Canals of Paddington London

Paddington is an intersection of London history where 200 year old canals abut high rise, high tech modernity in a global city center. Seven days walking around London and about a mile of riverfront along the Thames was the primary water feature we had seen from various walks around the city. The other bodies of water we had seen in London were The Serpentine, a 40-acre lake in Hyde Park and the Round Pond in neighboring Kensington Gardens.

Paddington Little Venice-1

Little Venice Paddington is the junction of the Grand Union Canal and Regent’s Canal.


Coming off the London Underground at Paddington Station and exiting to the city streets was an unexpected view for me. Within minutes of walking out of Paddington, the brick buildings outside caught me off guard. This did not seem like a place where I would find street art I was searching for in Paddington.

Paddington Station inside

Paddington Station where London Heathrow Express provides 15-minute train service.


Paddington Station is your first view when arriving from London Heathrow LHR on the Paddington Express. I arrived on the Tube and I walked through the train station to get photographs and then outside to the street. No paper map for the area. American cell phone sitting in luggage at hotel.

London is a 5-star tourist city for information kiosks with maps and information to guide tourists. Paddington Station had a map I photographed before stepping out onto the city streets in this area of London.

Paddington map

Paddington Information Point map


The map showed a waterway called Grand Union Canal Paddington Branch. The canal runs by Paddington Station. I walked one direction along the street and stopped a Sikh-turbaned guy who made eye contact with me among dozens walking along the city street to Paddington Station.

I asked him, “Am I walking the right direction to the canal?“

He said for me to follow him back a block to the train station and pointed me down an alley directly outside Paddington Station that I had quickly bypassed without a thought when walking out of the train station. After a week in the West End and Mayfair, suddenly I felt like one of the ‘boyz in the hood’.

Paddington Alley

Alley beside Paddington Station provides access to canal.


Welcome to Paddington London!

I was getting this Linton Kwesi Johnson vibe and thinking this is probably a good thing I am in the neighborhood at 9am in the morning. Life on the streets is generally not too rough at 9am.

Paddington Quadrophenia

Great Western Railway Paddington historically provided rail service to southwestern England and Wales. First train service began 1838.


Great Western Railway Paddington with a row of motorbikes on the street had me thinking old world 1960s Quadrophenia gangs as violent Prime Suspect plots swirled around my head with Helen Mirren wondering, “What brought this American tourist to the hood of Paddington hours before a flight out of the country?”

I imagine British tourists to the USA have a TV-skewed image of life on the streets in our big cities too. I have walked many miles around Chicago on several trips without being shot or hassled.

After walking a few more minutes, the Paddington area went totally upscale like ‘boyz with toys in the hood’.

Paddington boat bike

Modern canal barges on the Paddington Branch serve as residential and commercial properties.


My trip to Paddington was unplanned. I walked with Kelley and her luggage to Holborn Underground Station on the direct line to London Heathrow and saw her on to the subway car. Kelley was flying back to San Francisco and I was flying to Dublin, Ireland in six hours.

The day before we had received a map to a special exhibit of Paddington Bear statues around London in support of children’s charity in conjunction with the popular British children’s book series by Michael Bond and the Hollywood feature film premier Paddington the week we were in London.

Kelley is a first grade teacher tasked with teaching 7 year olds writing this school year with bears as the primary topic. Paddington Bear statues around London seemed like a teaching moment that I am now obligated to follow though on with my collection of photos for activities around Paddington Bear.

My morning mission to Paddington was focused on photographing eight bears.

Paddington Mayor Bear

Mayor of Paddington was one of the most popular bears for Christie’s charity auction of the Paddington Trail art sculptures.


Paddington canal was not simply a dead waterway with some moored canal boats. While not a working waterway in an industrial sense, the waterway still operates as a place where leisure travelers can visit canal boat businesses and ride canal barges as seasonal transportation.

In 1999 we stayed in a Manchester, England B&B and the owner talked incessantly for hours about the canal boat he restored and the lifestyle of traveling around England on canals.

Paddington canal-2

Grand Union Canal Paddington Branch


The canal area seemed a little industrial for a few hundred meters and then opened up to reveal a beautiful Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture in a neighborhood around the intersection of canals called Little Venice where the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals meet. There were signs for boat rides and little cafes.

Paddington was an historic borough of London, abolished in 1965 when the area was merged with City of Westminster, the area of London with Big Ben and Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

Paddington Borough sign

Paddington Borough historic sign on bridge at Little Venice.


Historic sign on the bridge still shows sign for Paddington Borough 1900.

Paddington Waterbus

Waterbus transportation along Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to London Zoo at Regent’s Park.


Regent’s Canal goes to Regent’s Park and London Zoo.

Paddington barge cafe

Waterside Cafe barge at Little Venice Paddington, London.


There was not much business happening in Little Venice on an early morning Saturday in late November at 9:30am. Kelley and I joked during our time in London about how she is perfectly suited for Europe’s 11am start of the day activity for business.

A local walking with his dog in Little Venice directed me to Rembrandt Gardens. His dog unhesitatingly jumped into the cold canal water for a morning swim.

Paddington dog swim

Local dog taking a Regent’s Canal swim.


The dog came by to greet me after being pulled out of the canal. I did not mind his body shaking canal water spray. Years ago we frequented Monterey Harbor with our golden retriever and let her swim around the harbor seals chasing tennis balls to the delight of diners seated at the windows of Fisherman’s Wharf restaurants. The dog in the canal seemed more natural than seeing the black woman in a bikini a couple of days before stepping into the Serpentine of Hyde Park at dusk when the outside air temperature was about 40 F degrees.

