As one of London’s key financial districts (the other being The City), Canary Wharf is rarely thought of as a desirable residential area – or even a residential area at all. The vast majority of visitors here work in the high-rise offices of international corporate businesses such as Morgan Stanley, Clifford Chance and HSBC, entertain clients in the many restaurants nearby, and finally make their way off the Isle of Dogs to the likes of Greenwich and Bermondsey once the day is done.
But amongst these 100,000+ Canary Wharf workers are those who have chosen to make this imposing, modern business epicentre home. Derelict docklands until the late 1980s following the decline of the port, Canary Wharf was then transformed into the the sleek area we see today, populated by skyscrapers, luxurious shopping centres and big-money businesses. The main attraction of the area is the convenience, particularly for those who work very long hours and want to walk to work. There are few cultural attractions, although the three shopping centres and the hundreds of restaurants are enough to entertain most locals thought the weekends, and events and festivals are beginning to spring up throughout the year as more residents arrive to fill the newly-built developments.
The current residents of Canary Wharf are predominantly affluent professionals without children, working in one of the many corporate industries housed in the area such as finance or law, and foreign investors. With little green space aside from Mudchute Farm and hardly anything in the way of schools families tend to avoid the area, sticking to Greenwich across the river instead, while anyone on less than a banker’s salary would find it difficult to afford the kind of penthouses and chic apartments that dominate the rental market here.
However, with Crossrail set to arrive in 2018 bringing the rest of the city even closer to Canary Wharf (a journey to Farringdon will take just 8 minutes, less than a third of the current time), it looks as though Canary Wharf may indeed develop into a reasonably popular, albeit very exclusive, residential area in time.
On a map
Canary Wharf is located on the Isle of Dogs, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets. It sits to the south of Poplar and the north of Greenwich, with a postcode of E14.
History of Canary Wharf London
While there are records of the Isle of Dogs during the medieval period, when it was boggy marshland known as Stepney Marsh, Canary Wharf didn’t exist until relatively recently. As sea trade began to grow during the 1500s ports were built throughout London, with the most prominent located at London Docklands. With the expansion of the British Empire and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, sea trade expanded hugely, and the West India Docks was the first of this new wave of docks to open in the city. It rapidly became the busiest dock in the world, packed with all sorts of activities including ship repairs, storage, trade, distribution and engineering.
During the Second World War the dock was bombed, killing and injuring many residents and workers, while the buildings and ships sustained heavy damages. Repairs were made and life at the dock continued as usual, with over 60 million tons of cargo handled in 1961 alone. However, by the 1970s the need for docklands had fallen dramatically due to new methods of storage and recent technology. By 1971 the West India Dock had closed, and the area fell into disrepair.
In the 1980s developers began to look to old, abandoned Docklands for regeneration projects, and a plan is drawn up to build Canary Wharf, a new commercial centre on the site of West India Docks named after a warehouse which stored fruit from the Canary Islands. London City Airport soon opened, businesses signed on to move their offices to the area, and the DLR arrived to connect Canary Wharf with Bank and the City. Today Canary Wharf continues to grow as a business and commercial centre, home to the headquarters of many European companies.
Transport from Canary Wharf London
Canary Wharf is fortunate to be very well connected, largely due to the underground station on the Jubilee Line and the DLR, which has various stations on the Isle of Dogs including at Canary Wharf. On the Jubilee line a journey to Westmister takes just 10 minutes, while the DLR to Lewisham is a short 16 minute journey.
If you prefer travelling by boat, there are regular services from Canary Wharf Pier to locations including London Bridge, Chelsea, Embankment, and nearby Greenwich. Numerous buses from East London and a night bus from Trafalger Square also serve the area. Finally for international travel, London City Airport is just 20 minutes away on the DLR.
Cost of living in Canary Wharf London
In-keeping with the sleek, modern design of Canary Wharf the vast majority of property here is similar – apartments in new glass-fronted developments with all sorts of mod-cons and views over the river and London if you’re willing to pay the price. With few buildings more than 20 years old and many more planned for the future, this is certainly the place for the kind of contemporary living not found in many London areas. However, if it’s more traditional East London Victoria terraced housing you’re looking for, both the southern end of the Isle of Dogs and Greenwich have plenty.
Prices in Canary Wharf haven’t reached the dizzy heights of prime East London just yet, although the area is still more expensive than neighbouring Greenwich, Deptford and South Bermondsey, and is set to see a swift rise in prices once Crossrail arrives.
