Imagine riding a boat through small canals that wind through parks and under historic bridges before ending at a bustling market. Picturing Italy? Try again! You can have this experience in London, England. In this post, we’re covering a Little Venice London boat ride. We’ll start by introducing this charming part of London proper, then dive into the details of the boat ride itself and wrap up with our thoughts on this unique experience.
Let’s explore Little Venice London by boat!
What is Little Venice London
There’s a tranquil neighborhood in West London called Little Venice. This neighborhood earned its flattering title hundreds of years ago because the houses along the canal in the area were reminiscent of the Italian city of Venice.
The similarities between Little Venice in London and the real Venice in Italy pretty much stop there. Little Venice in London is not otherwise particularly Italian. The neighborhood is primarily residential, with a handful of waterside restaurants and pocket-sized parks.
The canal that cuts through Little Venice is the Regent’s Canal. It was built as an industrial trade route to move goods in the 1800s when the only way to do so was by boat. Horses would walk along side the canal, pulling the boats to their destination.
Today, the canal is primarily used by tour boats and house boats. The canal is also a scenic backyard to some of London’s elite who live in some of the city’s most expensive mansions along the canal.
Where is Little Venice in London
Little Venice is located in West London just north of Hyde Park and west of The Regent’s Park. The neighborhood comprises a small area just north of Browning’s Pool at the intersection of the Regent’s Canal and Warwick Ave. You can easily find this area on Google Maps by searching Robert Browning’s Island or the Little Venice ferry stop.
It’s easy to get to Little Venice in London on public transportation. The Bakerloo line stops at Warwick Avenue, right in the heart of Little Venice. It’s a 5 minute walk to the canal and waterfront. Little Venice is also only about a mile walk from both The Regent’s Park and Hyde Park.
Canal Boat from Little Venice to Camden Town
One of the best things to do in Little Venice is to take a boat tour on the Regent’s Canal.
The Little Venice canal boats aren’t the gondola’s you might be picturing. Instead, you can float along in a traditional narrowboat. These boats are long and skinny, allowing them to move through the narrow waterways with ease. The boats are covered and have sliding windows for ventilation.
The canal boats operate between Browning’s Pool in Little Venice and the heart of Camden Market in the Camden Town neighborhood. The route follows the Regent’s Canal and takes about 45 minutes dock to dock, depending on boat traffic of course.
There are many interesting things to see from the water along the way. You’ll go under some of the city’s oldest bridges, get a glimpse of some of London’s most expensive mansions and even peep some wildlife in the canal-side enclosures at the London Zoo.
Each boat is lead by a tour guide, who provides commentary throughout the ride. They will point out all of the important buildings, share historical facts and stories, and provide recommendations for other things to do in the area.
Boat rides are offered most of the year, spare a few days around Christmas and New Year’s.
How to Book a Little Venice London Boat Ride
The primary provider for Little Venice boat tours is the London Waterbus Company. We sailed with them and were pleased with their service, so we’ll recommend them here.
You can buy tickets for London Waterbus Company online from their website. Each ticket is one way, so you’ll first have to choose your direction of travel. We recommend Little Venice to Camden Town versus the other way around. Then you’ll need to select a specific departure date and time when you book your ticket.
Once you complete your booking, you’ll receive a confirmation email. That email has a link to your tickets, which contain a QR code. You can display your ticket from your phone and do not need to physically print them. In our case, we didn’t even need to show our ticket and they just verified our name on their list.
You can technically also purchase tickets at the dock, but only if seats are still available. Many of the boats sell out, especially during the summer months, so we don’t recommend this option.
Do you Need to Book a Little Venice London Boat Ride in Advance?
Yes! During peak summer travel season, you should book your tickets at least 48 hours in advance. Tickets do sell out for certain times and full days entirely. If you wait until the day before you might be out of luck.
Tickets from Little Venice to Camden Town book up faster than the reverse. Earlier times are also more popular and go quicker than later times.
How much does a Little Venice Boat Ride Cost
If you book online through London Waterbus Company, adult tickets cost £14. Children (5-16), students, seniors (60+) and concessions tickets are available for £11 and children under 5 are free.
You should also bring cash to TIP your tour guide and captain. Tips are optional, but we suggest tipping £3-5 a person.
Where do Little Venice Boat Rides Start and End
The Little Venice canal boats in London operate between two docks at Little Venice and Camden Town.
The Little Venice dock is located at Browning’s Pool across from Waterside Cafe. You can find this location on Google Maps by searching “London Waterbus Company (Little Venice)“.
The Camden Town dock is located in the center of Camden Market in Hawley Wharf. You can find this location in Google Maps by searching “London Waterbus Company (Camden Town)“.
How Long Does a Little Venice London Boat Tour Take?
The canal boat between Little Venice and Camden Town takes about 45 minutes each way.
Are Little Venice Boat Tours Good for Kids?
Children of all ages are allowed on Little Venice canal boats, and it’s billed as a family-friendly activity. However not all children will particularly love the excursion, and I think many would be bored.
For one, you must remain seated at all times. This can be difficult for the toddler type who are always on the go. It would be great for a small infant who can nap in a carrier the whole time, though.
