You can’t go a few steps along the east London canal without stopping to bask in the sun with a chilled pint in hand overlooking the calm leafy view of the water. Okay, it's no French Riviera, but when it comes to London, this is as close to tranquility as you're gonna get. Why not make a full day of it with our ultimate bar and pub guide to east London canals?
Canal Pub Crawl: Angel – Hackney Wick
Begin at Regent’s Canal in Islington, which starts in Angel where Colebrooke Row and Duncan Street meet. If you need some fuel for the seven-mile walk ahead, kick off on the mainland at The Breakfast Club on the pebbled streets of Camden Passage. Stomach lined for the pints ahead, head on down the steep path onto the canal.
The Village Butty
If you’re there in the afternoon, floating ‘village hall’ The Village Butty is often pitched up along here, serving pints and cocktails fresh from the boat, with crowds of Londoners sprawled out along the canal banks on a sunny day, making for a festival-like atmosphere. Naturally this boat moves, so find out its latest whereabouts on Twitter or Facebook.
The Village Butty, various Locations
The Island Queen
Hop off the canal at Danbury Street for a pitstop at this classic neighbourhood pub with a tropical twist. Come for craft ales, top notch Belgian lagers, and the epic Sunday roast. If the rain's pouring and you can’t face carrying on your walk (already?!), this is a great place to stay put with a board game and a glass of red.
The Island Queen, 87 Noel Road, London, N1 8HD
Hop back onto the canal and refuel with a civilised coffee. This café is strategically placed right by one of the most spacious parts of the canal, with lots of chairs and tables outside to soak up any sun you might be lucky enough to catch. This is definitely an Instagram spot, with beautiful World In Islington mosaic panels on the walls (made by children in Hanover Primary School just around the corner). Hang out here for a bit of swan-spotting amongst the beautiful flower boxes.
Canal No.5, 76 Noel Rd, London N1
The Narrowboat Pub
This Young’s venue is voted by our readers as one of the best pubs in Angel, and you can see why — it's the only boozer in the area sitting right on Regent’s Canal. As you’d imagine, one of most buzzing places around here on a sunny day. There’s two roof terraces, but only a handful of tables, so get there early to get in on those views.
The Narrowboat Pub, 119 St Peter's Street, Islington, N1 8PZ
The Commissary Bar & Kitchen
Take the first turning off the canal from The Narrowboat and cross the water to this lesser-known bar on the other side, with tons of outside space and room inside with views of the canal through the huge panelled windows. There are often exhibitions and live music here too.
The Commissary Bar & Kitchen, 49-50 Eagle Wharf Road
The Baring Arms Pub
Back over the other side of the canal, it’s a 1o minute to your next destination. Just off the canal, this classic gastro pub is tucked away on Baring Street (just off the canal), with real ales, classic pub food and live sport broadcasts.
The Baring Arms Pub, 55 Baring Street
The Barge House
Back onto the canal, walk for another five minutes to get to the point where things really start to kick off at the so-called Haggerston Riviera. First up is The Barge House, a perfectly-formed, trendy little bar/café, famous for Breakfast in Bread — a freshly baked sourdough loaf stuffed with anything from slow roasted tomatoes and avocado, to chorizo, hot beans and cheese. They also offer five types of bloody Mary, each using a different type of infused vodka, including cucumber, chilli, and rosemary.
The Barge House, 46a De Beauvoir Crescent, N1 5RY
Arepa & Co
Just next door is Arepa & Co, a vibrant Venezuelan café bar with a (small) terrace. Drinks-wise, it’s all about the cocktails, with lots of fresh summer serves, like their signature Guarapita, with Gold rum, orange rum, passion juice and sugar cane lemonade. We also love the sound of the Arepa Sour, with rum and lime. Plus, they do plenty of colourful sharing plates — enjoy it all on a bench right bang on the canal.
Arepa & Co, 58A De Beauvoir Cresent, Haggerston, N1 5SB
Previously Proud Archivist, this is one of Haggerston’s most renowned drinking hubs, with plenty of outdoor seating, including some tables overlooking the canal, and a beer garden on the side by Haggerston Basin (although the views from here are a bit restrictive).
Proud East, 2-10 Hertford Road, N1 5ET
Okay, so it’s not a bar, but it has great views over the canal, with a less rowdy vibe than across the pond at Proud East. This great charity-run restaurant has the purpose of giving vulnerable young people a kick-start into a food career. The menu is very reasonable, with dishes from £4 - £7.50.
