Think of Paddington and it’s most likely that you conjure up an image of an adorable brown bear wearing a blue duffel coat and a bright red hat underneath which lurks a marmalade sandwich.
But while Paddington Bear might be the most obvious name associated with the Paddington neighbourhood, this area in central London has been around since long before the adventurous bear from Peru arrived.
History records show that the Paddington area has been in existence for hundreds of years and has played to some key historical events.
It was in Paddington where Queen Victoria arrived on her first train journey in 1842 (travelling just 25 minutes from Slough), and it was here that Sir Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin back in 1928. St Mary’s Hospital, where Prince William and Harry were born, along with George, Charlotte and Louis, is located in Paddington too.
Until 1965, Paddington was a metropolitan borough in its own right but today it is part of Westminster and, in recent years, the area around the station and the canals has undergone huge regeneration.
Today, it is a vibrant and colourful neighbourhood filled with fun things to do lots of tasty places to eat.
Paddington is located north-western corner of the centre of London, sandwiched between Hyde Park and Regent’s Park and with the neighbourhoods of Notting Hill and Maida Vale to the west.
If you’re looking to stay near Paddington then take a look at our recommendations here.
If you are looking for things to do in Paddington then here are our top picks.
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Designed by the celebrated engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1847, London Paddington Station is the London terminus of the Great Western Railway (GWR).
If you’ve been to Crystal Palace then the wrought iron and glass roof at Paddington will look familiar; Brunel was heavily influenced by the design of Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in 1851. For a time, his Paddington train shed roof was the largest in the world.
A life-size statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel sits between Platforms 8 and 9.
Today Paddington is a busy station, the sixth busiest in the UK, and it’s also where you catch the Heathrow Express to Heathrow Airport from.
But even if you’re not catching a train it’s worth having a quick look around. On Platform 1 stands the solitary figure of a World War I soldier; the monument is a memorial to the staff of the Great Western Railway who lost their lives during the war.
Britain’s favourite bear has a commemorative plaque and statue on Platform 1 at Paddington Station.
The tales of the adventurous bear from Peru were created by the late author Michael Bond who noticed a lone teddy bear sitting on a shelf in a shop near the train station on Christmas Eve 1956. He bought the bear for his wife and was inspired to write what has become one of the most loved children’s stories of all time, Paddington Bear.
The bronze statue of Paddington Bear sits on Platform 1, almost exactly where the Brown family first meet their new Peruvian friend in the Paddington Bear movie. The commemorative plaque details Paddington’s appearance in the books and films and, nearby, is a Paddington-themed book bench where you can have your photo snapped.
At the station’s south-eastern end is the Paddington Bear Shop, which stocks everything from homewares and clothes to toys, books, luggage tags (embossed with the famous words “please look after this bear, thank you”) and, of course, Paddington cuddly toys.
Paddington Station is the starting point for the Pawprint Trail, a fun Paddington-themed trail that takes in the some of the neighbourhood’s best sights.
There are actually three trails to choose from and each one features one of the Paddington statues from the 2014 collection that were placed around the city.
Adventure One takes you along the Grand Union Canal and challenges you to find a blue-flocked Paddington alongside the brightly coloured cafe and restaurant barges. The trail continues along into Paddington Central, Little Venice, past ZSL London Zoo and onto Camden.
Adventure Two invites families to find Brick Bear heading along the canal in the opposite direction towards Paddington Basin and Adventure Three leads to Norfolk Square Gardens where you’ll find Paddingtonscape in the summer. Once you’ve finished this trail, head to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens where you’ll find the Diana Memorial Playground.
Alexander Fleming Museum
Located in St. Mary’s Hospital, the Alexander Fleming Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the Scottish scientist who discovered penicillin.
On display is a reconstruction of Sir Alexander Fleming’s laboratory, some of his personal belongings and a video explaining how the scientist’s chance discovery resulted in a lifesaving drug that revolutionised the medical world.
Without giving too much away, Fleming had been on holiday and when he returned to his – rather messy – laboratory, he discovered that a mould called Penicillium notatum had grown on a dish of bacteria he had left out. Investigating further, he discovered that the mould had killed the bacteria. This discovery marked the beginning of the era of antibiotics.
The museum is open Monday-Thursday, 10:00-13:00.
Little Venice is one of London’s most picturesque neighbourhoods, positioned between Paddington and Maida Vale and filled with elegant mansions, waterside cafes and pubs and colourful barges. It’s a great place for wandering along the canal paths; start is at Little Venice and walk along under Warwick Avenue Bridge towards Camden and the market.
Puppet Theatre Barge
One of London’s best hidden gems is this delightful puppet theatre on a barge. Located in Little Venice, this is the UK’s only floating theatre puppet and it has been producing family-friendly shows and live music nights for over 30 years.
The theatre can seat over 50 people and there’s even a small bar serving refreshments during the interval. Performances use long-string marionettes and last for just over an hour.
Check what’s playing via their website.
Merchant Square & the Paddington Basin
The Merchant Square area of the Paddington Basin was once an uninviting industrial area. Today, however, this is a lively waterfront neighbourhood with offices, apartments, shops, restaurants and bars.
Merchant Square is also home to the Floating Pocket Park, a 700 sq m of green space that floats on Paddington Basin. With benches, green lawns, flowerbeds and even a special ramp for the ducks, the floating park is a great place to stop for a picnic lunch on sunny days.
Grab a spot with a view of Fan Bridge, that opens up like a traditional Japanese fan. You’ll have to time your visit carefully, however, the Fan Bridge only lifts on Wednesdays and Fridays at 12pm.
The Rolling Bridge is another unusual bridge found in Paddington Basin. For most of the time it is a simple bridge, providing pedestrians with a crossing over the canal basin. On Fridays at 12pm, however, the bridge ‘rolls’ on itself to form an octagon.
One of the best things for young kids in Merchant Square is the Water Maze, three concentric circles consisting of 320 water jets that burst intermittently into the air. Perfect for keeping cool on sunny days.
Paddington Basin is a great spot to hire your own electric boat and see London from the water. GoBoat London operate electric boats that you can hire for 1, 2 or 3 hours. No licence is required and the boats fit up to 8 people, including children. Route maps are provided too, all you need to bring with you is a picnic!
The full route from Paddington Basin runs along Regent’s Canal to Little Venice, through Maida Hill Tunnel, past Regents Park and onto London Zoo and then Camden Lock.
Stand up Paddleboarding
Another way to take to the water during the summer months is standing on a paddle board. Active360 run paddle boarding activities along the canal network including SUP lessons and trips, SUP tasters and SUP yoga. They also run SUP Natural History Tours where you can learn more about the river environment as well as Paddle and Pick sessions where you can take part in a river plastic clean up.
Children aged 11 and older are welcome to take part; Active360 run private family SUP sessions or kids only sessions.
There are lots of restaurants and cafes in the neighbourhood but for a really fun place to grab lunch head to Pergola Paddington, a large, lively alfresco garden spread over two levels. There are lots of different food stalls to try and these change regularly. At the time of writing, street food options included mac and cheese, burgers and fondue! Grab a table or bench, order at the counter and enjoy.
Note that under 18s are welcome until 5pm Sunday to Friday. On Saturdays the venue is for over 18s only.
Darcie & May Green
The perfect place for teens looking to snap a viral Instagram shot is this colourful barge and brilliant breakfast and brunch spot on Regents Canal. The Daisy & May Green barge has been covered in bespoke artwork by English pop artist Sir Peter Blake (you won’t miss it!) making it a fun destination for a weekend brunch.
The restaurant is part of the Daisy Green group that has brought the Aussie food and coffee culture to London.
Paddington Art Trail
The Paddington Public Art Trail starts at the Unknown Soldier in Paddington Station and includes bridges, bronzes busts as well as a lovable, adventurous bear. There are 22 different installations and sculptures, all reflecting the history of the Paddington area and the many people who helped shape it.
Highlights include the glass installations set on either side of the entrance of the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital by Julian Opie; the 12 metre high installation, Basketball by Ron Haselden, which celebrates the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games; and the Sustrans’ Portrait Bench series’s two-dimensional steel sculptures of local heroes including celebrated nurse Mary Seacole, code breaker Alan Turing and Paddington Bear author Michael Bond.
Download a copy of the trail here.
Church Street Market
For a truly authentic London market experience take a walk along Church Street Market, near to Paddington Basin.
A market has taken place here for hundreds of years; in 1830 the covered Portman Market opened selling vegetable and hay. It was hoped that it would rival Covent Garden market but it never really took off. When the market closed in 1907, stallholders simply moved their wares to the street.
The market runs rom Edgware Road through to Lisson Grove with stalls set up on both sides selling everything from fruit, veg and fish to jewellery, clothes and leather goods. It’s a wonderful slice of history; some of the stalls today have been handed down through generations of the same family.
Sheldon Square Amphitheatre
In the heart of Paddington Central is the Sheldon Square Amphitheatre, a public space used for live music, film screenings and events. The amphitheatre is currently under going renovations that include creating a larger ‘stage’ area, improved accessibility, and more trees and green spaces. The space will reopen in 2023 with a calendar of events.