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Canary Wharf Area Guide | Living in Canary Wharf London

Canary Wharf has come a long way in thirty years. Once the world’s busiest shipping port in the 1800s, then a desolate wasteland – and now the area has grown exponentially to become a second financial district, so big it rivals the City of London. All that as well as being a brilliant place to live!

Where Did The Name Canary Wharf Derive From?

Its etymology has nothing to do with birds.  The name Canary Wharf instead it actually comes from the quay where fruit and vegetables from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands was once unloaded. The Docklands Development Corporation was set up by Margaret Thatcher’s environment secretary, Michael Heseltine, in 1981 to breathe new life into London’s forgotten East. However, funding became an issue and soon they were asking Canadian property tycoon, Paul Reichmann (owner of Olympia & York) to offer investment. He soon befriended Margaret Thatcher and agreed to provide generous tax breaks.

How Did Canary Wharf Begin?

Construction began in 1988 and by 1990 the 244m Canary Wharf skyscraper at One Canada Square was built. This pyramid-topped tower (which was not initially liked by Prince Charles and Thatcher) was Britain’s tallest building for over two decades until the Shard came along in 2010.

After several changes of ownership (and several teething issues along the way), the Canary Wharf Group has created a 97 acre estate with five shopping malls, over 120  shops, restaurants, bars and street food. The common misconception of it being a concrete jungle is also incorrect – Canary Wharf has some of the most beautiful and peaceful green spaces we’ve seen in a long time. It’s also untrue that the area is a ghost town at the weekend. Whilst this may have been the case once before, the area has now blossomed into somewhere that young professionals and families live and work.

Our expert London estate agents have put together what we think is a comprehensive guide to Canary Wharf but if you think we’ve left anything out please do let us know on Twitter!

Train station

Transport Links

Canary Wharf has some of the best travel links in London. The driverless DLR arrived in 1987 offering the first inhabitants of the area fast and frequent journeys to Bank and beyond. Those living in E14 now can take the DLR from Heron Quay, South Quay and Canary Wharf station to Bank, Stratford, Lewisham and more.

The Jubilee Line was rolled out in Canary Wharf between May and December in 1999 offering a steady transport system for those working in Bond Street, Waterloo and London Bridge. It also offered connection opportunities to the Central Line, Northern Line and Overground.

The area also has a well-connected set of bus routes heading to Bethnal Green, Liverpool Street, Shoreditch, Poplar, Bow, Wapping, Charing Cross, Embankment and the rest of the Isle of Dogs.

The pinnacle of these travel links will come when Crossrail arrives between 2020 and 2021. Up to 12 air-conditioned trains will leave every hour from Canary Wharf heading out through Bond Street, Paddington, Reading, Heathrow and across to Abbey Wood and Shenfield.


Restaurants In East London Surrounding Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf has some of the best food London has to offer – Street food markets, food vans, Michelin star restaurants and everything in between. It’s hard to pick just five Canary Wharf eateries to recommend… but don’t fear! We’ve done the hard work so all you have to do is decide on your cuisine, and head out for a night of amazing food.

Breakfast – The Most Important Meal Of The Day

Early risers need not fear, Canary Wharf has a huge selection of breakfast eateries. One of London’s most popular all-day breakfast sites ‘The Breakfast Club’ offers pancakes, eggs Benedict, eggs Royale and more.

Also located in the new Crossrail Place is Chai Ki, a modern take on Indian food with brunch and breakfast options including Cinnamon Porridge, Aloo Tikki Bun, Miso Curry Leaf Scrambled Eggs, Idli Sambar and more.

Ole and Steen is the place to go for coffee and pastries. This Danish bakery has one of the tastiest pastries we’ve ever tried – the Cinnamon Social Slice. Think soft and moist pastry folded with a set cinnamon custard and topped with a drizzle of icing. Trust us, you’ll want to get one for later. If you’re after a more savoury breakfast they do exceptional rye bread topped with smoked salmon.

