London 2012: Exploring the Docklands

london-olympics

Of ships and kings in London’s Docklands

The London Olympics are nearly upon us and the city is preparing to turn on a party. East London around Stratford has been redeveloped with state-of-the-art stadiums, a giant shopping malls, the world’s biggest McDonalds (oh no!), high speed train links and the new gondola ride across the River Thames from the Royal Docks to the O2 Centre in north Greenwich.

London Olympics

Many visitors will be staying in East London to be near the Olympic action and a good choice is London’s Docklands. So let’s take a look at what to do and where to stay to make the most of your time in London.

The redevelopment of the Isle of Dogs back in the 80s is a story in itself. Former council estates (I think Americans would call these ‘Projects’) were razed and people moved out to make way for a gleaming second financial district of skyscrapers and expensive apartments. This is what Canary Wharf looked like 10 years ago:

As you can see from the next photo, taken from the Observatory atop the hill in Greenwich Park (DLR Cutty Sark), Canary Wharf has come a long way since then. People will be flocking to the new Westfield in Stratford but don’t forget the extensive (and probably quieter) shopping options here. Not to mention plenty of bars and restaurants in the restored old Docklands warehouse buildings (DLR West India Quay).

Tucked away in one of these is the Museum of London Docklands, a branch of the Museum of London (in Aldersgate). Yet another one of London’s fabulous FREE museums, The Museum of London Docklands is in the shadow of the shining Canary Wharf towers but through its exhibits and the beautifully restored building displays the history and humanity of this area. It charts the history of London as a port, from Roman times through empire boomtime and wartime destruction. There’s raw ambition, suffering and exploitation alongside fabulous riches.

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