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Little Venice to Camden boat trip – explore the hidden canals of London

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Little Venice to Camden

The Venice to Camden boat trip is one of the most popular things to do in London, yet many visitors are completely oblivious to this hidden waterway snaking its way in and out of well-known areas. Weeping willows sway and bend in the breeze as they lap at the water’s edge of two meeting canals.  Canal boats, offering both tours and accommodation for those who live on the water, move through the calm waters. 

It’s as though we’ve found a hidden city, tucked away inside the busy roads and residences at Maida Vale, just north of Paddington.  This is the London version of Venice, and this is our comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about how to make the most of your Little Venice to Camden boat tour.

little venice with bridge in background

Little Venice London

It’s a great find, tucked away in this busy city, and usually not something you’ll find noted in any first timers guides to London. This makes it a perfect “off the beaten path” activity for those who want to explore more of London.

The area is known for luxurious mansions and even more incredible gardens.  It’s hard not to try and have a sticky beak through the fences as we pass by.

Start your exploration of the area known as Little Venice starts on the pretty light blue wrought-iron bridge overlooking the area where the Grand Union and the Regents Canal meet.  The Grand Union canal runs for 220 kilometres north-north-west of Little Venice until it reaches Birmingham.  Regents Canal is almost 14 kilometres long, linking the Grand Union Canal to the Limehouse Basin in the east and, ultimately, the Thames River.

In summer, this is the perfect place to hang out, and if the weather is behaving itself, the area is alive with people.  We were blessed with reasonable weather on the day we were here, so everyone was out enjoying a little sunshine.  The towpaths, alongside the canals, were a hectic mix of bicycles, skateboards and people. 

People running, strolling, walking with intent, reading, chatting, eating, and queuing.  The queues belonged to the canal boats that can be hired to take groups of people up and down the canals, mostly toward Camden Lock.

It’s quite a business to queue for these boats as they fill up fast, and there’s a rather antiquated, inaccurate process of booking your voyage. 

queuing for the canal ride at little venice
One of the queues for the canal boat rides

Regents Canal history

Long before motorised road transport and railways, canals were used as the transportation methods for many industries.  Horse-drawn boats were pulled along the waterways, hence the name “towpath” given to the small service lanes that run alongside the canals.  The Regents Canal was built to link the Grand Junction Canal through to the River Thames at the Limehouse Basin.  The name Regents Canal was used to honour King George IV, who before his coronation was also known as Prince Regent. 

Legislation was required to be passed first to allow the canal to be built.  The Regents Canal Act was formerly passed in 1812.  The first portion of the canal, to Camden Lock (known officially as the Hampstead Road Lock), was opened in 1816, with the remainder opening in 1820.

During the 1840’s canal traffic started to decline as the use of the railways ramped up.  However, during World War Two, the canals were once again used as an alternative and contingency to trains.  The towpaths ceased being used for horse-drawn boats in 1956, and by the 1960s the canals had become a redundant commercial highway.  

Today, like most of the canals in the UK and Europe, they are used as an important part of the tourism sector. 

Related reading >> Read all about our luxury barge journey on the Canal du Midi in the south of France

LITTLE VENICE BOAT TRIPS AND PRICES

Three boat companies run canal boat trips up and down the Regents Canal, but only two of them stop at Little Venice.

Jason’s Trip

Jason is not the name of the tour operator, it’s the name of the 100-year-old+ canal boat.  The canal boat season runs from roughly April to November but will be seasonally dependent.  “Jason” will take customers up and down the canal, with a one-way trip taking approximately 45 minutes.  A commentary in English is provided on board to highlight the key points of interest along the way.

The trip is direct from Little Venice to Camden, docking at Camden Market (and return).  There are no stops along the way where you can disembark. Tickets can be purchased as one-way or return.

The booking system is unfortunately not an interactive, real-time site. Reservations can be requested online, but emails are only managed Monday to Friday, and when the crew aren’t on the boats. So if you want to book a weekend boat trip, a same-day trip, or a trip during peak periods, don’t expect to get an immediate response. Be sure to give it enough time for someone to get back to you. It’s not ideal. Also, note in your booking request if you want a return trip. Additional sailings are scheduled during the peak summer months of July and August.

Tickets cannot be purchased online, so even if you have a booking, you will still need to pay for them on the boat. Tickets may be purchased with cash, VISA, Mastercard and AMEX or using the London Pass

We wouldn’t recommend turning up at the boat in the peak months without a booking, or you are bound to be disappointed. If you do try to wing it, be at the Little Venice waiting point at least 30 minutes before sailing time and 15 minutes before at Camden.

Tips

  • The queues can be huge, so even turning up 30 minutes ahead of time may not secure you a passage at your preferred time if you don’t have a booking. Get there as early as you can.
  • In summer, make sure you have a hat and water with you as it can get very hot standing in the sun on the edge of the canal.
  • Try to get a seat along the outside of the boat. You’ll get a better view, and it’s easier to take photos. Don’t worry about getting splashed. These boats travel slowly and the water is calm.
  • Please note that this boat is not wheelchair accessible.
  • Book in advance online or use your London Pass, which you can buy online and in advance here.
  • The boats are small inside and can be a bit tricky to board, so the less ‘stuff’ you are carrying, the better. Luggage, large bags, strollers that don’t fold etc won’t be allowed on board. These are not transit boats but more like a leisure boat.
  • There are no toilets or catering facilities onboard.

