Breakfast in our hotel again this morning then a tube journey northbound to Camden Town. A popular market is held there at weekends but to be honest, I’m not a fan of this one as it’s mostly a collection of touristy stalls and shops along the road. The reason for our visit was to take a morning stroll along the Regent’s Canal. It’s easy to find, on leaving Camden Town underground station turn right walking a short distance past the market until you reach Camden Lock. Overlooking the lock you will notice a pub and across the bridge, Camden Lock food court where you can find some tasty snacks in an attractive outdoor setting.
Following the towpath along Regent’s Canal and we soon found ourselves far away from the hordes of tourists visiting Camden Market. Regent’s Canal was originally built as a link between the Grand Union Canal and the River Thames but it is now a haven of tranquility with many points of interest along this three mile stretch to Paddington. It’s one of our favourite Sunday morning London walks and I believe, one of the capital’s best kept secrets.
Strolling along, one can view elegant waterfront mansions and the large aviary of Regent’s Park Zoo which borders the canal. A little further along, the towpath passes the Little Venice basin in Maida Vale, home to a collection of narrowboats, most of these being permanent homes. I especially like this section of the canal as the narrowboat residents take great pride in their homes and even have their own small gardens across the towpath. Apart from spring bulbs, there’s not much in flower in February but walk along in a few months time and there will be magnificent displays of trailing wisteria and clematis.
From the canal basin it’s possible to take boat trips and there are some attractive cafes, and one of them is actually on a narrowboat. It’s then necessary to leave the towpath for a short distance but the canal walk is signposted and rejoins the canal a little further on. Towards its end near Paddington Station there are more cafes, bars and restaurants. Of course, the walk can be taken in reverse starting at Paddington and ending at Camden but please bear in mind that if you are visiting at weekends Camden station is for exit only due to the large crowds and you may need to extend your walk along to Mornington Crescent station to continue your journey.
From Paddington we travelled along to Piccadilly Circus, a square that’s always bustling with activity. From there, it’s only a short walk to nearby Leicester Square, another popular tourist hub. Located just off Leicester Square is London’s Chinatown with its ornate gateway arch and as it wasn’t long since Chinese New Year, the streets were still festooned with bright orange paper lanterns. Chinatown only covers a small area but it’s fun to explore and perhaps enjoy a meal in one of its many restaurants.
A short walk from Chinatown lies Covent Garden, an attractive tourist location situated around the former fruit and vegetable market. The area was transformed in 1980 when the elegant old buildings were tastefully refurbished into bars, cafes and small shops. A craft market takes place in the former Apple Market whilst street performers entertain crowds – it’s certainly a vibrant place to visit in central London.
Our afternoon stroll continued to Trafalgar Square, home to both the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery both free to visit except for special exhibitions. I particularly enjoy visiting the National Portrait Gallery where one can view portraits of famous British people from the 17th century to recent times.
All this walking was making us hungry so we headed off to a branch of Pizza Express near the Royal Festival Hall on the south bank for a meal. It was then time to return to our hotel in Vauxhall to collect our luggage in good time to take the 7.30 pm train home from King’s Cross station.
If you are looking for more ideas of how to spend your time in London, you might like to read my other London weekend posts here: