The water pool where Grand Union and Regent’s Canals meet, directly north of Paddington, is affectionately nicknamed Little Venice. If you actually know Italy, don’t expect to find it back there; you’d be disappointed. The small, quiet canals of Little Venice have nothing in common with the gorgeous ones of La Serenissima. Yet this peaceful area still seems exotic: walking along the canals, you can feel like you’re thousand miles away from London’s hubbub, although you’re only minutes away from busy Paddington.
Follow the canal downstream through the tranquil neighbourhood of Maida Vale and you’ll reach Regent’s Park in half an hour; if you’re brave enough, you can keep on walking all the way to Camden Town to admire Banksy’s graffiti.
Nearest Tube: Paddington station
Located in the heart of Regent’s Park, Queen Mary’s garden holds one of the finest collections of roses in the country and its access is free of charge.
Going to a rose garden in the middle of September may not have been my brightest idea, but the blooms of Queen Mary’s garden were still perfuming the air.
Nearest Tube Station: Baker Street
Primrose Hill is located a few minutes away from the north side of Regent’s Park – just across the London zoo. From Camden Town, it’s a pleasant 10 – 15 minute walk along Regent’s canal. When in the park, the slope is steep, but climbing is worth the effort, since from its 78-metre height Primrose Hill offers a clear view over Central London.
The neighbourhood, with its multicoloured Victorian houses, is also an agreeable place. It has the reputation of being a prosperous and fashionable district, so while you’re there pay attention to the people you may cross in the street: the list of Primrose Hill’s residents include the likes of Kate Moss, Jude Law, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, Jamie Oliver, Sienna Miller, Rachel Weisz, Enrique Iglesias, Ewan McGregor, Agyness Deyn, Gery Halliwell or Gwen Stefani. A plaque also indicates the house where Friedrich Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto, used to live.
Update: Primrose Hill on a nice day (it makes all the difference!)
Nearest tube stations: Camden Town, Swiss Cottage
Regent’s canal is only a small part of London’s larger network of canals, and connects the Grand Union Canal (near Paddington) in the west and the Limehouse basin and the Thames in the East.
Exiting Camden market and its noisy and animated atmosphere, the peace of the canal is even more striking. The traffic noise and crowd of Camden are replaced by still water, trees, the occasional passers-by and… Banksy’s graffiti.
At mid-way, it is possible to leave the canal and walk up Primrose Hill for a panoramic view over London. Then, the canal will lead you to the London zoo, in Regent’s Park North-East corner. This walk could take no more than half an hour.
Photographs: Julien Stievenard
Nearest Tube: Camden Town