Jason’s Trip is the original boat on the Regent’s Canal, making it a good historical choice for your boat ride. Ticket prices are currently £12 for adults and £9 for concessions (under 14/over 65). Return tickets are £18/£14.

LOCATION: You can find Jason’s Trip boats opposite 42 Blomfield Road by Westbourne Terrace Road Bridge and across from the Waterside Cafe.

map showing lcoation of Jason's trip boat hire regents canal
Map of Jason’s Trip boat location

London Waterbus Company

Moored across the canal from “Jason’s Trip” are the boats belonging to the larger business of the London Waterbus Company.  The only real difference with taking these narrowboats for a ride is there is a stop along the way for the London Zoo.  Tickets may also be purchased on board for the zoo. 

Their payment method is also the reverse of the abovementioned situation with Jason’s Trip. Cash is not accepted.  Payment is by credit card only.  They operate a similar timetable.  Make ticket purchases online. The London Pass is not able to be used here. Only people who have pre-booked tickets should join the queue as you can’t buy tickets on the boat.

We loved riding on “Jason”, but the booking process is just too inconvenient for most people, especially those who don’t live in the UK or close by. London Waterbus Company is our preferred option quite simply because it is more convenient and you can plan and get a confirmation immediately by booking online. This means you can choose the times you want and receive confirmation immediately, as opposed to having to wait for an email response from the other operator and then still having to pay for your tickets on the day.

SKIP THE QUEUE >> Buy your tickets in advance and online to secure your Regents Canal boat ride from Little Venice to Camden

Tips

  • Bring a hat and some water in summer to protect yourself while you wait to board the boat.
  • Try to get a seat along the outside of the boat. You’ll get a better view, and it’s easier to take photos.
  • These boats travel slowly along the canal so motion sickness shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Book in advance online or use your London Pass, which you can buy online and in advance here.
  • There are no toilets or catering facilities onboard.

LOCATION: Browning’s Pool Waterbus Wharf, Blomfield Rd, Maida Vale

map showing location of london waterbus company

Hire your own boat

If joining a throng of other people doesn’t excite you, why not hire your own boat for a few hours? While not narrowboats, the boats at GoBoat will allow you to move along the canal at your own pace, and you can invite your friends along too.

If you have your heart set on a narrowboat, you can book with Book A Houseboat.

Cruising from Little Venice to Camden

The boat ride along the Regents Canal is often a competing mixture of obvious wealth and neglect, but it all comes together to provide an honest view of life in a leading world metropolis.

Expensive neighbourhoods with massive mansions line the banks.  We are told by our tour guide that “some boats along here pay £100,000 per annum to moor a boat” in certain parts of the canal.

There is also a growing trend in London of people on canal boats, once their source of affordable housing, being forced off the waterways as gentrification raises land (and water) values. This has only got worse in recent years.

georgian mansions along the regents canal

The boat takes us underneath the historically controversial Maida Vale tunnel.  When the Regents Canal was being built, there was strong opposition to the route coming through this location, and so a tunnel was built to remediate the issue.  The overhead cafe that now affords diners a view of the canal boats is also controversial.

georgian mansions along the regents canal
Going through the Maida Vale Tunnel – Cafe Laville overhead

Boating behind people’s houses always feels a bit voyeuristic, but it’s enjoyable seeing how people utilise their patch of water frontage.  The deck built out over the water was one of our favourites.

house on the regents canal
A great looking deck built on the canal

Regents Canal is home to many who permanently moor their boats here and also to visitors who hire boats to cruise the canals on their holidays.

colour of the canal boats on the regents canal

Walk the Regents Canal from Little Venice to Camden

Walking the towpath alongside the canals is just something that has to be done.  With no traffic and narrow pathways, life slows down here as you walk alongside the canal boats that push slowly through the water. 

If it feels voyeuristic on a boat, it feels even more so when you are walking along the path.   Often, it feels as though you are in someone’s backyard.   Cyclists do use the towpaths, however, so you still need to have your wits about you.

There are certain times when you need to walk on the road due to maintenance works on the path and areas of private access only.  It is usually signposted to let you know where to go.

Arriving at Camden Lock

You will know you have arrived at Camden when you see the hive of activity, especially if you are going there on the weekend.  The end is signalled by the sight of the Dingwall Building and the double lock system, Camden Lock.

Camden is a lively mix of markets, food stalls, antiques, crafts, pubs, cafes and restaurants.  It’s also an emerging street art location too. 

More reading >> Read all about the street art of Camden and the amazing Camden Markets

camden lock from little venice via regents canal boat cruise
Arriving at Camden Lock

Places to eat nearby

We recommend planning your day around the boat ride. Depending on the time of your trip, why not stop for morning tea or one of the traditional English cream teas, or get a pub lunch from some of the good gastro-pubs nearby?

