building of them all is One Canada Square. Although it’s the third tallest building in Britain after the Shard and 22 Bishopsgate, it’s one of the largest in London, with more than 162,000sqm (1.7msqft) of floor space. The 235m (770ft) tower climbs 50 floors and has been standing tall in Canary Wharf since 1991. Although the building is not open to the public, it’s worth paying a visit to look up at its majestic architecture.

Visit the Museum of London Docklands

Museum
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Museum of London Docklands
© BRIAN ANTHONY / Alamy Stock Photo

Before Canary Wharf became a skyscraper attraction and a major business district in London, it was a well-known port. Showcasing the rich history of Canary Wharf and other ports in the city is the Museum of London Docklands. On display are port and river collections, among others, representing London’s history from the Roman settlement era to the development of modern-day Canary Wharf. Inside a 19th-century warehouse, the museum tells the story of the UK capital through the eyes of trade, migration and commerce over the past centuries.

Grab a pint after a Meantime Brewery Tour

Brewery
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You’ve probably enjoyed a couple of beers in your lifetime, but have you ever found out what hard work lies behind the fresh-tasting drink? A short distance from Canary Wharf, in Greenwich, the Meantime Brewery offers tours of its factory, which has been open for more than 20 years. The tour will allow you to learn about the brewing process, and afterwards, you’ll get a tutored tasting session of a selection of Meantime beers.

Discover the Crossrail Place Roof Garden

Botanical Garden
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Crossrail Place roof garden
© Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo
Yes, there really is an urban jungle on the rooftops of Canary Wharf. The Crossrail Place Roof Garden offers a range of free events, workshops and performances in its beautiful setting. It sits almost exactly on the Meridian Line, with each flower bed representing a different hemisphere. Many of the plants are native to the countries the West India Dock Company ships visited many decades ago. Stroll through and admire pop-up art exhibitions and, if you’re lucky, a live-music gig.

Haggle for fish at Billingsgate Market

Market, Seafood, British, $$$
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The interior of Billingsgate Market
© Stephen Chung / Alamy Stock Photo
Although Canary Wharf is no longer an active trading port, there is still a large amount of food trading in the area. Billingsgate Market is the largest wholesale fish market in the UK, with an average of 25,000 tonnes of fish and fish products sold each year. You’ll have to get up early to get your hands on fresh sea bass – opening hours are from 4am to 8.30am, Tuesday to Saturday. Watch the lively battle as top chefs and vendors haggle over scallops and eels.

Glide around Ice Rink Canary Wharf

Skate Park, Sports Center
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A view over the Canada Square Ice rink during the Winter Lights Festival at Canary Wharf
© Branchie / Alamy Stock Photo
Come autumn, Canary Wharf transforms itself into a winter wonderland. No, not the horrendously crowded annual fair in Hyde Park but a glistening outdoor ice rink. Hire a pair of skates and glide across the frosty surface like a Disney character (hopefully, Elsa from Frozen rather than Bambi). Book in for special events, such as curling and barre on ice, and warm up with a mulled wine in the Grandstand Bar afterwards.

Marvel at towering trees in Jubilee Park

Park
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Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf
© Stefano Paterna / mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Sitting on top of a Tube station, Jubilee Park is a leafy, open-air space designed by Jacques Wirtz. Stroll along the metasequoia tree-lined paths with a coffee and doughnut from Crosstown, or bring a picnic lunch to sit on the sun-flecked grass. It’s a popular spot in the summer months with office workers and tourists in need of a sit-down.

Ponder the ‘Traffic Light Tree’

Architectural Landmark
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While driving around London, the last thing you want to see is a cluster of traffic lights, all pointing in different directions. At 8m (26ft) tall, with 75 sets of lights, it’s actually a public sculpture called Traffic Light Tree, created by French artist Pierre Vivant. You can’t miss it, as it stands at the entrance of Billingsgate Market. At night, it looks much like a massive Christmas tree.

Judy Cogan contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on July 6, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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