In the east end of London, walkers have a good selection of routes to explore this part of the city. With large green spaces like Victoria Park and Hackney Marshes, as well as trails all the way up and down the River Lea, there are many locations for a pleasant hike.
It’s also home to amazing waterways that make for some of the best canal walks in London, with pedestrians able to navigate all the way to the Thames without straying away from one of the canals.
A great route that sticks to these waterways is heading from Stratford to Limehouse Basin following the River Lea and then the Limehouse cut. You can also make this a circular walk by following the Regent’s Canal north and then the Hertford Union Canal which takes you back towards Stratford.
We completed this circular Stratford and Limehouse Cut walk on a cold but dry January and would recommend it to anyone looking to explore this part of London.
The route takes approximately 3 hours (not including an hour-long break for lunch at the halfway point in Limehouse Basin).
Arriving at Stratford
Stratford station is the starting point of the walk, with many lines in and out of London making it easy to get to, including the DLR, Elizabeth Line, Overground, Jubilee, Central, and National Rail,
The large Westfield Shopping Centre right by the station makes this area very much a hub of activity, so you’ll also have a lot of options if you’re after somewhere to eat or drink at the start or end of the walk.
Heading out from Stratford
If you arrive by train, there will be signs directing you to the Olympic Park which you can follow.
Head through the covered area of the shopping centre then you’ll soon be out the other side where you’ll need to cross Westfield Avenue.
Keep following the large pedestrianised boulevard forward with bars and restaurants on either side and you’ll see the London Stadium ahead of you.
Exploring the Olympic Park
Passing by the London Olympic Aquatic Centre on your left, you’ll enter the Olympic Park and be met with the impressive sight of the former Olympic Stadium and the iconic ArcelorMittal Orbit before you.
Now known as the London Stadium and home of premier league team West Ham, the stadium is one of the biggest sports venues in east London.
Feel free to explore this area of the Olympic Park and see more of the stadium before heading over to the canal.
South down the River Lea
A few different branches of the river weave through this part of the park and there are multiple ways to access the footpaths that head south.
We recommend walking a short way north and getting down to the River Lea near the Carpenter’s Road Lock. This way you’ll get a great view of the London Stadium as you pass below it.
From here, it’s a simple matter of following the river south.
One of the most interesting sights on this stretch of the river is the House Mill and Clock Mill on Three Mill Island, which date back to the 18th century.
Off along the Limehouse Cut
A short distance further south, cross a footbridge over Bow Locks and you’ll head away from the River Lea over to the Limehouse Cut which forks off from the river southwest.
The oldest canal in London, the Limehouse Cut connects the River Lea with the Limehouse Basin by the Thames, and it has a towpath you can follow all the way.
The canal is almost completely straight, so you can stroll along it without fear of getting lost.
Keep an eye out to your left and you may catch a glimpse of Canary Wharf when there’s a break in the buildings.
Resting by Limehouse Basin
At the end of the Limehouse Cut you’ll emerge into Limehouse Basin, which is the rough halfway point in this walk.
It could, alternatively, be the end point of a shorter hike from Stratford, and the nearby Limehouse station allows you an easy route back into central London on the DLR.
Or, as we did on our King’s Cross to Limehouse walk, you could head over to Canary Wharf.
However, as part of a circular walk back to Stratford, Limehouse Basin makes for a great place to rest and maybe get a refreshment.
We went for a drink and lunch at The Grapes, a pub dating back nearly 500 years and now owned by Sir Ian McKellen. It also has great views over the Thames from its small balcony.
Up the Regent’s Canal
Once you’ve had a chance to explore Limehouse Basin, get a look at the Thames, and feel rejuvenated, it’s time to head back along the canals for the second half of the walk.
Follow the Regent’s Canal north. Again, it’s a straightforward route along the towpath by the canal, and you’ll pass multiple locks on the way.
Part of the canal runs adjacent to Mile End Park, so for a slight change of scenery you can take one of the meandering routes through the park instead.
Through Victoria Park
After Mile End Park, you’ll soon cross a bridge over the Hertford Union Canal where it forks off from the Regent’s Canal.
You can either head straight up the Hertford Union Canal, which is the most direct route back towards Stratford and the Olympic Park, or you can take a detour through the park, which is what we did.
There are many great things to do in Victoria Park, including seeing the impressive pagoda and stopping by one of the cafes for refreshments.
As Victoria Park isn’t far from the end of the walk so we weren’t in a rush to get back, we had another break at the Hub Cafe in the centre of the park and had coffee and cake.
From Victoria Park, head onto the Hertford Union Canal for the final stretch of the walk. You can either join the towpath at Gunmaker’s Gate, halfway up the border of the park, or further along at the easterly corner of the park.
Up along the Hertford Union Canal
The Hertford Union Canal connects the Regent’s Canal with the River Lee Navigation and, like the Limehouse Cut, it’s almost perfectly straight so it’s easy to follow along the towpath.
Keep heading northeast along the canal, passing a couple of locks on the way, and soon you’ll join the River Lee Navigation and you’ll have a great view over to the London Stadium, signalling the end of the walk.
Follow the towpath left then cross the bridge over the waterway back in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Back through the Olympic Park
From here, it’s just a short distance back to Stratford and you can choose your route through the park.
We headed back south along the towpath then over to towards the stadium, following it around clockwise before walking up the concourse to the shopping centre at Stratford where we began the walk.
Other recommended London walks:
Explore our blog to discover more of the best walks in London, including:
- London Bridge to Greenwich
- Greenwich to Woolwich
- Camden to Little Venice
- King’s Cross to Limehouse
- Blackfriars to Battersea