Last update: [last-modified]
Of all the riverside areas in London, Wapping doesn’t get much airtime in comparison to Chelsea’s luxurious embankment, the cultural hubbub of Southbank, or the shiny towers of London Bridge.
Once home to sailors and seafarers, and more recently Rupert Murdoch’s News International empire at ‘Fortress Wapping’, it was known to historians, journalists and bankers looking for a quick commute, but seemed to hold little interest to most Londoners.
That is, until recently - News International has upped sticks and moved to London Bridge, leaving a hole in the market that developers are rushing to fill with sleek apartment buildings, floating piazzas and designated areas such as London Dock, which will see a staggering 20,000 square metres of commercial space added to the area.
The term ‘Covent Garden of the East End’ is beginning to crop up, and with areas such as St Katherine’s Dock’s already filled with bars, restaurants and plenty of activity, it could very well be true.
Located just along from Tower Bridge, this compact, charming area has more to it than just shiny yachts and modern developments though - Wapping has a rich history, having once been a major docklands area and a key maritime spot for hundreds of years.
Many of the pubs in the area are named after old ships or famous seafarers, and the quiet cobbled streets offer cool warehouse conversions with river views and paths that Dickens, Turner and other historic residents once tread. The area also holds some ghosts too, with Jack the Ripper haunting these parts in the late 1800s and an Execution Dock on the shore which was used to execute pirates for over 400 years.
It’s location and abundance of high-spec apartments (and the occasional houseboat) make it popular with professionals and City workers, although some families also live in the area which is creating a growing sense of community. Tourists tend to stick to the historic docks at Southbank and Bermondsey rather than stray down here so it’s often surprisingly peaceful on the weekends too, although there’s always something going on at Tobacco Dock or St Katherine’s Dock if you’re looking for a night out.
On a map
Wapping is located in the borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. It sits to the east of Tower Bridge and south of Whitechapel, and covers the postcode E1W
History of Wapping London
The area now known as Wapping was originally settled in by the Saxons, and within a few hundred years had become a key maritime area for the growing city of London.
It was filled with all sorts of sailors and tradesmen associated with ships such as boatbuilders, and even a Marine Police Force from the 1700s onwards.
Ships in this period often came into contact with pirates, many of whom were hung 'at sea' on the shoreline at Execution Dock once they had been caught and found guilty.
When the Industrial Revolution arrived, the area was transformed, much like other docklands areas, into a hive of activity for ships arriving and departing for goods to take across the British Empire.
Many of the residents moved away, and wharves and warehouses were built in the place of houses. The area was bombed badly during the Second World War, and fell into decline once the docks were finally closed in the 1960s.
It wasn't until the 1980s that developers began to take interest in the area, and the Wapping we see today started to come to life.
Transport from Wapping London
Wapping is well connected transport-wise, with Wapping Overground Station and Shadwell DLR connecting the area with the rest of East London and into South London, while nearby Tower Hill Underground Station serves both the District and Circle Lines. A journey from Tower Hill to Embankment takes around nine minutes, while to Mile End would take just 7 minutes.
Meanwhile if you work in the City, it's possible to walk to Bank and other nearby spots in around 20 minutes from central Wapping.
Cost of living in Wapping London
As with other dockside areas, properties in Wapping are largely made up of contemporary new developments built with all sorts of mod-cons, and historic warehouses which have been transformed into interesting homes. If you really want to be close to the water, there are also occasionally some houseboats and live-in yachts available too.
Due to it's proximity to the City and the river, prices have risen steeply in Wapping since the 1980s, and rental prices here are more expensive than in neighbouring areas of Aldgate and Whitechapel.
As of July 2017, the average rental price of a two bedroom property in Wapping is around £2350 per month, although similar properties can be found starting at around £1500 per month.
Restaurants in Wapping London
The history often overshadows the food at the Prospect of Whitby, which dates all the way back to 1520 and has seen plenty of legendary patrons over the years. The food is good pub grub including fish and chips and steak and ale pie, and don't forget to take a look at the noose hanging in the window as a grim reminder of the former Execution Dock nearby...
Address: 57 Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SH
Phone:020 7481 1095
High end tapas are making a comeback at this cool, stripped-back restaurant, where dishes range from Moorish lamb chops and fried oysters to the classic croquetas and gazpacho. Come with friends, add a few bottles of Spanish red and make a night of it.
Address: Saint Katherine Docks, E Smithfield, London E1W 1AT
Phone:020 7481 1464
This cosy Italian restaurant on Wapping High Street is so popular, its not uncommon to see queues out the door on busy days - although that doesn't stop the local residents coming back time and time again. With mouthwatering antipasti, fresh fish dishes and big pizzas on the menu, you'll be won over before you've even finished your starter.
Address: 81 Wapping High St, London E1W 2YN
Phone:020 7481 9950
Shops in Wapping London
With it's classic white and red striped awning, there's no mistaking this classic East End butchers shop on Wapping Lane. Offering a good range of meat and game, they've also branched out into fresh produce with veggies, cheeses and deli favourites, and are able to cater for events too.
Address: 64 Wapping Ln, London E1W 2RL
Phone:v020 7488 3686
Appropriately named after the crew member responsible for all food and drinks on old sailing ships, this excellent shop and wine bar is dedicated to selling the finest natural, organic and biodynamic wines. Forget your usual bottle of plonk from the supermarket and let their learned staff introduce you to a whole new world of grapes and flavours.
Address: 69 Garnet St, London E1W 3QS
Phone:020 7481 9694
Looking to pick up a new hobby? Browse the shelves at 4d Model Shop on Leman Street, which is dedicated to all things model-making. Whether it's 3D printing, laser cutting or creating molds of buddha heads out of wax, they're bound to stock everything you need here.
Address: The Arches, 120 Leman St, London E1 8EU
Phone:020 7264 1288
Things to do in Wapping London
This Grade I listed warehouse is leading the way for the new, vibrant Wapping with it's impressive schedule of events throughout the year, including DJ sets, a wine fair, a gin festival and even a weekend dedicated to meat. Keep an eye on their schedule for cool events cropping up most weekends.
Address: Dock, Tobacco Quay, Wapping Ln, London E1W 2SF
One of London's most popular tourist attractions, the imposing fortress of the Tower of London has seen an array of infamous visitors pass through it's intimidating gates during the last millennia - Anne Boleyn was beheaded here, Richard III's nephews went missing here, and the Royal Crown Jewels have been here since the 1600s. It's the perfect spot for a fun day out with a twist of gruesome history.
Address: London EC3N 4AB
Fancy an old-school night on the ran dan? Head directly to Wilton's Music Hall, a Grade II listed venue which boasts the title of the world's oldest music hall. Their packed schedule of events includes everything from swing dance classes and craft workshops to original theatre productions, so there's something for everyone under this historic roof.
Address: 1 Graces Alley, London E1 8JB
Phone:020 7702 2789