As of January 2016, the average rental price for a two bedroom apartment in Canary Wharf is £2500 per month, although similar properties can be found starting at £1800.
Restaurants in Canary Wharf London
Knock back a dram of vintage whisky, listen to live jazz and feast on Caledonian delicacies at this Scottish restaurant, which serves only the finest offerings from north of the border. We recommend the tradition MacSween haggis, cullen skink soup and a boozy cranachan to finish.
Address: Cabot Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 4QT
Phone: 020 7715 5818
Looking for a meal straight out of Tokyo? Head to Roka on Canada Square, which offers a tantalising assortment of Japanese dishes including steamed and fried gyoza, chicken teriyaki, rice hot pots and sushi platters in a contemporary dining room.
Address: 1st Floor, 4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, Canary Wharf Group, London E14 5FW
Phone: 020 7636 5228
If you hate the idea of choosing from a long menu then ending up envying the dishes your fellow diners have chosen anyway, you’ll love this London branch of classic Parisian brasserie Le Relais de Venise. The interior is straight out of the City of Light, with subtle chandeliers, paintings and mirrored walls, while the only dish on offer is a cooked-to-order steak served with fries, salad, and a delicious secret sauce.
Address: Canary Wharf Group, 18-20 Mackenzie Walk, Canary Wharf, London E14 4PH
Phone: 020 3475 3331
Sitting right on the waterfront, you’d be hard pressed to find a better located restaurant during the warm summer months. Fortunately, the food at Havez makes it worth a visit all year round, featuring a menu packed with Turkish specialities including sharing mezze platters, lamb kofte, borek cheese pastries and moussaka. Don’t forget to try the sweet, sticky baklava for dessert too.
Address: Discovery Dock West, 2 South Quay Square, London E14 9RT
Phone:020 7515 9467
Shops in Canary Wharf London
Make sure your bag doesn’t get lost next time you travel from London City Airport with a luxury leather tag from Aspinal of London, who sell all sorts of leather goods and homewares for discerning customers. The personalisation service makes it the ideal place to pick up presents too.
Address: 15 Cabot Square, London E14 4QT
Phone:020 7719 0727
Treat yourself to a selection of gourmet chocolates at this renowned chocolate shop, which despite the French name has been an iconic London brand since 1875. Their Marc de Champagne truffles are legendary, while the candied orange peel and crystallised ginger is also worth a try.
Address: Promenade Level, Cabot Square, London, Canary Wharf, Greater London E14 4QT
Phone:020 7512 9168
A chic Canary Wharf apartment wouldn’t be complete without a bespoke sound system or a swanky new TV, but fortunately there’s a Bang & Olufsen nearby for all your designer technological needs. They also sell excellent headphones if you’re trying to stay friendly with the neighbours!
Address: 2 S Colonnade, London E14 4PZ
Phone: 020 7719 1234
Pick up a new luxury scent at the Canary Wharf branch of this boutique perfume store, established in 1870 by Queen Victoria’s very own perfumer. With a range of classic perfumes infused with flowers and elixirs as well as new collections inspired by British history, there’s plenty for your nose to explore here.
Address: 250 Cabot Square, London E14 4QS
Phone:020 3040 0123
Things to do in Canary Wharf London
Wondering where the faint smell of fish is coming from? Nope, it’s not the Thames (we doubt there are many species left in there by now), but rather from the brilliant Billingsgate Market, which holds the title of the largest inland wholesale fish market in the UK. Once the largest in the world, almost every type of sea creature you desire can be found here, but make sure you get up early – it’s only open from 4am-9.30am.
Address: Trafalgar Way, Poplar, London E14 5ST
Phone:020 7987 1118
Situated within the former Millennium Dome, the O2 is an enormous entertainment centre which includes a concert venue, a cinema, and exhibition space, and various bars and restaurants. Whether you come to see one of the world’s biggest bands or just for a bite to eat and a few games at Brooklyn Bowl, it’s impossible to be bored here.
Address: Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX
Phone:020 8463 2000
Learn more about the fascinating history of London’s Docklands and their martime past at this offshoot of the Museum of London. Housed in a Grade I listed Georgian warehouse, it’s filled with interesting artefacts and variety of collections which show how these riverside areas developed from the Roman period to the present day.
Address: No.1 Warehouse, W India Dock Rd, London E14 4AL
Phone: 020 7001 9844
Main image credit: Jodie C