The complex is home to seven skyscrapers with a height of more than 150 metres and contains about 1.5 million square metres of office space. It is built around the now disused West India Docks, one of the busiest docks in the world from the start of the nineteenth century—when the docks were built by Robert Milligan to provide a safe place to store sugar, coffee and spices—until the outbreak of world war two.
These days, Canary Wharf is one of the United Kingdom’s two international financial centres, alongside the City of London. Over 105,000 people work here, earning an average salary of over £100,000. Canary Wharf also offers urban living at its best: stunning modern architecture, impressive public spaces, great transport links, and world class shopping, restaurants, bars, gyms and other amenities.
The tower held the record for being the tallest structure in the United Kingdom from 1990 (when it overtook Tower 42 in the City of London) until 2010 (when surpassed by The Shard in south London).
One Canada Square is a 50-storey glass and steel structure with a distinctive pyramid roof. This Cesar Pelli-designed building, constructed at a cost of £525 million, is serviced by 32 elevators and is 100% let to tenants such as Bank of New York Mellon, NatWest Bank and the Trinity Mirror Group. Today, over 90,000 people work here.
Canary Wharf’s ground floor lobby offers regular art exhibitions and is now home to the trendy One Canada Square Bar (offering great weekend brunches, live music, and ‘bottomless Fridays’).
Unfortunately, the Canary Wharf tower does not offer a public viewing gallery. Your best chance of seeing it is during one of London's annual Open House weekends.
Canary Wharf’s other skyscrapers include:
Canada Square Park, to the east of One Canada Square, is a grassed area surrounded by trees, restaurants and pop-up bars. Big-screen tvs are erected here in the summer, so that you can relax on the lawn watching sporting events like the Wimbeldon tennis championships. The area also hosts frequent concerts, such as the July 2016 country and western concert ‘Nashville Meets London’. In the winter, the area becomes home to a covered ice-skating ring, Luminocity – with over 8 kilometres of LED lights laid underneath the ice.
Cabot Square, to the west of One Canada Square, is dominated by an impressive central fountain and is surrounded by pop-up cafes and restaurants in summer. This is a great family space.
Westferry Circus, to the far west of the estate, is a beautifully planted walled garden in the centre of the eponymous roundabout. You can hardly hear the traffic, and will be wowed by the perfectly cropped grass in the middle of the area.
Finally, Jubilee Park is found to the south of One Canada Square (between the two main entrances to Canary Wharf tube station). Filled with trees, grassy areas and water-features, this is a great place to explore. You might even forget where you are, until you look up.
Adorning Canary Wharf’s public spaces are found 66 pieces of public art. Highlights include:
The slightly larger Canada Place Shopping Mall runs from Westferry Circus, underneath Canary Wharf and to a large Waitrose and John Lewis store. For its part, Jubilee Place Shopping Mall runs from Montgomery Square to Heron Quays DLR station.
Three smaller complexes—including Churchill Place and the new Crossrail Place—mean that Canary Wharf offers well over 100 shops in total.
High end men’s fashion is found in abundance, with shops such as Hackett, Aquascutum, Hugo Boss, Paul Smith, Dunhill and Gant all found in the Canada Place complex.
Women’s clothes shops are not so well represented (most Canary Wharf workers are men). But at least there’s a Hobbs, Karen Millen and Les Trois Soeurs Bridal.
Also represented are high street shopping brands such as Ted Baker, GAP, Zara, Dune, River Island, French Connection, Oasis and Banana Republic.
Other high-end shops include Tiffanny & Co, Bang & Olufsen, Mont Blanc, Watches of Switzerland and Goldsmiths.
For those after an American diner experience, you won’t do much better than the newly opened Big Easy on Crossrail Place. This barbeque and crab shack offers live blues music every night and a selection of over 500 whiskies. Or you could try the Manhattan Grill at the London Marriott, offering grain fed black Angus beef from Creekstone Farms in Kansas. Expect to pay about £30 for your meat, with a £15 menu served Mondays to Fridays.
For Asian fare, the high-end options are Royal China, Sri Nam and Roka. Royal China is set on the Thames and offers great views by day or night. Dumplings are a speciality, but some reviewers say that the restaurant is pricey and that service can be poor. The same complaints are often made about Sri Nam, offering Thai and pan-Asian food in a contemporary space.
Roka, on the other hand, never disappoints. It offers high quality Japanese in a slick restaurant overlooking Canada Square Park, and offers weekend brunches. Make sure you book in advance. Another option is Wagamama, found in Jubilee Place, and offering good value Japanese food and efficient service.
For British cuisine, we recommend Boisdale, Tom’s Kitchen and the newly refurbished Tea Merchant. Boisdale does it all: arranged over two floors, it has a restaurant, grill and oyster bar, whisky bar, Cuban cigar library and is best known for being a live music venue (Jules Holland is the patron of music here). Specialties include Dumfriesshire blackface haggis and roast grouse.
Tom’s Kitchen does British favourites and comfort food better than anyone else, using the best seasonal produce. And the Tea Merchant offers good pub food at honest prices.
Finally, Chai Ki, on Crossrail Place offers good-value modern Indian cuisine at the Toddy Shop Bar during the day and at its trendy restaurant in the evenings. We recommend the restaurant’s butter chicken and coconut prawns.
The Third Space Canary Wharf is Europe’s largest health club, offering 100,000 square feet of training space. Its state of the art equipment include cardio, functional and combat zones; a sports hall that is predominantly used for football, basketball and badminton; a 23-metre uv-purified pool; a 13-metre climbing wall, with six auto-belays and 25 routes of between 4+ to 7B (set by the well known climber Steve McClure); a 90-bike cycle studio; and over 200 classes each week. Little wonder that it has been named as Britain’s best gym. But be warned: membership is not cheap (membership is about £140 per month).
