5 things to do along River Thames and London’s scenic canals

There are plenty of cultural landmarks and dining opportunities along the river that deserve to be on your to-do list.

Housed in a 1920s barge, this floating bookstore has been operating for nearly a decade (Photo: SooPhye)

Whether you prefer a cruise or a stroll around riverside parks, there is much to be discovered along this river of life. Here are just some of them.

Uber Boat

The e-hailing platform first introduced an island-hopping service in Croatia, but soon realised that river rides could double as commuter services. Partnering ride-hail company Thames Clippers, Uber Boat now covers 24 piers in London, from Putney Pier in the west to Barking Riverside Pier in the east. Unlike riding the Underground, hopping on one of Uber’s catamarans affords you a scenic route along the river, especially when it is flanked by major attractions such as the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Sail beneath London’s most iconic bridge to visit Maritime Greenwich, a Unesco World Heritage Site, in just 27 minutes or, if you own a home in Battersea, zoom up and down central London in half an hour.

Timetable and fare here.



Named after a 15th-century Spanish sailing boat, this newcomer is run by brothers Fin and Lorcan Spiteri, who come from a prestigious family of restaurateurs (mum, Melanie Arnold, co-founded Rochelle Canteen, and dad, Jon, manages the one Michelin-starred St John and Sessions Arts Club). Jump aboard and you will be greeted by a candlelit space awash in splashes of white and navy, polished wooden floorboards and crisp table linen.

Caravel specialises in French and Italian cooking, with highlights such as prawn toast with spice tartare; confit duck rissoles; white crab tagliatelle with fennel and garlic; and crispy pork belly served with anchoïade, a paste from Provence made using anchovy fillets, garlic and olive oil. Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of Caravel is the premises itself — with only room for 40 diners, the former working canal barge was first restored in the 1990s before the Spiteri brothers took it over during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Book a seat here


Word on the Water

Housed in a 1920s barge, this floating bookstore owned by Paddy Screech, Jonathan Privett and Stephane Chaudat has been operating for nearly a decade. But it was not always so easy to find. Previously, canal regulations meant that the barge had to change location every couple of weeks, popping up wherever it could snag a spot. Thanks largely to public outcry, the canal trust finally relented and the vessel — fondly known as The London Bookbarge — dropped anchor permanently on Regent’s Canal Towpath. Here, you can find Maya Angelou’s best-selling Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, which was transformed into a children’s book with illustrations by the great Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as out-of-print graphic novels, second-hand gems, cult classics and literary tomes that will spruce up your coffee table. Word on the Water also hosts talks on art, technology, feminism and politics; open mic sessions; and poetry slams occasionally.

See more here.


Feng Shang Princess

The restaurant offers our favourite three Cs: Chinese fare, cocktails and champagne. But there is more to this atmospheric eatery, set in a bright red structure with a pagoda-style roof and lanterns swinging on the sides. Bobbing serenely on Regent’s Canal in North London, Feng Shang Princess is fitted with round tables across two floors, where you can sample old favourites that run the gamut from Cantonese to Szechuan (think beef with black bean sauce and crispy chicken with mango and chilli paste) or contemporary dishes, such as vegetarian crispy duck. Steering the business to prosperity and popularity is proprietor Karen Chua, who ensures customers get nothing less than a feast fit for royalty, combined with exceptional service. Keep your eyes peeled at this eatery favoured by Chinese celebrities from all around the world — a TV actor could very well be sitting nearby.

Reservations here.


Pirate Castle

If you’re in London on holiday and the kids are driving you wild, help them expend energy by bundling them off to The Pirate Castle, a community boating centre on Regent’s Canal, not far from London Zoo and hip, thriving Camden Market. Established over five decades ago, it offers a unique London experience. Different activities are offered on different days and can range from paddle boating to canoe and kayak-training courses and — for the more sedentary — boat trips pootling about serenely from Camden Lock to Little Venice and back. 

More info here.

This article first appeared in The Edge's London special issue on Oct 10, 2022.


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