Traditionally considered the domain of blue button-downs during the week and a ghost town at weekends, Canary Wharf is not an obvious family destination. When I lived in London years ago, I never visited this area, leaving the glass and steel skyscrapers to the city workers (if I’m honest, half the tall buildings that now dominate Canary Wharf didn’t even exist 12 years ago!). Still, not long after we moved back to the capital, we met some old friends here for lunch and discovered that the docks-turned-finance-district has a lot to offer kids.
Firstly, it’s 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 10 independent vendors cook up a huge range of meals. Unfortunately they’re only open Tuesday to Friday 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.
It’s also a good option for families visiting London. Although you might be tempted to stay in one of the more famous neighbourhoods such as Westminster or Kensington, you get 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.
In terms of things to do, there’s more than you think to keep kids busy in Canary Wharf. Firstly, there are regular concerts and performances in the squares. During the winter months there’s a magical outdoor ice rink and summertime sees a packed calendar of events including concerts, outdoor cinema, mini golf, skittles and more.
For something a little more structured, you can download a dedicated children’s art trail map and tour the neighbourhood’s huge collection of public art, including the incredible Traffic Light Tree. 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.
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 lunchtimes 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.
Taking top prize for families, however, 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 younger 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.
After you finish at the museum, there’s no better way to head home than by taking the ferry to central London. Regular ferries run from the west side of Canary Wharf and it’s a fun alternative to taking the tube, especially for kids!
You may also enjoy the following posts:
Disclosure: This is a partner post with Fraser Place; all opinions are, as always, entirely my own.