Exploring the Docklands

The London Docklands are hardly the most tourist-y part of London; situated several curves of the Thames away from the hub of Westminster, this area has historically been populated by dockyards and warehouses. And obviously, such utilitarian features don’t draw many crowds. But the modern Docklands are different- four years ago, I stayed at a Thames-side hotel in the heart of the Docklands, and was endlessly surprised by the scenery and character of the area.

Canary Wharf Night

A view of the Isle of Dogs from my room at dusk- I thought it was breathtaking

Hotel Night

Looking east along the Thames at low tide

The first evening at my hotel, I just took photo after photo of the impressive skyscrapers on the Isle of Dogs. They looked so striking against the darkening sky, and since I’ve long been obsessed with the tower known informally as “Canary Wharf”- properly known as One Canada Square- it was the best sight I could possibly be enjoying.

The next morning, I walked along the south bank of the Thames west from the Docklands, and I loved the tranquility of this path. Mostly residential (with either condos or row houses), the area was charming and much quieter than the rest of the London I knew. It really was lovely, and I imagine this would be a beautiful place to live.

Canary Wharf Path

The Isle of Dogs, seen from a leafy courtyard

Docklands Path

I’d love to jog or walk my dog along this quiet Thames-side path

Gherkin Docklands

Despite being a distance from central London, one can still see landmarks like the Gherkin from the Docklands area

This part of the Thames also felt a lot less frantic and crowded than the Westminster section. Instead of rows of tour-boats ferrying tourists about, there were small pleasure-crafts and rowboats. I might not even mind taking to the Thames in this area- but of course, wherever on the Thames one is, one really does want to avoid falling in! Apparently the Thames is actually quite clean nowadays, but I shouldn’t like to risk it…

Docklands Boat

A group of people rowing down (or up, I can’t remember!) the Thames

Thames Boat

A moored boat caught in the mud at low tide

Leaving the riverside path, I explored Rotherhithe and the area around Canada Water- fitting, seeing as I live in Canada! Here I got a glimpse of the less affluent London; in a stark contrast to the riverside lofts just a few minutes away, I was now walking among unpretentious (and even ugly) blocks of flats.

CW Flats

As much as I’d love a flat in Kensington or a penthouse overlooking the Thames, in reality, I’d probably end up living somewhere like this if I lived in London!

Surrey Quays

We browsed through the Surrey Quays shopping centre, which is beside Canada Water

Canada Water

Canada Water itself; with the then-under-construction Canada Water Library visible

Although the green and ingenuous village feel of Rotherhithe was appealing, I still couldn’t resist taking a closer look at the bustling Isle of Dogs across the river. Canary Wharf, situated on the Isle of Dogs, is a prominent business district and it houses the offices of numerous international banks and other companies.

1 Canada Sq

A look up at One Canada Square- and it’s a long way up, as this tower is 770 feet tall

CW Sign

One Canada Square was only recently surpassed by the Shard as the tallest building in the UK

CW Colonnade

The futuristic colonnade at the base of One Canada Square

My main purpose on the Isle of Dogs was to see One Canada Square, but there were other things of interest there as well. In one of the nearby docks, I saw a US Coast Guard vessel- unusual, but interesting! Aircraft kept going overhead to and from London City Airport, and the yellow supporting spires of the Millennium Dome were visible in the gaps between skyscrapers.

USCG Docklands

I have no idea what this ship was doing here, but it was neat

O2

Millennium Dome is one of the most surreal buildings I’ve ever seen

I always knew that I’d like staying near the Millennium Dome and One Canada Square, two of my favourite buildings in the world. But contrary to what I expected, the locale they inhabit wasn’t boring- the Docklands were actually really enthralling! Being near the river means that the sights are always changing; changing with the tide and with the journey of rowboats and tourist tours alike. The Docklands are definitely one of the most surprising areas of London I’ve explored, and there’s more to them than old industry and financial monopoly!

CW Sunshine

The towers look so wonderful with their windows glinting in the sun

Docklands Condos

Some condos across the river from my hotel

CW from Window

The outstanding view from the hotel room. It could not have been any better than this!!

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