Canary Wharf review (Feb 2015)
This is out-of-date! I have been here again since I wrote this review
Canary Wharf is a sister to The City (the Square Mile), but the buildings are a lot taller and the people are a lot better looking. It's the closest that London comes to looking like New York.
This is where all the skyscrapers live. They don't allow very many of them to built in central London in case they screw up the skyline, so they stick them all out here in East London instead. I'm not usually a fan of all this glass and steel stuff but they look quite good all collected together in one place. I like it when they start affecting the weather. They funnel the wind down their sides and along the street and create fierce little eddies that are strong enough to blow your wig off. Big strips of sun slice off the sides of skyscrapers and hit the ground at sharp angles, then suddenly disappear and plunge the place into darkness, before coming back bright like a nuclear sun around the next corner. One minute it's calm sunshine, then it's a torrid wind and darkness. Then it's nice and bright again, then it's dark as night and hold-on-to-your-hat time. It's like you're walking between spring, summer and winter every ten steps.
The best photo-spot in the whole of Canary Wharf is from Cabot Square. That's where you can see the three tallest skyscrapers all lined up in a row, like a long neck and two shoulders. The centre one is called One Canada Square and it used to be the tallest building in Europe (for about six months). Now it's not even the tallest building in London. It's probably got a great view from the roof but you're not allowed to go inside it unfortunately, because like most of the buildings around here it's filled with corporate banks and financial institutions.
The next best place to go is Canada Square, which is a big open courtyard area filled with places to eat and drink. This is the banker's version of Piccadilly Circus. Instead of having big neon signs advertising Coke and iPhones, they've got a news ticker wrapped around the side of a building with all the latest stock prices on it. They've got a huge TV screen with the Bloomberg news too, so they can sit out in the sun and not miss any share-moving news.
I like peering into all the posh lobbies around here, just to be nosey. You probably need a biometric swipe card and iris scanners to actually get in them, so I just look in through the windows. The best ones are long cavernous halls with a little desk at the end of a shiny marble floor, staffed by one solitary blonde bird who looks like she's stepped off a Parisian catwalk. You'll notice that as soon as you come to Canary Wharf... everyone who works here looks like they have stepped out from the pages of a fashion magazine. I thought it was illegal to hire someone based solely on their looks -- but here is definite proof of the way the world works. Long legs are better than ten GCSEs. Long legs will get you through more doors than an A-level. And they all have nice clothes too. They're all wearing smart scarves and glasses. They've all got tight fitting suits and chunky watches and brown leather man-bags. Everyone seems to be smoking an e-cigarette. When I have stubble it is invariably five days old, but these guys seem to trim it up and style it into pencil-thin lines -- it's probably more work than shaving. And they all look busy busy busy. I'm sitting here drinking my coffee but they're not even sipping it -- their jaws are talking numbers and discussing who to hire and who said what to whom and which bloke is not pulling his weight this week. It's probably quite a high pressure environment working in these skyscrapers -- no time for tea breaks. Do well or jump off the top.
Another thing I like about Canary Wharf is all the water around the place. This whole area used to be full of cargo docks so it's all wharves and quaysides. You can't walk fifty feet without spying another little bit of river filled with buoys and boats. It does make it very cold and windy though, because the breeze is forever whipping around the corners of big buildings and screaming across the water tops. You even get a few seagulls and industrial cargo cranes that have been preserved and turned into a work of art. There are not enough big boats to make it look like a proper dock, though. All they've got left are pleasure craft and floats festooned with fairy lights that are doubling up as pubs and cafes.
The nicest boats that I could find were in the Blackwall Basin and Poplar Dock. You should definitely have a walk around there if you've got the time because you get a great view of the skyscrapers. They've got a bit of a seaside/harbour feeling to them. Keep on walking round until you get to the Blue Bridge, because if you stand in the centre of that you'll have the best view of all -- straight down the length of West India Docks with its stooping cranes, and across the broad river to the O2 Arena.
A word of advice to finish with... Don't book a hotel in Canary Wharf, for chrissakes. Lots of people do that but I think they are nuts. It's too far out and you'll have to catch the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) or tube train every day. That will add an extra ten quid and twenty minutes journey time to your day (x2... because you'll have to go there and back), so you're better off staying closer to the centre. There's only one real tourist attraction in Canary Wharf -- the Museum of London in Docklands (which is nothing special). So you're basically just coming here to look at the skyscrapers.
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