London has been a major draw for tourists in Europe for just about ever, and with good reason: around every corner you will find history and culture. Most people will check out Soho, Westminster with it’s Abbey and parliament and literary Bloomsbury. They’ll probably stay in posh west end hotels or small inns in central London, soaking up the historical feel. There’s another side to London though, a fast growing and quick moving modern side that merits exploration too.
Canary Wharf sits perched in the London Docklands, an area that, as the name suggests, was used as shipping docks for the last 500 years of London history. When the docks fell out of use, plans were made to create a business and commercial district. Construction started less than 20 years ago, making Canary Wharf one of London’s newest districts.
Boy has it made of up for lost time. The area resembles a sleek futuristic world of metal and glass. There are dozens of sparkling buildings, clustered around the centerpiece of Canada 1- the UK’s tallest building. There’s a vast under gound shopping mall with every shop and restaurant imaginable. And there’s the Dockland Light Rail, silently whizzing about with no driver in sight. Essentially: Canary Wharf is the future, if the future is composed entirely of office buildings and shopping malls (likely).
Some of the highlights of Canary Wharf:
The DLR– It’s basically just another metro system, but there’s something really futuristic and cool about the Docklands Light Rail. The trains are fully automated, controlled entirely by a computer, with no driver. Not only are they magical robot trains, but the ride itself is cool too: they zip around the area, under bridges and past office buildings and canary wharf hotels.
Restaurants and Shopping– The developers of Canary Wharf have worked hard to make it a premier shopping and dining destination and it shows. If it’s a chain restaurant or shop, you can find it here. It’s impressive to wander the underground shopping mall and marvel at the rampant consumerism flurrying all around.
Museum of London Docklands- Even in this shiny city you can still see the remnants of it’s old shipping past: canals snake their way through the area, leading into the nearby Thames. To further explore this history, check out this free museum which explores the areas history from Viking times to now.
Trinity Buoy Wharf– In another call to it’s shipping roots, the area is also home ot London’s only lighthouse. It’s not active anymore, the building is now an arts and performance space. Take the DLR to the East India station and then walk about ten minutes.
Mudchute Farm– When the sheen of the city gets to be too much, you can escape here for a complete change of pace. Oddly, just minutes away from the gleaming skyscrapers is London’s largest urban farm. You can casually wander into this green haven and chill with some goats, horses and even llamas, while skyscrapers loom in the distance.
Okay so it doesn’t have the charm of say, Westminster Abbey. But, if you want to see the London of today, and maybe a glimpse of the London of tomorrow, Canary Wharf is totally the place to be.