Waterhouse Restaurant, 10 Orsman Rd, N1 5QJ
Draughts Board Game Café
Just off the path back on the other side of the canal, in the disused railway arches, is Draughts Board Game café. This is the place to run to if it rains, famous for its collection of over 600 board games — and, as the name suggests, lots of beer on tap too.
Draughts Board Game Café, 337 Acton Mews, Hackney, E8 4EA
Now back onto the canal, it’s a fairly long but peaceful stretch without the bustle of bars and booze. If you're walked out, grab a bike from the Dunston Road bike hub and brave the particularly narrow pathways on wheels. Look out for the epic gasometer structure en-route. You might as well slip off into Broadway Market while you’re here. The Market Café does plenty of great brunch cocktails if you’re here early – like the Hard Ginger Beer and Sloe Gin Fizz. There’s also prosecco on tap (winner) and an extensive wine list. You may decide to meander on down the road and stop off in many of the other great little bars and cafes along here.
Market Café, 2 Broadway Market, Dalston, E8 4QJ
Just off the canal a little meander further is this low-key bar serving serving craft beers, wines and coffees, with a handful of tables on the road so you can soak up any sunshine that may deign to peek out.
Hackney Bureau, 3 Mare Street, E8 4RP
Now you’ve reached Victoria Park, take a stroll inside and say hello to the sizeable pathways (no more single-filing and bike dodging). Inside the park, pop along for a (non-alcoholic) drink outside at The Pavilion and a wholesome plate of something rather middle-class, like raw beets and quinoa salad or herby ricotta on sourdough.
Pavilion Cafe, Victoria Park, E9
Cross back over to The Crown where Young’s pubs have got their hands on another strategic canal-based location. Think gastro pub vibes, with ales, an extensive wine list, an upstairs terrace and a beer garden out the front. Now stock up, because from here it's a fairly long — but very green and less hectic — stretch along the Hertford Union Canal, until you hit Hackney Wick
The Crown, 223 Grove Road, Bow, E3 5SN
Crate Brewery & Pizza
Over the past few years, Hackney Wick has transformed into a super trendy booze and food hub, as Dalstonites and Essex folk alike swarm in, for beers on the canalside and for prosecco hot tubs. But one of the originals — the Crate Brewery — still remains one of the best places to relax, with rows and rows of benches and a delicious pizza menu (including some of the best gluten free ones in London). This is a great place to finish off your canal crawl.
Crate Brewery & Pizza, 7 The White Building, Queen's Yard, E9 5EN
But saying that… while you’re here, it'd be rude not to go for just one at London’s first tank bar bars, with an on-site brewery and huge metal tanks behind the bar pouring out the freshest hopped beers. It’s very much a warehouse vibe in here, with tons of space both inside and out.
Howling Hops, Unit 9A Queen's Yard, White Post Lane, E9 5EN
Alfred Le Roy
All that time looking at canal boats — time to get on one. This smartly decked boat is opened-topped in the summer, and closed and cosy in the winter. Hop on board for wine, beer and tasty sharing platters.
Alfred Le Roy, Canalside Mooring, 7 Queen's Yard, White Post Lane, Hackney Wick, E9 5EN
Back over the other side of the canal, hop off the path onto East Bay Lane, Hackney Wick’s latest hub of bars and restaurants. We’d recommend paying a visit to Grotto Trattoria, AKA a ‘slice of the Italian Riveria in Hackney’. An independent, family run business (they also own Mele e Pere in Soho), the new east venue serves up up home-made Vermouth and bottled Negronis. Fill up on hand-rolled pastas. Bellissima
Grotto Trattoria, 27 East Bay Lane, E15 2GW
If you’re a 90s kid, you’ll be all over this one. Part of the same family as Four Quarters in Peckham, this bar is a homage to retro computer games. Indulge your inner teen with 90s electro music and arcade machines — some of the small tables double up as machines too. From here you can go full circle, and end up in The Breakfast Club (plus carry on the kitsch 90s theme), or carry on crawl a bit longer...
Four Quarters, Unit 8 Canalside, East Bay Lane, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 3BS
This place has an absolutely buzzing beer garden, right on the canal, with live music and a huge inside bit (you sure get a lot of bang for your buck this far out east). A winning finale to a boozy bar crawl. Now, time to go home and sleep it off.
Number 90, 90 Wallis Road, E9 5LN