Best canal and river walks in London and the South East

Excursions outside London, London's top walks

Walking by water has its own special charm, whether it’s a river, lake, or canal. If you’ve holidayed with us before, you’ll know that some of our favourite places are right by the Thames or the canal network that criss-crosses London and the south east of England.

Not unusually for a busy city, the temptation in London is to get from one place to another in the quickest possible time, but that can mean missing out on some wonderful sights along the Thames or one of the canals! Read on to find out about some of our favourite waterside walks in London.

We’ve also revealed some of our top places by the water outside London. Getting out of town every now and again is always a treat, particularly during the summer, and following the Thames Path to explore towns and villages outside of London can be just as rewarding as city-based ambling. The good news is that it can take as little as 30 minutes to reach some of these pretty towns.  So make a day of it with your English teacher or just hop on a train if you prefer exploring one of these riverbank gems on your own.

River and canal walks in London

The Thames Path in London

The Thames Path runs alongside the river through several counties until it reaches the Thames barrier in Greenwich and walking along it is a wonderful way to explore London.  Fortunately, there’s no need to complete the full 294 km! Our City & Thames Sightseeing Walk and Thames walk, Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf, are packed with city-based ideas.

View across the Thames to Canary Wharf, London

Alternatively, the stretch of Thames towpath from Richmond to Hampton Court is a lovely walk. Pass through Petersham Meadow and the National Trust-owned Ham House, before continuing to Teddington Lock, into Kingston-upon-Thames and along to Hampton Court – in total around 5 miles. Trains from Waterloo station to Richmond take around 30 minutes.

River views at Richmond

London’s waterways and canals

Our guests love exploring London via its canal network and the walk along Regent’s Canal, from Camden Lock to Limehouse Basin, is a big favourite. The early stretch of the walk, from Camden to Kings Cross, is one of the most interesting sections, but it’s worth continuing all the way to Limehouse to get an overview of how London varies from one area to another.

Narrowboats on the Regents Canal

Equally popular are walks around Little Venice and into the Paddington Basin where the Grand Union Canal starts. At Paddington, bars, restaurants and cafes have replaced old factories and warehouses. Floating restaurant, Darcie and May Green is a great place to pick up a coffee or brunch.

Darcie Green floating restaurant, Paddington Basin

Places by the water outside London

The tow path at Sonning, Berkshire

Much-loved by many (including George Clooney who moved in in 2014), Sonning is a pretty village in the country of Berkshire. Take a stroll along the scenic tow path, part of the Thames Path, until you reach flower-strewn Sonning Lock, home to an informal tea garden. The café is currently closed but you can still watch the lock in action. Last time we were there, we were lucky enough to see the arrival of two dazzling amphibious cars – quite a sight! – en route for nearby Henley.

The old market town of Henley, with a historic town centre, plenty of independent shops, riverside pubs and great places for afternoon tea, is well worth a visit. Join a river cruise or visit the excellent River & Rowing museum.

Thames walks at Windsor

Still in Berkshire, but a little closer to London, Windsor is, of course, best known for its Castle, the world’s oldest and largest occupied castle.  Once you’ve visited the Castle and St George’s Chapel, make tracks for the Thames Path National Trail. The riverfront, and the adjacent Alexandra Gardens are a lovely spot for a picnic. From here, you can walk along the Path towards Runnymede, passing several historic sites, or cross the river via a footbridge into the town of Eton, famous, of course, for its public school.

Thames views at Windsor

Canal walks in Berkhamsted

The Grand Union Canal actually connects London to Birmingham, passing several attractive towns and villages, including Berkhamsted. The charming market town, just 30 miles from London and around 30 minutes by train, is home to an impressive Norman castle, with a towering motte and bailey walls, and an attractive Town Hall. Tuck behind the high street and you’ll find yourself perfectly placed for a lovely waterside stroll along the Grand Union Canal and a pub lunch overlooking the water and narrowboats.  

Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted