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Editor'S Choice - 2020

Regent's Canal or the Venice of London

Although it does not have the same prestige as Amsterdam or Venice, life in London can also be floating, and it is in one of the most beautiful and distinctive roads of the city: the walk through Regent's Canal.

The epic arrival in Camden Town © Alamy

Regent's Channel It is no stranger, except for manual tourists who travel the city with maps in hand, waterproof hats and reflex neck hanging. We are all a little like this the first times we landed in the city. We do not know that, basically, nothing happens if you say goodbye to London without having visited the Buckingham Palace or gone shopping for Oxford Circus. The English capital hides magnificent places, away from tourist hedonism, more authentic, more 'British', more incredible, more lively, as is the road through Regent's Channel. By the way, We love the word 'vividor'.

WHAT IS REGENT'S CANAL?

The Regent channel He is over 200 years old and crosses London from west to east. Total, 13.8 kilometers long to kick (or roll, if you prefer to go by bicycle) that take you from Paddington to Docklands. Originally, it was built to link the River Thames with the Grand Junction Canal, another 220-kilometer canal that links the city of London with that of Birmingham. The objective of Regent's Canal was to facilitate the flow of goods arriving from the north of England to the capital. Since then, it became a commercial route where industrial buildings and factories of red brick began to flourish. That merely commercial function faded to become one of the best leisure routes for Londoners.

One of the most significant things about this walk is the possibility of contemplating the most heterogeneous architecture of our last two centuries. The industrial spaces of the 19th century, fused with old locks and with the most avant-garde buildings, gives it a unique appearance. A reintegrated and revitalized area that is part of everyday London. Our itinerary begins in the east, from Victoria Park to Little Venice and passes through many iconic places in London such as Shoreditch, Hackney, Angel, King's Cross, Camden Town, and Maida Vale. Comfortable and prepare for the cold.

Camden Lock © Alamy

SECTION 1: FROM VICTORIA PARK TO HAGGERSTON

In the east of London you will find a park built under the mandate of Queen Victoria in 1840, Victoria Park. This park was born from the need to have a leisure space in East London, one of the most abandoned and ignored areas of the state at the time. It opened in 1845, becoming the largest park in the area, consisting of more than 200 acres. During the summer, this park is filled with music and culinary festivals. You can also feed the swans of its lake West boating or taste delicious organic food in the Pavilion Café.

Organic cuisine in a 'gazebo' facing the lake © Pavilion Café

We continue down the park to find the canal. There it is, undisturbed, sheltering boats of all colors and sizes, and sea names like 'Ondine' or 'The Mermaid'. About fifteen minutes from Victoria Park, maybe a little less, we observe the bridge that divides the streets Pritchard's Road and Broadway Market. It is worth taking a small jump and deviating from the channel to taste the fervent artistic and culinary life that he proposes Broadway Market Street, a street, of which, by the way, we have already spoken to you.

Following our route, we reach one of the most sought after areas of Regent's Canal. Many also consider it the hipster zone, the climax of gafapasterism, the top of the modern. We are in Haggerston -borough from Hackney- where suddenly there appear on the channel design restaurants, international cuisine, art galleries ... A series of culinary offers that we have not been able to resist. We came in Proud east, a curious cafe-cocktail bar It is also home to cultural events, musical bands, wine tastings, traditional English teas at noon and even a movie club on its terrace. Well attached to this bar is The archivist, a small pop gallery in which lifestyle activities and exhibitions of visual art, illustration, photography or design are programmed. They have only been running for three years, although it was not until 2015 that they moved to their incredible studio on Regent's Canal.

A café-cocktail bar on the banks of the canal © Proud East

Barge house Y The Towpath cafe There are two other coffee shops arranged in that small section of the canal, one followed by the other. They are perfect to sit down to enjoy a quiet afternoon (lonely?) With a mint tea, a mocha coffee or a prosecco (you already choose that). You must keep in mind that they are very small premises and that finding a table is not always an easy task.

Barge House © D.R.

On the street De Beauvoir Cres, on the right hand side of the canal, you will find the temple of the arepas of London. Arepa & Co It is a place that brings the best of its cuisine from Venezuela and is a safe bet, also for the most demanding palates. Vibrant atmosphere, impeccable decoration and an extensive menu of arepas and cachapas - corn-based cakes and what many Londoners curse as "the Venezuelan taco" - that will transport you to the South American country. Our choice? Creole pavilion, a dish of shredded veal, served with beans, cheese and banana. Do not forget to choose the cassava dish as a starter and the chocolate tacos for dessert.

Floating arepitas © Arepa & Co

SECTION 2: FROM HAGGERSTON TO KING'S CROSS

An hour or so walking is what takes the walk on the canal from Haggerston to King's Cross. It is a quiet crossing with which you will find dozens of smoking boats, especially now that winter comes and many of them have a fireplace. During the walk, we could not resist trying to contemplate the life inside: owners preparing cups of tea, sitting in front of their laptops or playing with their children.

Voyeurisms aside, we have also asked ourselves the same question as you: how much can life cost in the canal? The cheapest boats are around 10,000 pounds (about € 11,300) and they are for many an alternative to the high rental prices in the city. In fact, according to data from Canal and River TrustIn 2014 there were already around three thousand houseboats in London, twice as many as in 2007. This is a problem of space and there are fewer and fewer places where you can anchor the ship permanently. There are barely any licenses of this type, which cost around ten thousand pounds per year, therefore, many of the houses of Regent's ChannelIn addition to floating, they are also nomads and must change their mooring every two weeks. We imagine in our cozy, but small boat, preparing a delicious chicken soup to combat the cold of moisture, hitting the neighbors window, to lend us the corkscrew and share bottles of wine. All very bucolic. Have we gone through the ramblings? You can keep dreaming on The Narrowboat or in The Commissary, perfect places to relax with its range of craft beers or its menu of select wines.

Can you imagine living on the water in London? © Alamy

Despite the occasional scare with the bikes, in general the ride is unperturbed. Or almost unperturbed, because there is a part, reaching the Angel neighborhood, in which the canal is buried under the Islington Canal Tunnel, a section in which only ships can travel. For at least ten minutes, we must continue our route through the surface of the city, but soon you will find the path of the canal again.

There is less left to reach the area of King's cross, a place known for its famous train station, the same in which Harry Potter was trying to find platform 9 and ¾, or the one that now allows you to travel from London to Paris. King's Cross is a neighborhood that, although historic, has a very new look. After 150 years being the industrial center of London, it is becoming a vibrant place, full of contemporary buildings, boutiques, bars and restaurants. In this area one of our favorite London bookshops is located, the Word on the water. This bookstore is a Dutch boat of more than 100 years with mooring in Regent's Canal and sells titles ranging from classics, to contemporary fiction, with a large section of children's literature, photography or art. Best of all, after your purchase, you can sit in front of the boat and listen to the live music they organize on their little 'rooftop'.

In King's Cross you will also find one of the biggest places on this tour, The lighterman. To be honest, the menu is nothing spectacular, but the views are, They overlook the canal and the famous Granary Square of King's Cross.

SECTION 3: ENTERING CAMDEN TOWN

Camden Town was once the epicenter of punk. In the late sixties and early seventies, The Clash, The Sex Pistols or Blondie began to sing in the most popular stages of the neighborhood, such as the Dingwalls or Roundhouse. Today it is still one of the favorite places in London for young tourists. Even Amy Winehouse she chose it as a neighborhood before the excesses killed her.

Although Camden is an icon of the London counterculture - and the pints late at night - there is little left of his seventies spirit. One of those pieces is the Cellar Bar, which has recently turned 150 years old. It is a hidden den in one of the darkest corners of Regent's Canal, with a capacity of less than one hundred people and that every third Saturday of the month they prepare one of the best sessions of Rock and Punk with DJs Martin and Irvin. Don't divulge it too much, that this is one of Camden's few secrets.

Camden Town is also known for its historic market, the Camden lock, where mods and bohemians sold handicrafts and designer clothes. This market is now a place where tourists and visitors enjoy shopping for souvenirs, impersonal shirts and food from the foodtracks

SECTION 4: PRIMROSE HILL AND REGENT'S PARK, THE PARKS OF THE CROWN

Leaving Camden Lock behind, we will find two of the city's most famous lungs: Primrose Hill and Regent's Park, two parks that together make up 197 hectares. Both were part of the land expropriated by Henry VIII from 1538 until 1841. A year later it became public land, when the areas of Chalk Farm and Camden Town They began to be inhabited by the upper classes of the city. Primorse Hill is a green hill where, at its highest point, one runs into the best views of the city. It is also the place chosen for the last landing of aliens from War of the Worlds (1898) of the writer H. G. Wells.

Divided by Prince Albert Street, we come across Regent's Park, where its two most visited attractions are the open-air theater and the city's extensive Zoo. It is the same park where I put and lose, protagonists of the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians, They met walking.

Little Venice © Alamy

LITTLE VENICE: END OF TRAJECT

About twenty minutes from Regent's Park, always following the canal route, is one of the most famous areas of London. Little Venice, name chosen because it reminds of the Italian city, is a small triangle from where you can reach Kensal Green, Notting Hill or the Grand Union Canal. Many tourists begin at this point their journey through the canal in one of the Narrowboats Sailing to Camden Town. The landscapes are less industrial than those in the east, greener and also much less traveled.

One of the best considered restaurants in the area is that of oriental cuisine Pearl Liang, or The Summerhouse, place to enjoy sea delicacies, with the best selection of fish and shellfish from the Atlantic. Although one of our favorite places is the Canal Cafe Theater, opened since 1979 and ready to bring to the scene the best plays in the neighborhood. Do not forget to visit the London Canal Museum, will help you to know more about the history of the channel and this route that, we bet, has become one of your favorite walks in London.

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London Canal Museum © Alamy

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