There’s a little London neighborhood I have visited for years each time I need an escape off the beaten path. It’s called Little Venice. At first I would visit because that’s where my friends live. Now, I visit them, as well as the neighborhood.
Little Venice is just off the Edgware Road and not too far from the hubub of Marble Arch and Oxford Street. Yet, it makes you feel as though you’re sheltered in a quaint Georgian or Victorian town, where not much has changed in 200 years except for the restaurants (and there are several really good ones).
Little Venice gets its name from Robert Browning who coined the term upon the opening of the Grand Union Canal, where it joined the Regent Canal which runs down its center. You can hop on a boat just by the Warwick Avenue tube stop (Bakerloo or the “Brown” line) and it will take you sailing through a pretty part of London directly to the London Zoo and eventually to Camden Market before your return trip.
It was back in 1820 when the Grand Union Canal opened that this little one square mile area became home to the bohemians of their day, artists, writers, even prostitutes. Today, it’s a far more genteel community of lovely 18th and 19th century town-homes and posh neighbors. The main road, Clifton Gardens, offers shops and lovely places to eat or sip tea and the surrounding blocks are lined with beautiful white stucco homes, which I vow to own in my next life if not this one.
Solo travelers can while away the day here. You can start with breakfast at the Cafe La Ville, which spans a bridge over the canal. (Get a window table and you can watch the river barges sail directly under you). Then, head out of the restaurant and down Blomfield Road, where the canal is lined with all sorts of lovely house-boats. The road leads to the boarding points for the two companies offering rides down the canal, straight through to the London Zoo and Camden Market. The boat companies are priced nearly the same, so just select whichever has the shortest line and grab yourself a ticket for a pleasant journey. It’s so much better than The Tube on a sunny day.
Just one block away is the Warwick Avenue tube stop, now made famous thanks to a great song by Duffy. The Clifton Road leads you from the Tube stop back toward Maida Vale, the main arterial through this part of London. Clifton Road is practically the British version of the Italian piazza. It’s where everyone in this neighborhood comes to shop, but more importantly to hang out. There are several restaurants but my favorite place is Raoul’s. You can’t beat Raoul’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner. (I once had a mean banoffee pie there; french toast to die for and great pasta as well – there’s even a take away shop across the road). The good thing about Raoul’s is that if you’re having a cuppa all by yourself, you can be left alone without feeling awkward or you will make new friends easily and not be rushed from your indoor or sidewalk table if you choose to stay and people watch.
Little Venice is a romantic slice of life in a city which can often be chaotic. Take a trip down the canal and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I nearly didn’t post this article for fear that my favorite haunt would soon become overcrowded but it’s a risk I’m willing to take because I love this place so much! Cheers!