Canary Wharf has a host of other gyms for its alpha-male office workers to de-stress. First amongst them is the Virgin Active Canary Riverside, on the banks of the Thames, offers the latest equipment, around 10-15 daily classes, and a swimming pool with wonderful river views. Membership is c. £110 per month. A less expensive option is PureGym, in the same building as Cineworld.
Film buffs will be excited by the Everyman Cinema, located on level -2, which opened in summer 2015. It offers new and classic films in 3 stylish cinemas, kitted out with armchairs and sofas. You’ll also be able to enjoy alcoholic drinks or tasty snacks during the film, delivered direct to your seat.
For a more traditional cinema experience, try Cineworld West India Quay.
A little-known fact about Canary Wharf is that it has its own floating church, St Peter's Barge. Offering Sunday and midweek services, London's only floating church has an average congregation of about 85.
It will house Canary Wharf's Crossrail station from 2018. For now, its main attraction is the 5 acre roof garden found on its top level.
Because Canary Wharf is located on the prime meridian, the garden is divided into East and West sections.
The East section features plants from Europe, the Caribbean and Australasia including strawberry and sweet gum trees and soft tree, golden tree and New Zealand tree ferns. The West section contains plants which originate from the Fear East, including the Japanese Maple, veitch bamboo and the northern Japanese magnolia.
The wooden and glass structure surrounding the roof garden is designed to evoke a ship coming back to London laden with exotic specimens. Its inspiration comes from the Wardian Case, used to transport plants back to Europe and named after Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward.
The roof garden regularly hosts community events, such as displays of the martial art Capoeira
Other attractions include restaurants and shops such as the Big Easy Diner, Notes Coffee Shop, Sticks 'n' Sushi, and Bespoke Cycling underneath.
Film buffs should also try the Everyman cinema, found on the lower levels of Crossrail Place. This is cinema in style, complete with armchairs, sofas and drinks delivered to your comfy seat.
The Museum’s galleries are arranged by chronological order, starting with Thames Highway, which explores London’s status as a port from the arrival of the Romans in 43 AD to medieval times.
Next comes Trade Expansion and Legal Quay, charting the formation of the British Empire’s great trading companies, in particular the East India Company, and the quays established by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century for the collection of customs duties.
The City and River gallery addresses the early part of the 19th century and the building of a massive new docks complex on the Isle of Dogs.
Sailortown recreates an East London street from Victorian times, and First Port of Empire relives the glories of the Docklands in their heyday—handling massive volumes of goods from modern steam-powered iron ships.
The timeline is completed by the Docklands at War exhibit (exploring the impact of the Second World War and the London Blitz) and the New Port New City gallery (describing how the Docklands has reinvented itself as a financial centre for the 21st century).
Other attractions include the interactive Mudlarks children’s gallery, and the award-winning London, Sugar & Slavery exhibition. The Museum of London: Docklands offers things to do for the whole family.
where? Museum of London: Docklands, 1 Warehouse West India Quay, East London E14 4AL. T. +44 20 7001 9844
when? 10am to 6pm, 7 days a week. Closed 24-26 Dec.
It will operate crossrail services from Crossrail Place from late 2018. Developers have noticed: 10 new towers are currently being built on the Canary Wharf complex.
In addition to the Jubilee Line, Canary Wharf is also served by the Docklands Light Railway, which offers efficient driverless trains and frequent services to Bank, Stratford, Lewisham (and Maritime Greenwich) and London City Airport.
For those after more of a transport experience, head down to Canary Wharf Pier. Here you can catch public boat services to Greenwich, the O2, Tower (for the Tower of London), Bankside (for the Tate Modern), Westminster and the London Eye. Single tickets cost up to £8 (but you get a 30% discount for using an Oystercard).
Crossrail, Europe's largest construction programme, will open for trains to central London in December 2018 and be fully operational a year later. Crossrail will link Essex with Reading, offering vastly reduced journey times: getting to Liverpool Street from Canary Wharf will now take 6 minutes (down from 21), journies to Paddington will take 17 minutes (down from 33) and travelling to Heathrow airport will take 39 minutes (down from 55). Officially named the Elizabeth Line, this £15 billion project will increase London's transport capacity by 10%.
There are a number of new developments under construction in Canary Wharf. The most ambitious of them is the New District, designed by Allies and Morrison. When fully constructed it will house 3.6 hectares of public spaces and gardens, 3,300 new homes, 2 million square feet of office space and 380,000 square feet of retail space.
Another new development is Spire London, a 771 foot residential skyscraper with 861 suites and one, two and three-bedroomed apartments. Located opposite the Museum of London: Docklands, this 67-storey development will be western Europe's tallest residential tower.
Built on the site of a World War 2 anti-aircraft gunnery, Mudchute is a great place for children and big kids looking to relax. With a total size of 32 acres, Mudchute is the largest urban farm in Europe.
Mudchute's generously sized enclosures are home to horses, ponies, sheep, goats, alpacas, pigs, chicken and pheasants.
Mudchute's main building contains a good cafe and farm shop. It is surrounded by bird cages filled with a wide variety of feathered friends. They include canaries, diamond doves, Chinese painted quails, zebra finches, cockatiels (a smaller version of the cockatoo) and budgies.
Other attractions include a large carousel for children (£1.50 a go) and one of the 3.7 inch Ack Ack Anti-Aircraft Guns that was used on the site during the Blitz. It was at this spot that Captain Fletcher of the Royal Artillery won the only military cross for bravery awarded during the Second World War for action on home soil.
Entry is free, though donations to the charity that runs Mudchute are welcomed.
Mudchute Park and Farm is a five minute walk from Crossharbour DLR station or a 10-15 minute walk from Mudchute DLR station.