Once upon a time Canary Wharf, on London’s Isle of Dogs, was only for city workers, the domain of blue button-downs during the week and a ghost town at weekends. It definitely wasn’t one of London’s obvious family destinations.
But much has changed over the years and today this corner of London, filled with glass and steel skyscrapers, has transformed into a lively neighbourhood with over 300 restaurants, shops and bars. And it’s no longer just for business people either, nearby residential development means that Canary Wharf has transformed into a local community.
That’s all very well and good but what is there to do?! Well, as it turns out there are some very fun things to do in Canary Wharf for kids, read on to find out more.
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Canary Wharf hosts regular concerts and performances in the squares. During the winter months there’s a magical outdoor ice rink and an annual Winter Lights Festival when light artwork installations are placed around the neighbourhood. Summertime sees a packed calendar of events including concerts, outdoor cinema, mini golf, skittles and more.
Things to do in Canary Wharf with kids
Take the Thames Clipper
Getting there is half the fun and one of the best ways to arrive at Canary Wharf is on the Uber Boat by Thames Clipper. Departing from Central London you can grab a boat from London Eye, Westminster, Embankment or London Bridge (check the route map for details) and journey along the River Thames, arriving at Canary Wharf soon after.
Not only is this a fun way to travel, you can enjoy great views of some of London’s best sights along the way!
Children’s Art Trail
Download the dedicated children’s art trail map and tour a selection of the 100 pieces of artwork that are on permanent display all over Canary Wharf, both outside and indoors. The Children’s Art Trail features 12 pieces that the curators believe will interest young minds, and includes a map to show their locations. We particularly love the Traffic Light Tree.
The art trail is a completely free thing to do in London with kids.
Detective Mystery Trail
Another idea for exploring the area is to take a self-guided murder mystery tour of Canary Wharf’s streets solving clues and eliminating suspects as you go. This trail is approximately 2 miles long and takes about 1.5 hours to complete.
Mudchute Park & Farm
Mudchute Farm could not be more different to modern Canary Wharf and yet it’s just around the corner. This London city farm – one of the largest inner city farms anywhere in Europe – is set within 32 acres of countryside in the heart of East London and is home to over 100 animals. Mudchute is a community charity, a working farm, stables and home to a range of educational activities.
Tours of the farm and the animals are available (pre-booking required) and animal encounter sessions can also be booked. Otherwise you can just visit and enjoy the farm and park and spend some time in the onsite cafe, the Mudchute Kitchen.
There is no visitor parking at Mudchute, your best bet is via public transport. The Crossharbour DLR station is a 10 minute walk away.
The Museum of London Docklands
Taking top prize for families is the Museum of London Docklands. This family-friendly museum in the heart of Canary Wharf offers floor after floor of exhibits and exhibitions about the area’s history.
Situated in one of London’s oldest dock warehouses, a visit here is a great way to learn about how the West India Docks began and how they transformed into the financial hub of today.
For young children (from babies up to 8-years-old) there’s Mudlarks, a brilliant interactive space that allows kids to discover the stories told within the museum in a fun environment. Entry to the Museum of London Docklands is free, and the museum is open every day.
From Canary Wharf it’s only 12 minutes by ferry to visit the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. The The world’s only surviving extreme clipper now sits in Greenwich and is a brilliant place for families with children of all ages. Filled with interactive games and displays, family-friendly performances, hands-on exhibits and the very popular Cutty Sark afternoon tea, you can easily spend an afternoon here.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden
For green space, head to the Crossrail Place Roof Garden, a 300-metre enclosed garden filled with plants and trees. Many of the plants are native to countries visited by ships of the West India Dock Company who would unload their wares in this location 200 years ago.
Benches get busy during weekday lunch times but visit at other times of the day and you’ll have plenty of space to roam. There’s also a performance space within the gardens with a regular roster of shows.
Adams Plaza Bridge
Don’t miss Adams Plaza Bridge that has been reimagined by French artist Camille Walala. Walala transformed the bridge for the London Mural Festival but it has since become a permanent part of Canary Wharf’s public art collection. It’s perfect for taking fun photos!
Canary Wharf is also home to an Everyman Cinema, a cool independent cinema chain that shows a wide range of films from blockbuster to indie flicks and a good range of family movies too. For film inspiration, take a look at the best family movies set in London.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
From Canary Wharf you’re only an 18 minute tube ride away from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The parks is home to oodles of things to do with kids from fun playgrounds for younger children to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the world’s longest tunnel slide – perfect for daredevil teens!
Where to eat in Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is a great place to eat with food trucks and pop-ups bringing character and great flavours to the area. One of the best places to pick up lunch is Kerb West India Quay, where 15 independent vendors cook up a huge range of meals. Unfortunately they’re only open weekdays but if you’re visiting Canary Wharf at the weekend then visit Street Feast, that is open daily.
A lot of central London restaurants have also opened branches here meaning that the neighbourhood has a lot of options for foodies of all ages.
Where to stay in Canary Wharf
Although it might not be an obvious choice, Canary Wharf is actually a very good place to stay for families visiting London. You might be tempted to stay in one of the capital’s more famous neighbourhoods such as Westminster or Kensington, but you get much more bang for your buck in Canary Wharf and definitely more space. Fraser Place offers family accommodation, including apartments that sleep four or six people.
How to get to Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is located in east London in the borough of Tower Hamlets.
Canary Wharf is located in Zone 2 and can be accessed via the London Underground on the Jubilee Line (to the Canary Wharf tube station) or the Docklands Light Railway.
You can also travel by the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers.