Paddington bear at London's Paddington station
Ian Packham

Best things to do in Paddington London

Paddington is often thought of as a pocket of north London dominated by its railway station – the arrivals point for the Heathrow Express – and St Mary’s Hospital – the top pick for royals in labor.

But disappear down its neat grid of side streets and you’ll discover a well-to-do neighborhood of charming squares, small cafés and Paddington canal basin. These are just a few of the things to do in Paddington London, with the full range of activities and attractions detailed below.

Relax in a pleasant square

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Once an unpromising piece of real estate between Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Paddington rail station and the traffic jams of Westway, Sheldon Square has been converted into a stylish place to relax alone, with the family or in a group of travel companions.

Taking a modern amphitheater form, its stepped banks are carpeted in grass for impromptu picnics, whilst around it you’ll find a growing selection of more formal places to eat and drink. Sheldon Square is one of the neighborhood’s newest public spaces, but elsewhere there are those that date right back to its Georgian foundations.

One such space is Norfolk Square Gardens. Ringed by three – and some four – star hotels, its mature trees offer up plenty of shade in the summer months for those looking to enjoy a few minutes absorbing this little bit of paradise in the heart of London.

Search out public art

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These small areas of greenery aren’t just home to trees, plants and urban foxes though. They are also worth exploring for their collection of public artworks. St Mary’s Terrace contains three steel cut outs honoring very different Paddington residents.

The first is of Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, and the second dedicated to Mary Seacole – a British-Jamaican nurse who helped convalescing soldiers in the Crimean War alongside Florence Nightingale.

A clear demonstration of London’s diversity, the third is to Alan Turing – played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie The Imitation Game. Breaking the Nazi enigma code, and inventing the modern computer, he was prosecuted for being gay in 1952 and died two years later of cyanide poisoning. His image is soon to appear on the new form £50 note – should you be lucky enough to ever see one.

If you’re arriving by train, look out for the statues of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Peruvian national Paddington bear at the station. Fans of the latter’s antics will be delighted by the station’s dedicated store too.

Explore Paddington basin

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A dead-end offshoot of Regent’s Canal given a new lease of life, Paddington basin dog-legs south from Little Venice to just outside the station and hospital. A mix of offices, shops and apartments, the basin has a number of attractions and things to do.

Having checked out the floating pocket park that sits at the nearest end of the basin, it’s only a short walk to GoBoat London. Renting out small craft to explore the canal in more detail, trips make for an interesting alternative to a sightseeing cruise on the Thames. If you’re up for being a little more physical, you can also take to the water by stand-up paddleboard.

Head to the region on Wednesday or Friday lunchtimes, or Saturdays at 2 PM and there’s the bonus of seeing the Rolling Bridge unfold itself, alongside the Fan (or Merchant Square) Bridge fulfilling its crossing function at the same times.

They form crossings close to Darcie & May Green, a canal boat turned Aussie restaurant with decoration by Peter Blake. One of the UK’s most important pop artists, he’s best known for creating the cover art for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. Other nearby narrowboats serve up fresh shellfish – though not sourced from the canal, whilst the Cheese Barge is ready and waiting to serve up all manner of dairy-based dishes!

Head back in time

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It’s not as well-known as the London Transport Museum or Benjamin Franklin Museum, but the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum more than makes up for this in the way it’s dressed up – as if the Nobel Prize winning scientist has just stepped out for a cup of tea.

His discovery of penicillin in 1928 – on a petri dish he hadn’t washed up probably – can be honestly said to have changed the world and saved millions of lives, being the first antibiotic to ever go into production.

Travel out of Paddington to Notting Hill to the west and you’ll be able to check out the famous blue door from the Hugh Grant film of the same name before scanning the stalls of Portobello Road Market. The world’s largest antiques market with over 1000 stalls, there’s also sections for fashion, vintage gear and fruit and vegetables.

Visit Little Venice

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Back on the canal side, Little Venice is as pleasant as it sounds. Apparently named for its watery nature some time in the 1800s, it seems a world away from the busy thoroughfares that otherwise cut their way through parts of Paddington.

Whether it’s an hour enjoying the antics of the canal barges from Rembrandt Gardens or soaking up the atmosphere with a coffee at a waterside café, Little Venice is the place to do it. Quirky things to do in Paddington London include paying a visit to the Puppet Theatre Barge, a 50 seat floating auditorium with shows aimed at both children and adults.

Drift away from the canal side in order to visit St Mary’s Church. Dating to the Georgian era, it predates much of the Regency architecture for which Little Venice is known. Consecrated in 1791, it witnessed the marriage of William Hogarth, with the churchyard now a public park after the burials were reinterred at Mill Hill.

Deciding what things to do in Paddington London

Travel with Go City and you can uncover the many things to do in Paddington and London’s other neighborhoods whilst making substantial savings on visits to many of their top attractions.

With so many attractions to choose from it can be difficult to know where to start – and end – but this guide should provide you with enough ideas to keep you busy whatever your interests!

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