I hail from a place just to the west of London and Paddington was always my gateway to the capital. It’s this access to the area that has led me to explore its many nooks, crannies and pockets, places that are often overlooked but must-visit parts of the Big Smoke.
A buzzing pocket of Central London, Paddington lies a stone’s throw away from the delights of Theatreland, Mayfair, Notting Hill and Marble Arch.
But did you know that there are a wealth of hidden gems to see, explore and experience in the area? Well, there certainly are, and I’m going to tell you all about them.
What to see and do in Paddington?
1 Embark on Paddington’s ‘Pawprint’ Trail
“All the same … it’s a very important name. And I don’t expect there are many bears in the world called Paddington!” – Paddington Bear (Michael Bond)
No visit to Paddington would be complete without an activity involving a certain famous bear, so the Pawprint Trail seems like a logical place to start.
Launched in 2014 by the Paddington Partnership, the Pawprint Trail takes in the most iconic sights and sounds linked to all of those timeless Paddington Bear books, animations and motion pictures.
Start at The Paddington Bear shop at London Paddington Station and embark on a miniature adventure that will stay with you for years to come – camera at the ready.
Tip from Dan: While you're at the Paddington Station shop, grab yourself some authentic marmalade sandwiches, perfect for picnicking with, teddy bear-style.
2 Hop aboard the Puppet Theatre Barge
This 50-seater marionette theatre – that sits on the Regent’s Canal – boasts bundles of floating fun, with a regular roster of puppet shows, all performed to perfection in a setting unlike any other.
Check out the Puppet Theatre Barge’s calendar of events and book yourself into a show as part of your big day out.
Tip from Dan: After the show, walk back towards the heart of Paddington along the Regent's Canal, soaking in the sights of Little Venice en route.
3 Merchant Square at Paddington Basin
Many people overlook London as a picnic destination but locals or regulars know different.
As many Londoner’s aren’t blessed with gardens, a great deal of investment is placed into creating and maintaining open public spaces throughout the capital – and Paddington’s Merchant Square is no exception.
Grab a selection of snacks from a nearby shop, pull out your marmalade sandwiches and pull up a pew for a picnic surrounded by the majesty of Merchant Square – al fresco dining at its finest, come rain or shine.
Tip from Dan: If you’re feeling adventurous, enjoy a spot of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), launching from Merchant Square, an incredible way to see some of the Grand Union Canal’s most breathtaking sights and sounds.
4 Explore the Paddington Basin bridges
A stroll around the Paddington Basin is perfect for the soul, and a genius way to walk off those marmalade sandwiches.
And while you’re there, you should take a look at the basin’s bridges, architectural marvels that showcase London’s cutting-edge design-thinking innovation.
Thomas Heatherwick’s Rolling Bridge performs every Wednesday and Friday at noon, and on Saturdays at 2pm, and The Rolling Bridge, as well as the futuristic Fan Bridge, are on display permanently for all to see.
Tip from Dan: If you have time, take a leisurely stroll over to the Charles Dickens Tavern and gaze at paintings of one of London's most prolific prose-writers over a refreshing pint of ale.
5 Eat, drink and be merry at The Waterway
Head back over to Little Venice for some much needed fuel at The Waterway pub & restaurant.
Sit in the warmth of this inviting London gastro pub and enjoy a plate of hearty fayre, plus a few tipples over iconic views of one of the UK’s most celebrated sections of canal – a reasonably-priced venue considering the quality of the food and its idyllic location.
Tip from Dan: If you do decide to eat here, may I suggest the gorgonzola and mushroom tortellini, it really is a treat, it's filling too.
6 Soak up some stand-up at The Canal Cafe Theatre
This revered venue that hugs the contours of the Regent’s Canal hosts some of the biggest and best names in comedy night after night, in addition to an ever-rolling mix of budding comedians looking to make their mark.
The theatre’s intimate vibe boasts the ambience of an olden days Chicago jazz joint and with an eclectic mix of shows and performances on the menu all year round, you’re sure to connect with something special.
Oh, and afterwards, you can head downstairs and enjoy another pint or two at The Bridge House pub.
Tip from Dan: When you're at the bar at The Bridge House, ask your bartender about the current 'tap takeover' so they can recommend you on the best craft beers, lagers or ales to enjoy.
7 Hyde Park
If you walk the length of the ever-vibrant Edgware Road to the mighty Marble Arch and turn right, you will be met with the Western edge of Hyde Park, one of the city’s most iconic green spaces.
Here you can soak up its many walkways and pay a visit to The Serpentine Gallery.
8 The mews
If you consult Google Maps and walk down Craven Road nearby Paddington Station, you will come across a secret mews full of pretty porticoed houses, a perfectly Instagrammable spot that will linger in the memory long after you leave.
9 The Alexander Fleming Museum
Here you can marvel at Alexander Fleming’s laboratory, restored to its former 1928 glory, and explore the man’s incredibly and his discovery and development of penicillin through a number of inspiring displays and videos.
10 Madame Tussauds
Okay, this may technically be based in Marylebone but Madame Tussauds is a scenic 25-minute stroll from Paddington Station and the collection of weird, wonderful, wacky and utterly inspiring wax works you’ll see here are well worth making the effort.
11 Round Pond
The Round Pond in nearby Kensington Gardens is brimming with beautiful waterfowl and as it’s one of the area’s lesser-known spots, if you’re looking for a moment of peace, quiet and reflection, this really is a must-see.
12 Heist Bank
A fine Paddington public house, Heist Bank serves sumptuous sourdough pizzas, an endless choice of craft beers, signature cocktails and boasts a terrace that overlooks a pretty section of the legendary Grand Union Canal.
A wonderful place to enjoy a slice and a tipple, or two.