A guide to London's riverside & canalside bars

Written by Mae Bristow - 28 May 2024


Few cities are as dominated by a river as London is by the Thames, and whilst the famous waterway dominates many imaginings of London, there are still a good number of canals, basins, and smaller rivers that feed into the larger Thames. In short, there’s a good swathe of prime real estate for riverside and canalside pubs and bars.

We don’t want to give you every riverside and canalside bar, there’s plenty of fluff out there, and having a view is nothing without the ambience, the drinks, the fare, and the hospitality. For these reasons, we’ve selected some of our favourites for you.

Places to throw a party

From birthdays, engagements and company summer outings to the whole gang just wanting to get together on a summer’s day, some of London’s riverside and canalside bars offer private hire for parties and more casual affairs.

North London

Lockside, Camden Town

Brave the crowds of Camden High Street for a couple of minutes to get to Lockside Camden. The restaurant and bar have a total capacity of 300 people including the outdoor terrace with lockside views.

The crew here are party professionals, whether you’re after private hire of the whole place, the terrace only, or simply a group booking, Lockside throw in party extras like bespoke food & drink menus, drinks packages, and more. If you’re after a North London riverside venue with a late open and DJ sets in the realms of House, Tech-house, Minimal, Deep House and the like, head to Lockside’s terrace.


South London

The Ship, Wandsworth

This Young’s pub looks old-timey on the outside but the spacious venue has a very modern and expansive riverside terrace right on the Thames. We like The Ship for its stunning sunset views and the quantity and quality of its outdoor space alongside party offerings like drinks packages and all the party food and drinks you could want – burgers, pints, and cocktails.

The good folks at The Ship cater to big events and parties and it’d be a shame not to with the size of its riverside terrace. It’s serious business here, there are private hire options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and canapés. There are five outdoor spaces available including the Shipyard riverside terrace, riverside cabins, the fore terrace, the pergola, and the gazebo sail.


East London

Two More Years, Hackney Wick

No article about London’s riverside and canalside bars is complete without mentioning the fine offerings of Hackney Wick, with Two More Years being a top contender. Not surprisingly, the bar occupies an industrial space along the banks of the River Lea and has one of the loveliest riverside tree-adorned decks – and at night there are festoon lights and candlelit tables.

Two More Years offers smaller group bookings and larger bookings of up to 100 people. The well-known and well-loved Lucky Chip offering its sweet British Wagyu beef burgers is open seven days a week. We like Two More Years for a party for several reasons – the space, the riverside deck, the fare, and the music. Do you want craft beer? They have it. Cocktails? Yep. Organic wines? That too. An all-round solid riverside bar in East London.

deck seating at two more years in hackney wick london

West London

The Old Ship, Hammersmith

Located in a prime location on the River Thames in West London, The Old Ship in Hammersmith is a 300-year-old Young’s pub with a view of the river from every seat in the house. Family-friendly, dog-friendly, and with dedicated private party space, The Old Ship is a staple of London riverside pubs.

The upstairs Drawing Room is a private party space with a capacity of 40 seated and 50 standing and comes with a private bar, private dining and canapé menus, and riverside views including exclusive use of the balcony. Expect fine ales and wines, a menu of classic British pub fare, and unbeatable views of the Thames.


Places for a relaxing afternoon session

Another pillar in the foundation of London’s riverside and canalside bars. It’s not always about the party, sometimes you just want an afternoon session with some mates somewhere with a view – well, we have quite a few recommendations for you.

North London

The Narrow Boat, Islington

It may not actually be a boat but this Young’s pub more than makes up for it with its canalside terrace and two balconies overlooking Regent’s Canal in Angel. It's a sun trap in the right weather and it’s quiet, away from the busyness of the city streets. Enjoy cold ciders, craft lagers, or an Aperol whilst discussing pun-tastic names for boats as you admire the barges on the canal and the willows lazily dipping their toes in the water.

The Constitution, Camden

Near Camden Road Overground, The Constitution has a lovely and spacious canalside terrace accessed by a grand spiral staircase out the back of the pub. It’s a special kind of relaxed place, not something you would expect in the proximity of Camden Town, and it’s one of our favourite North London haunts for a sunny afternoon session.


South London

Cutty Sark Tavern, Greenwich

There is another Thames-side pub in Greenwich which often tops riverside lists (we’re looking at you Trafalgar Tavern) and deservedly so, but if you want something a little less touristy keep walking further east, away from the actual Cutty Sark, until you come to the Cutty Sark Tavern.

Standout views of the River Thames and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, this Greenwich pub is the epitome of cosy on the inside, with its two storeys offering those sought after river views, but it’s the many tables outside the entrance which we like the most. We often don’t even sit at a table but take our pints and sit right on the brick wall overlooking the Thames. It’s busy but noticeably more relaxed than some of its neighbour pubs and that’s just why we like it.


East London

Crate Brewery, Hackney Wick

It’s common to hear thumping bass through sound systems in Hackney Wick but Crate offers an afternoon refuge with its riverside terrace. Many a walk through Vicky Park and along the canal has ended in a cold pint and a pizza sat riverside at Crate. And even when a DJ is playing an afternoon set, you can expect the ambience to be laidback and match the sun’s lazy arc across the sky.


The Anchor & Hope, Clapton

A proper little dive of a pub and one of only two riverside pubs in Clapton, the other being the Princess of Wales. Walking north along the River Lea from Hackney Wick will eventually take you under the great arch of a tree just before you come across The Anchor & Hope’s many tables looking out over the river and the Walthamstow Marshes. It’s frequented by locals and walkers making the pilgrimage from Hackney Wick to Black Horse Road. As far as Clapton’s riverside pubs go, it’s got the better view from morning to sunset.


West London

The Dove, Hammersmith

Hammersmith is unbeatable with its Thames-side pubs, we recommend checking out our list of the best Hammersmith riverside bars to see just how much this London borough has to offer in this regard. And The Dove is an indisputable iconic riverside pub.

Accessed through a narrow alley, The Dove has been serving the good folks of Hammersmith for four centuries. The multi-layered terrace has been serving drinks and views of the Thames for perhaps just as long – we don’t know if terraces were a thing in the 17th century but we’re certain The Dove was capitalising on this real estate in one form or another. It’s gorgeous, relaxed, and a great place to while away the hours of the afternoon.


Places to enjoy a meal

There’s alfresco dining and then there’s riverside or canalside dining which just elevates the outdoor dining experience. A cold pint, chilled glass of white, or a cocktail tastes that much better when paired with a dish, and almost everything tastes good when sitting in the sunshine and the breeze. So, in the wide sprawl of London, from the Lea to the Thames to the canal, here’s where to go for dining, drinks, and decent views.

North London

The Lighterman, Kings Cross

The only canalside bar & terrace is Kings Cross, the multi-storey Lighterman is a stylish, minimal and modern building raised up above Regent’s Canal. With floor-to-ceiling windows, a balcony, and a terrace with its own bar, The Lighterman offers elevated British fare with an emphasis on the good stuff: local, seasonal, and top-quality ingredients.

The Ligthterman offers the canalside terrace for private dining and this canalside ground level has a total indoor/outdoor capacity of 250 people. Celebration, drinks & canapé reception or even just a group booking or date, The Lighterman’s terrace and canalside views are some of the best in North London.

exterior of the lighterman kings cross london private dining

South London

The Mayflower, Rotherhithe

The Mayflower is old, dating back to the time of pirates kind of old. Its preserved features and ivy-covered facade draw in locals and savvy tourists alike. It’s the kind of place for a Sunday Roast, a game of cards, a couple of pints and a whisky nightcap.

Inside, the old-time-y interiors feel untouched and can’t help but impress even the most cynical of London drinkers. The upstairs dining room has views of the River Thames and the outdoor terrace in the back is on the Thames – you can see the waves through the cracks in the wooden deck at high tide.

Perfectly done British pub classics, fine wines and fine ales, and a meal on the Thames on a fine fair day. It’s also the pub licensed to sell both UK and US stamps.


The Waterman’s Arms, Barnes

Worth travelling to the SW if you’re not based there, The Waterman’s Arms is a two-storey Thames-side pub and restaurant. Whilst not directly on the river, there are stunning views – including sunsets – from the place.

Arguably one of our favourite menus for its devotion to British ingredients and seasonality, the menu is small with changing items and prices due to what’s available at the market. We recommend the Sunday Lunch, of course, but dining here anytime between Tuesday and Sunday is worth the price of travel.


East London

By the Bridge Cafe, Haggerston

By the Bridge Cafe is a casual little spot around the corner from Haggerston Overground station on Kingsland Road. As the name suggests, the cafe & bar occupy the corner of the crossing over Regent’s Canal.

A journey up a spiral staircase to the roof leads to one of our favourite casual dining & drinking spots overlooking the canal. There are some potted plants for greenery, and lantern lights at night, it’s an all-round relaxed spot with charms hard to resist.

West London

The White Swan, Twickenham

When you’re going further west than Richmond the outing becomes a day trip. All we can say is that The White Swan can be your afternoon to evening outing. As lovely and regal looking as the swan it’s named after, the Thames-side dining at this traditional pub, whether indoors with a view or out on the terrace, is really something on a sunny summer’s day. With understated elegance and traditional elements, it’s exactly what you imagine when you think of a Twickenham pub.


The Bell & Crown, Chiswick

Another beauty along the quiet, leafy green banks of the West London Thames, The Bell & Crown is a traditional Fuller’s pub with riverside views from the conservatory-like back of the pub, and riverside tables outside along the path. Quaint, relaxed, and with traditional pub fare, The Bell & Crown is a good one when you need to escape the muchness of London – it’s far enough away from central to feel less busy even on a busy sunny day.

Places to dance late into the night

Last but not least London riverside & canalside bars for when the sun has gone down, the lantern and fairy lights have been turned on, and you want to dance to a good DJ set. Along with the above-mentioned Lockside Camden, there are a couple of other notable ones we’d be remiss not to mention.

All My Friends, Hackney Wick

Overlooking the River Lee Navigation and the bridge crossing of White Post Lane, the outdoor terrace of All My Friends is a Hackney Wick favourite for a late-night boogie. As you expect of a bar that is also a record shop, the DJ sets and sound system are top-notch. Get there before sunset and don’t leave until the bar shuts.

Number 90, Hackney Wick

Not surprisingly, your late-night riverside bars are in Hackney Wick, and another favourite is the party, music & events venue Number 90. The industrial warehouse has a riverside deck terrace and a party barge moored on the river. Neon lights, a disco ball, and great sets played on a good sound system, the usual suspects – it’s everything you want and need for a late-night river bar.

exterior of no90 bar in hackney wick london