Finding Paddington bear statues to photograph was my purpose in coming to Paddington. My map showed eight bears in the area around Paddington Station. I had located three of them so far. Another statue was to be found in Rembrandt Gardens of Little Venice.

Paddington bear-kiss

Lulu Guinness designed Paddington Bear in Rembrandt Gardens.


Lulu Guinness is a British fashion designer who designed the Paddington Bear in Rembrandt Gardens.

The garden park at Little Venice was renamed Rembrandt Gardens in 1975 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Amsterdam. The name Amstelledamme occurs for the first time in the toll concession of Floris V, Count of Holland, dated October 27, 1275 and that date is considered the founding of Amsterdam. A plaque in Rembrandt Gardens commemorates the special relationship between the City of Westminster in London and the city of Amsterdam.

Four Paddington Bear statues located and four more to find had me backtracking the Paddington Arm canal from Little Venice to Paddington Station.

Paddington canal warehouses

Historic looking canal warehouses on Paddington Branch of Grand Union Canal.


The canal era of England predated the railroad by a couple of decades. The Grand Union Canal is the longest canal in the British Canal System at 137 miles from the Thames in London to Birmingham, England.

Regent’s Canal was proposed in 1802 to link the Paddington Arm of the Grand Junction Canal (1801) to the River Thames. Work began in 1812 and the first section from Paddington to Camden was opened in 1816 with the link to the River Thames completed by 1820. Rapid expansion of railroads in the 1820s and 1830s made many of the canal routes obsolete within a generation.

Paddington bookbarge

Word on the Water Paddington canal barge bookshop.


Commercial barge traffic on the canals is a stationary business to a large degree these days. Summer tourism transportation is the primary mobile activity.

Paddington Arm of the Grand Junction Canal was authorized in 1795 by parliamentary act to build a 13.5 mile cut from Paddington to Bull’s Bridge, now the site of London Heathrow Airport. The canal linked Paddington to the industrial Midlands of England. The canal banks were used to dump much of London’s garbage for years. In the 1860s the area became a fashionable residential neighborhood.

Paddington Basin was drained of water in 2000 for construction of commercial high rise buildings as part of the Paddington Waterside urban redevelopment.

Paddington Basin

Paddington Waterside development of modern high rises.


Hilton London Metropole is located near this complex of modern high rise office buildings in the former Paddington Basin. The Hilton Metropole is a large conference hotel of 1,059 rooms on 23 floors. The hotel is HHonors category 7 at 50,000 points per night and 60,000 points (June-October 2015).

Hilton London Metropole

Hilton London Metropole


The contrast of high rise modernity on the former Paddington Basin to the Victorian architecture of the 19th century makes walking the Paddington neighborhoods an interesting adventure.

St. Mary’s Hospital near Paddington Station was built in 1845 and opened in 1851.

St. Mary's Hospital

St. Mary’s Hospital Paddington opened 1851. Penicillin and heroin were discovered here.


This is one of those times where I photographed something simply for its aesthetic beauty and then learn interesting details months later when writing and researching. St. Mary’s Hospital has two major claims to fame: Penicillin and Heroin.

Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in 1928  in his laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital. He received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945 along with a team of Oxford University scientists who refined penicillin for the first commercial antibiotic. Penicillin production in the U.S. during World War II is responsible for saving many lives. After the war the antibiotic gained widespread civilian use. Fleming’s lab from 1928 was restored and is a museum attraction at St. Mary’s Hospital.

The other claim to fame for St. Mary’s Hospital was the first synthesis of diacetylmorphine in 1874 by C.R. Alder Wright. Nothing came of his discovery until Felix Hoffmann, a German chemist working for Aktiengesellschaft Farbenfabriken (now Bayer Pharmaceutical), independently synthesized diacetylmorphine in 1897.  The product was marketed under the trademarked name Heroin and sold as an over-the-counter drug from 1898 to 1910.

Hilton London Paddington

Hilton London Paddington is adjacent to Paddington Station. The hotel offers 364 rooms across six floors.

Hilton Paddington

Hilton London Paddington hotel is attached to Paddington Railway station.


Hilton London Paddington is HHonors category 8 at 60,000 points per night and 70,000 points from August through November 2015.

Art tourism in London

Art tourism in London motivated me to visit the Paddington area. London adeptly uses art tourism marketing to encourage visitors in London to see different areas of the city. The Paddington Trail offered about 50 bear sculptures around London with suggested walks for touring. There was also a London Bus Trail in the city for seeing small painted double decker London bus sculptures around the city. I think this kind of art tourism is an excellent way to get visitors outside and around the city in places they might otherwise not visit.

Art brought me to the canals of Paddington London and showed me a fascinating part of London with added insight to England’s canal history that I would have not otherwise researched after my trip.

Paddington Basin bear

Futuristic Robot Bear at Paddington Waterside.


Paddington Trail bear statues were auctioned off after the two month display around London. The Paddington Trail bear auction raised over £930,000 for ChildLine service.

Related articles:

Loyalty Traveler – Can London teach America art tourism? (Dec 16, 2014)

Loyalty Traveler – Paddington Bear spotting in London (Nov 27, 2014)

Loyalty Traveler – St. Paul’s Cathedral London on Paddington Trail (Dec 11, 2014)

Loyalty Traveler – Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain for the public Hyde Park London (Dec 7, 2014)

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »


  1. I thought the canals were a fun, different side of London to see. Not on the regular tourist list. The small museum there was interesting- there was a docent who was bored and doing nothing, so it was a great, personalized tour.

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