There also isn’t a ton of stuff to see that will be exciting for young kids. Children usually aren’t super interested in old bridges and fancy mansions. Your best hope is that you pass a flock of baby ducks floating by or spot a warthog at the zoo.
The boats are safe for children, though. They’re long and low to the water. There’s also sliding windows, so you can close them if you have a small climber.
Can you Walk the Canals of Little Venice instead?
Yes. There is a walking path that follows the Regent’s Canal between Little Venice and Camden Town. It’s about 2.5 miles between the two locations.
I actually have a friend who walked instead of taking the boat and said it was delightful.
What Else is There to do in Little Venice?
There are a few fun things to do in Little Venice, and none of them are Italian. Before or after you boat ride, walk on over to Paddington Basin. This waterway is surrounded by cafes, restaurants and bars to grab a meal or drink.
You also won’t want to miss Merchant Square. Here you’ll find a floating park, a dancing fountain that the kids can play in, and the unique Rolling Bridge.
What Else is there to do in Camden Town?
Camden Town is an eclectic and buzzing part of London. There is so much to see, explore and taste.
The main attraction is Camden Market, and the canal boat docks right in the heart of it. You could spend an entire day getting lost in this labyrinth of food vendors and shop stalls. Explore countless outdoor stalls or wander through the indoor market set inside the old stables.
Beyond the market is London High Street, where you can shop trendy and vintage fashion brands or just bask in the colorful street art. Also nearby is is Primrose Hill, where you can enjoy an amazing view of Central London.
That’s just the tip of the vibrant iceberg that is Camden Town. We barely scratched the surface, but check out this post for a detailed look of things to do in Camden Town.
Tips for a Perfect Little Venice Boat Tour
We went into this excursion a bit blind, and learned a few things along the way. Here are our best trips for a Little Venice boat tour.
1. Book in advance.
Book your ticket online 2-3 days in advance to be sure you get the day and time you want. During peak summer travel season, times and even whole days can sell out. Tickets from Little Venice to Camden Town, especially the morning time slots, sell out fastest.
2. Travel from Little Venice to Camden Town.
The boat operates in both directions, but we suggest going from Little Venice to Camden Town. There’s a lot more to do in Camden Town so you’ll want to spend more time there. You won’t want to be rushed to catch you boat.
Little Venice is more chill and bite size. You can tackle a few things in a short period of time, take the boat ride, and then spend the rest of your day in Camden Town. From Camden Town, it’s easy to get back to just about anywhere in the city via bus or train.
3. Arrive early.
The confirmation email says to arrive 10 minutes before boarding and in our experience a line started to form about 20 before our scheduled departure. Try to be near the front of this line for the best seat selection.
The seats are not assigned and are kind of awkwardly sized. It’s not clear if one or two people should sit in each seat. The last few people to board had to ask people to move and sit together so they had a place to sit. Arrive early to make sure your whole party can sit together and get the best choice of seats.
4. Sit at the front.
Speaking of seats, we suggest sitting at the front for the best view. These front few seats will give you the chance to see things on both sides of the boat. You’ll also be able to see down the river and through the tunnels better than any other spot.
5. Grab a coffee at Waterside Cafe first.
This floating cafe is built inside an old narrowboat. They offer a full menu of delicious breakfast and lunch options, and you can eat inside the boat or on their waterside patio.
We recommend getting a cappuccino to go, walking along the water front and over the bridge and enjoy it while you wait in line to board. Don’t rush though, you can take your coffee with you onto the canal boat.
6. Pair your trip with Notting Hill
Little Venice is just about 15 minutes away from the charming neighborhood of Notting Hill. These two activities pair together really nicely and can make for a perfect day.
I’d suggest starting your day relatively early in Notting Hill, maybe around 9 AM. Get brunch on Westbourne Grove and then head to Portobello Road Market (it’s open every day except Sunday.) Walk North up Portobello Road, weaving along past the colored houses, until you get to Ladbroke Grove Station. Hop on the Hammersmith & City or Circle line train to Paddington. From there, it’s a 12 minute walk to the boat dock. Take the canal boat and then enjoy an afternoon and dinner in Camden.
Even though we’ve been to London many times, there’s so much we haven’t done. Every time we visit, we try to find something new, and this time it was the Little Venice canal boat ride.
The boat ride was really lovely and a great value. I enjoyed learning more about the neighborhood and another little pocket of history. The views aren’t particularly epic, but it’s a nice scenic excursion in the heart of the busy city.
What I liked most, though, was that the boat ride prompted me to explore two new neighborhoods in London. Little Venice is quaint and scenic and Camden town is the complete opposite.
I’m a little ashamed to say that I haven’t explored Camden Town until now. Honestly, London is otherwise so walkable and Camden Market required a train, so it just never made my final itinerary. The canal boats are a great way to get there and explore both of these neighborhoods.
That said, our almost-two-year-old didn’t love it quite so much. At this age, our kid is always on the go and is not a fan of sitting still or being held. Trying to convince them to sit for 45 minutes was tough.
All things considered though, the Little Venice London boat ride is a great activity. You probably don’t need to prioritize it on your first visit or a short trip, but it’s great for a repeat London visitor.
Interested in another boat ride?
Check out Uber Boat and ride in comfort along the Thames to some of the city’s best attractions!
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