The Bridge House

Whilst there are several places to eat close by in Little Venice, we couldn’t pass up the English pub, The Bridge House, a well-known theatre pub with a cosy interior and an outdoor terrace alongside the canal.

LOCATION: 13 Westbourne Terrace Road, Maida Vale London W2 6NG

Cafe Laville

Without a doubt, this is one of the best places to get a view of canal boat life without actually being on one. Cafe Laville, an Italian-inspired eatery, is positioned on a busy road, but its glass exterior means that you get a great view from the tables along the window.

LOCATION: 53 Edgware Rd, London W2 1TH

The Waterway

This gastropub is a favourite with locals and visitors, and why not? With its view of the canals, it’s a great spot to sit.

LOCATION: 54 Formosa St, London W9 2JU

Waterside Cafe

This cafe is perfect for the total Regents Canal experience. This cafe is in a moored canal boat, and it is renowned for its English cream teas.

LOCATION: Warwick Cres, London W2 6NE

How to get here

Little Venice is easily accessible.

If coming by tube, the nearest station is Warwick Avenue, on the Bakerloo line between Paddington and Maida Vale.  This will take 5-10 minutes to walk.  Alternatively, you can walk from Edgeware Road Station, which will take approximately 15-20 minutes depending on your walking speed.  It will also give you more of an opportunity to check out the surrounding neighbourhoods.

By train, the closest station is Paddington.

Buses connect from near Warwick Avenue and other tube stations. These bus routes will all get you to the Little Venice area: 6, 16, 18, 46, 98, 187, 332, 414

Limited car parking is available in the streets around Little Venice (metered on weekends), but given how busy it can be, public transport is recommended.  

Use the London journey planner to determine your most direct route to Little Venice.

Other London Resources

explore-london's-canals-by-boat

19 thoughts on “Little Venice to Camden boat trip – explore the hidden canals of London”

  1. I really loved London and since a few years I tried to visit the city as often as possible. Its so cool the see some new great places to visit – thank you so much for the great recommendation. I will definately go there next summer.
    Have a nice day
    Martina

  2. I never knew of Little Venice in London but it looks worth visiting. Sailing though beautiful water canals must be a beautiful with all arched bridges and lovely sights. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wandering life - Catarina Leonardo

    I visited London just one time a few years ago. I want to visit a lot of things and this is one of them 😉 Very nice place.

  4. Little Venice is indeed a gem off the beaten path. It is these kinds of places that do not figure on the “must see lists” which retain their pristine charm.I loved the arched bridge which reminded me of the Bridge of sighs and many others that span the grand canal in Venice. What we would absolutely love to do is walking the towpath alongside the canals, it sounds like a really amazing experience.

  5. I had no idea this existed. I’ve always found waterways to be interesting, ESPECIALLY when they are the backs of people’s houses! I’ll have to put this on the list for next time I’m in London.

  6. I’ll be going to London in April and was looking for “alternative” things to do – looks like this boat ride at Little Venice is up my alley!

  7. I wish I had known about this before going to London. Oh well, I guess I will just have to go back again!!

  8. Never heard of Little Venice in London place. Sounds like a great place to visit, an offbeat place also. I like to take a ride on the boat through the canal one day, definitely on my next visit.

  9. All the times I’ve been to London, I’ve never come across this. Now, I really want to go, and especially eat at that Cafe! I would love to watch the boats underneath. How fun. It looks like a great day out.

  10. Sadly never done this myself, despite having been to London 3 or 4 times. Camden & Little Venice look like they have plenty to see and do, I’ll check them out next time I’m there. I’ve done the boat tour from Greenwich and the actual, Italian, Venice so am sure I’d enjoy this! But yes you don’t need to tell me about the queues, people, queues, people side of London.

  11. Great read! Also, am I the only one who thinks that chicken Caesar looks amazing? Feels like I can taste it already haha.

  12. I never experienced this when I lived in England…though I did frequent Camden Market. Ok then. It’s been pinned for when I visit family next time. I must do this.
    I’ve seen London this sunny about 3 times in my life lol.

  13. Hi Kerri,

    The pea soup looks delicious. I had no idea a Little Venice even existed in London. Brilliant.

    Ryan

  14. This is such a fab thing to do… we walked the entire 14km length of the Regents Canal from the Thames all the way to Little Venice last year asks it was lovely to get a completely different view of London!

  15. I used to work in King’s Cross and walk this route on my lunch breaks. Always loved peering in those gardens! Must get around to taking the boat trip this year.

  16. That’s such a fun day. Great photos here! It’s a fascinating trip up the canal to Camden Locks – I take all my overseas visitors.

  17. Wow, sounds like going from the Little Venice side can be a bit of a pain. :\ When I was there last spring I did a roundtrip canal cruise with Walker’s Quay. I was able to buy my ticket in advance and also got to go through Camden Lock, which was a neat experience. Our boat did make a special stop in Little Venice to let someone off, though it’s not part of their typical tour. I was also lucky that it wasn’t busy, despite being a spring weekend – there were only a handful of other people on the boat. Such a fun way to experience a different side of London.

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