Thames walk: Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf

London's top walks

Walk along the Thames, north or south, and in either direction, and you’ll be amazed what there is to discover. The Thames Path is clearly marked … the challenge is not to get too distracted along the way! This walk takes us from the tourist-heavy zone of Tower Bridge all the way to Canary Wharf. Along the route, dip in and out of history until you reach the glittering towers at Canary Wharf.

Shad Thames near Tower Bridge

First stop – brunch!

We started our day with a fabulous brunch at The Watch House, a lively café on Shad Thames, just moments from Tower Bridge. This was a new discovery for us and certainly one that we’d repeat!  It had a lovely local feel and the food and service was fantastic. Shad Thames is an interesting historic riverside street, crisscrossed by overhead goods gantries that once linked the warehouses.  Do take some time out to explore this little area south of the Thames, then continue to riverside Butler’s Wharf for some spectacular views.

View from Butler’s Wharf

Tower Bridge

Cross the bridge and once over the other side, turn right and head for St. Katharine’s Docks. Stroll around the yacht marina, with its shops and eating places, then head for The Dickens Inn and Telford’s Footbridge. Instead of crossing the bridge, continue to Thomas More Street.  From here, turn left to reach St Katharine’s Way and then right into Wapping High Street.

Stroll through St Katharine’s Docks

Pirates and the world’s oldest police force

Dating back to 1570, Wapping High Street was once lined with pubs for the sailors, dockers and other shipping related trades. Today, the former warehouses are still very much in evidence. Several of the warehouses have been beautifully developed and only King Henry’s Wharf and Gun Wharves are still working warehouses.

The street is punctuated with numerous stone staircases that lead down to the Thames. The Wapping Old Steps, which lead straight to the river shore, were once the execution spot for convicted pirates who were tied to the stake at the bottom of the stairs.

You’ll also pass by the handsome Georgian Wapping Pierhead Houses and Wapping Police Station, home to the world’s oldest police force.

Shadwell

Once a rural hamlet, Shadwell is now home to a new residential development with a water sports centre. Here, the walk takes you over the original red swing bridge which provides great views of the City. Continue on, past the fine Georgian buildings once owned by the East India Company, and the Limehouse Basin, which connects with the Regent’s Canal. This is also where you join Narrow Street, one of the East End’s most historic streets.  The street still has late 17th and early 18th century houses and the Grapes public house (at number 76) has strong connections with Charles Dickens.

View of the City, Shadwell Basin
Water sports at the Shadwell Basin

Museum of Docklands and Canary Wharf

Pass through Westferry Circus and follow the signs for Canary Wharf. This route takes you past the West India Docks and then into the former Import Dock. More can be learnt about the docks at the excellent Museum of Docklands (free) which inhabits a former old sugar warehouse. At the end of this route, entering Canary Wharf is a little like entering a parallel universe. Admittedly, with over 300 shops, restaurants and bars, towering skyscrapers and art installations, Canary Wharf is not to everybody’s taste but it’s worth stopping for a drink overlooking the water.

From here, you can get the DLR or Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf tube station. Alternatively, you can continue on to the new Billingsgate fish market.