For a hearty start to the day, head to Carluccio’s, Slug and Lettuce or Parlour. Parlour does an exceptional coffee that’s only £1 with a reusable mug. Canary Wharf also has the usual selection of cafes and coffee shops such as Starbucks, Paul, Costa Coffee and Pret.

Lunch With A Twist

Canary Wharf is packed with lunchtime favourites such as Itsu, Ahi Poke, Island Poke, Obica, Birley, and Chop’d. They all offer speedy and delicious meals that can be made gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan meaning there’s something for everyone.

Two of the area’s most popular lunchtime haunts are Farmer J and Grateful Kitchen. The former often has queues snaking out of the door from midday onwards, so be sure to get there early for your fill of their famous Fieldtray. Pick a base of brown rice, Farmer’s grains or spinach then add meat or vegetables and two sides that include tasty options such as whole roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, black bean salad and kale and avocado miso slaw.

Grateful Kitchen focus on seasonal and organic ingredients where possible. Their fish is delivered fresh every morning from Billingsgate Market to minimise road miles. A similar concept to Farmer J, you build your own healthy lunch with bases such as freekeh, quinoa or kale, up to four toppings from a huge selection of roasted vegetables and grains plus one premium topping such as peanut butter maple tofu, flaxseed chicken or halloumi.

Amongst the flora and fauna of the Crossrail Roof Garden is Giant Robot – a street food market run by Street Feast who are the brains behind Dinerama in Shoreditch and Hawker House in Canada Water. Black Bear Burger, Thunderbird and Yum Bun are just a few of the delicious delicacies available. The Big Easy (inspired by the 19th century BBQ joints on the American Gulf Coast) does an express £10 lunch menu that is definitely not to be missed. Lobster Mac N’ Cheese, Shrimp Roll, Smoked Brisket and Texas Minute Steak are just a few of the mouth-watering options but there are lighter and vegetarian meals on offer too if you don’t fancy a heavy lunchtime. Each lunchtime dish comes with either a beer, house wine, soft drink, Prosecco or slushy cocktail making for a purse-friendly yet filling lunchtime deal. Bonus: if your food isn’t on the table in 15 minutes you get it for free!

A short walk will take you to KERB street food market at West India Quay. Open from 11:30-2pm five days a week you can enjoy food from across the globe from a variety of street food vendors. The list changes every day so keep up to date with their socials to see what’s on offer. From Korean BBQ to Asian dumplings, Greek pita pouches and Salt Beef Sandwiches there’s something for everyone.

Canary Wharf Dinner Options

Canary Wharf has no shortage of delectable dinner options for the hungry City worker. Roka and Sticks’n’Sushi have some of the best sushi and Asian food in the area, perfect for a celebratory meal or date night. Perhaps the most sophisticated restaurant is the E14 branch of Boisdale, the Scottish steak and oyster restaurant. A vast whiskey list, cigar ‘library’, oyster bar and live jazz overseen by patron Jools Holland makes for a completely unique visit every time.

Argentine favourite Gaucho offer a reasonably priced lunch menu that stretches until a generous 7pm for those wanting an early bite to eat. Whilst they are famed for their steaks, they also serve ceviche, blackened sea trout, empanadas and burrata so don’t be put off if you’re not a fan of meat. After 7pm expect a sleek and sophisticated affair, with the finest Argentinian wine, black leather, mood lighting and a waterfront terrace.

For over 20 years Amerigo Vespucci have been serving the finest Italian food on the Wharf. The alfresco bar is a great place to start your night. Have a cocktail looking out over the water as the sun goes down before you head inside for a delicious plate of pasta, antipasti, fish, vegetable or meat dishes.

The arrival of The Ivy in the Park in Canada Square provides friendly all-day dining with a classic Ivy twist. Expect a lush and green Ivy with all the delicious menus of its sister restaurants. Classic British dishes such as Fish and Chips alongside Steak Tartare, Grilled Sea Bass and Jackfruit and Peanut Bang Bang Salad.

green trees and plants

Green Spaces

Canary Wharf is not just the concrete jungle that it seems. Crossrail Roof Garden is not only home to some tasty food and drink options, but it’s also a great place to wander and soak up the tropical fauna on offer. This 300m space is predominantly enclosed, but with a select few panels missing it allows wildlife the chance to fly in and settle. Amongst the tropical palms and ferns, you can find stone benches and even a small amphitheatre where you can enjoy performances throughout the year. They also have a piano that’s available to play, so if you have an urge to tickle the ivories on your lunch break you can head up there and play to your heart’s content.

Jubilee Park may seem small, however due to the clever landscape gardening it never feels overcrowded, even on the hottest of days. Located above Canary Wharf station, it’s a verdant paradise with trickling water features, fish, water lilies and plenty of picnic benches and space to relax. It also has some artificial grass located towards the back of the park, so if it’s been raining and you don’t want the mud on your clothes then head here. During the winter the park plays host to part of the Canary Wharf light show and also has exhibitions and displays running throughout the year.

Mudchute Farm is only a 15-minute walk from Canary Wharf and offers visitors 32 acres of green spaces and farm animals. Wander through the lush, green space and enjoy cows, sheep, donkeys, llamas, goats and horses which you can book for private and group riding lessons for adults and children of all abilities. They do have designated picnic areas but their onsite café serves delicious and reasonable brunch, lunch and children’s meals as well as daily specials so make sure you leave time and room to make a stop there!

Shopping And Other Amenities

Canary Wharf is the perfect place for shopping with a plethora of high street and designer shops. Spread across five malls, you can expect everything from small boutiques, to sportswear, toiletries, homewares and the second largest Waitrose in the UK.

The Canary Wharf Group hosts an impressive selection of outdoor events in the summer and the winter months. Expect an ice rink and light festival as the cold weather draws in, outdoor cinema screenings, crazy golf, music screenings, open-air concerts, sports highlights, theatre and more.

If you’d rather watch films on a more permanent basis, Canary Wharf has two main cinemas: Cineworld and Everyman. The latter gives cinemagoers plush armchairs, foot stools and wine to take in with them and the option of more unique and one-off films.

For a cultural (and free) day out head to North Dock for the Museum of London Docklands where you can learn all about the history of Canary Wharf and the Docklands area and wander through the Victorian reconstruction of ‘Sailortown’. This family-friendly museum has an onsite restaurant and offers seasonal events including a Christmas craft market and more unusual events such as family raves.

Rather surprisingly Canary Wharf has one of the UK’s largest collections of Public Art. From Bob Allen’s It Takes Two to Emma Biggs Sartor Resartus there’s a sculpture or installation for everyone. Download the art map here and plan a cultural day out.

Fitness fanatics need not worry when moving to Canary Wharf. Luxury gym Thirdspace have their largest outlet in Canada Square just above Waitrose. These gyms undoubtedly have the best instructors in London and therefore offer the best classes and equipment as a result. The changing rooms have fluffy white towels, GHD hair straighteners and Cowshed products. This is definitely more than just a gym – it’s a lifestyle.

Across at South Quay, Nuffield Health have their Baltimore Fitness and Wellbeing Gym complete with pool, classes and onsite physiotherapy. There’s also a Puregym and Virgin Active, offering a range of gyms for every budget. For free fitness classes in E14, check out Sweatybetty, Lululemon and Asics run club.

How We Can Help

If you’re considering moving to Canary Wharf, have a look at the properties we have on offer in the stunning Pan Peninsula development. 

Work in Canary Wharf and want to fill your lunch break in the best way possible? We’ve put together our favourite hour-long activities that will leave you feeling refreshed, cultured and fed and watered.

If you have any questions about life in Canary Wharf, or any of our development locations, please do get in touch!