While London may be known as a city of chugging red buses, towering skyscrapers and bustling tube stations, it also happens to be home to a load of charming waterside spots- perfect for escaping the chaos of the city. From the iconic River Thames with its many historical bridges to the winding meanders of Regent's Canal and the stunning surroundings of the River Lea, there are plenty of hidden spots just waiting to be explored. And what’s a walk without a little refreshment-shaped light at the end of the tunnel? Whether you've got a craving for craft beer, cocktails or a humble Coca-Cola, we're also bringing you the best watering holes to keep that thirst at bay. Weekend plans? We've got 'em covered...
Little Venice to Camden (2.5 miles - 50 minutes)
Okay, there may not be gondoliers, giant piazzas or gelatarias on every corner, but Little Venice certainly boasts some charm of its very own. Get yourself off on the right foot with a pint at Victorian Maida Vale boozer The Prince Alfred (which also happened to be the set of Bowie’s Blue Jean music video), before moseying on down to Regent's Canal for a tidy 2.5 mile stroll. Heading eastward along the towpath, passing the higgledy-piggledy narrowboats (no doubt creating an entire Rosie and Jim-style fantasy life for yourself as you go), before entering into the calming oasis of Regent's Park. Follow the canal clockwise around the park’s edge, and peek through the enclosures at London Zoo to see packs of hyenas and troops of monkeys swinging above. Once through the park, you’ll be on the straight and narrow all the way to the buzz of Camden market and the sunny balcony at Lockside - time your visit right and you'll be able to take full advantage of their daily happy hour deals
Southbank stroll (1.8 miles - 35 minutes)
Seeing the sights along the iconic River Thames, this 35-minute jaunt takes you right into the heart of the city’s action, ticking off many of London’s top attractions en route. We recommend heading to the riverside boozer The Founders Arms for a hearty roast complete with lashings of gravy and all the trimmings, before walking it off westward in the direction of Waterloo Bridge. Retracing the steps of many a Made In Chelsea breakup and Hugh Grant moody stroll (or snog), you’ll pass the National Theatre and Southbank’s vibrant street food market, as well as the book stall under the bridge. Dodge past the tourists, street performers and joggers and you’ll find yourself at the foot of the London Eye, with Big Ben looming across the river. Stick to the path and you’ll eventually come across Tamesis Dock - a bar aboard a converted 1930s Dutch barge, and the perfect place for a cheeky tipple and well-deserved slice of their signature chocolate fudge cake.
The Olympic Park Loop (5.4 miles - 1hr 50)
Just about as close to The River Lea as you can get (without donning your swimming gear), the beer garden at The Princess of Wales is the perfect sunny spot to get a round in and enjoy the stunning landscape that East London has to offer. Located at the tip-top of Hackney Marshes, it’s also the perfect start point for a brisk five-mile stomp following the course of the River Lea. One of London’s lesser-known waterways, this stunning trail takes you on an anti-clockwise trip right around Middlesex Nature Reserve, Stoke Newington Cricket Ground and Hackney Wick Woodland, before ending up slap bang in the centre of the Olympic Park. Take in the London Stadium in all its 2012 glory, before heading towards the busy metropolis of Westfield, and super-contemporary Stratford pub The Cow, complete with a secluded terrace perfect for an al fresco-style refuel.
Kings Cross to Haggerston (2.2 miles - 45 mins)
Starting off at The Lighterman in the newly swanked-up Granary Square, this walk will take you along the charming Regent’s Canal Towpath, finishing up in the heart of Haggerston. Grab a coffee (or cocktail) on The Lighterman’s upper-floor terrace before heading east towards the bustling neighbourhood of Angel. You’ll briefly have to leave the waterside as the canal narrows into a tunnel, but it’s easy enough to nip through the many shops and bars that this North London spot has to offer, rejoining the canal at the Islington moorings. From there it’s pretty much a straightforward stroll all the way to the Barge House’s imposing glass frontage. Head out early enough and you’ll be able to take full advantage of the mouthwatering brunch menu on offer here - be sure to order their signature ‘breakfast in bread’ - a hollowed-out loaf, loaded up with poached eggs, smoked salmon or spicy chorizo and topped with melted cheese. We’re not drooling, you are.
Kew to Hammersmith (5.2miles - 1hr 40)
Exploring the best of the west, this five-mile walk is a simple trot along the less well-documented part of The Thames. Kicking things off with a drink at One Over The Ait, you’ll be well located to cross Kew Bridge to reach the southern side of the river, the perfect viewpoint to watch the many rowers glide past. Stopping off in Barnes’ yummy mummy territory, you can then easily cross back over to the other side, gawping at the mega-mansions that lie on the river banks, and plotting which one you’ll buy (when that lottery win inevitably comes in). Eventually, you’ll end up at the stunning Old Ship pub - a mainstay on this part of the river since 1722, and boasting a stunning balcony perfect for a well-deserved sip and some top-notch pub grub.
Looking for more London outdoor inspiration? Check out our guide to the city's prettiest villages here.