Everyone has heard of Paddington Bear, but people are less familiar with Paddington, the place. In the heart of West London is Paddington, an under-rated destination for people who want to learn about London’s history and culture.
his area is wedged between Notting Hill and the West End and border two royal parks: Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. It has long been known as one of the fancier parts of London and you’ll see why when you get a look at the buildings here.
For many, Paddington will be just a stopover point. They will shack up in one of the Paddington Station hotels before hopping on a train to the West of England. Bristol, Cardiff, and Oxford are all directly connected to Paddington by train. But, if you give Paddington a couple of days, you’ll find there is a lot more to love about this neighborhood than its transport links.
Places to See and Things to Do in Paddington London
1. Go and Find Paddington Bear
Of course, you can’t go to Paddington and really feel like you’ve done it properly without seeing Paddington Bear. Inside the impressive Paddington station, over on Platform 1 is a bronze sculpture of Paddington Bear. You can have your photo taken with the bear but be warned that there is often a queue.
You’ll also find nearby a Paddington Bear bench. The nice thing about these attractions is that they are near Paddington Station so you can still squeeze them in quickly, even if you have a train to catch.
2. Visit St. Mary’s Hospital and see the Laboratory of Alexander Fleming
St Mary’s Hospital has recently been in the limelight as it was where Will and Kate’s royal kiddies were born. But, this hospital’s fame goes far further back than that.
It was here that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in his laboratory. The laboratory has been restored to how it looked in the early 1900s and is part of the Alexander Fleming Museum. The scientist later went on to win a Nobel Prize for his contributions to modern medicine. If you’re interested in history or science (or both) this is one of the best things to do in Paddington.
3.Go to Merchant Square
If you’re looking for a hub of action, look no further than Merchant Square. This spot hosts street food vendors on Tuesdays and Thursdays and often has live music and other events. It is a great place to hang out with friends or even just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere on your own. Its location along the canal makes it perfectly picturesque as well.
You’ll also find a water maze. If you’re wondering what a water maze is, it is, in this case, three concentric circles of water jets that shoot intermittently into the air. The aim is to get to the center and back without getting wet.
As a side note, construction of a new Paddington Square is currently underway and this may take over as the new ‘place to be’ in Paddington. We will just have to wait and see.
4. Walk through Little Venice
Little Venice is not a misnomer. It is called Little Venice because it looks like a mini version of Venice. It is an oasis of peace that will quickly make you forget about the bustling streets just a few minutes away in Paddington.
There are barges moored up along the side of the water, which add an aesthetic charm to the tranquility. You can stroll along the side of the Grand Union Canal and enjoy the views or you can hop on a boat and head to Camden Market or Regent’s Park.
5. Watch a show at the Puppet Theater Barge
If you’ve never watched a puppet show on a boat, now is your chance to change that. The Puppet Theater Barge is a unique venue that has been putting on performances for spectators old and young for decades.
The venue has a small capacity of just 55, making performances all the more intimate. And, of course, all of the shows are acted out by puppets, which is a lot better than it sounds.
High brow plays by Shakespeare and other famous playwrights regularly grace the stage here. This is without a doubt the most unique of all the things to do in Paddington.
6. Watch the Paddington Basin Bridges Rise and Fall
I will be the first to admit that watching a bridge doesn’t sound like all that much fun. But, these bridges are different. Stretching over the Paddington Basin are two pedestrian bridges and on Wednesdays and Fridays at midday, you can see them in action.
The two bridges of note are called the Fan Bridge because it looks like a fan; and the Rolling Bridge because it rolls out from a circle to a straight line, at which point it becomes a bridge.
7. Find Some Local Heroes
Paddington has been home to a remarkable number of famous people over the centuries. As you walk through Paddington keep an eye out for the two-dimensional steel figures that pay homage to some local celebrities.
The first of these notable figures is Alan Turing, a codebreaker who cracked the Nazis’ code during World War Two and contributed significantly to Britain’s victory in the war. The second is Michael Bond, who authored the Paddington Bear books. And, finally, the third steel figure is of Mary Seacole, a nurse who looked after soldiers during the Crimean War.
8. Stroll Around Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens were once part of Hyde Park, but have over the years branched off and formed their own distinct personality. The gardens are just a stone’s throw from Paddington and are perfect for strolling through in the sunshine.
Places of note in the gardens include the Albert Memorial, the Diana Playground, and, of course, Kensington Palace. If you are looking for hotels near Paddington Station, there are some really snazzy ones around here.
9. Grab a Drink at the Bridge House
If you fancy a pint before you retire to your Paddington hotel for the night, the Bridge House is a great place to quench your thirst. It is a delightfully traditional British pub and serves a range of hearty fare if you want to accompany your drink with a meal. Its Sunday roasts are of particular note.
The pub sits right alongside the canal in Little Venice so you can enjoy a gorgeous view as you sip your beer.
10. Have a look around Paddington Station
Even if you aren’t traveling anywhere, it is worth walking around Paddington Station, also known as London Paddington, and admiring the Victorian architecture. Even if you just nip into one of the Paddington Station shops near your hotel, you’ll still have the chance to check out the design of the building.
The original London Paddington was built in 1838, but the one that you see today was constructed in 1854 in a different place to the original.
11. Get out on the Canal
What better way to explore Paddington than by taking to its waterway. There are ample opportunities to rent boats, canoes, paddleboards and other things that float. These offer the opportunity to snake through the Paddington neighborhood and beyond in a fun and interactive way.
There are even boats that have picnic tables in them, so you can combine your sight-seeing with lunch. If you’re feeling particularly lavish, why not take a bottle of bubbly on board with you – the experience will be a lot more fun if you do, I guarantee it.
12. Ogle the Historic Buildings
One of the most interesting things you can do in Paddington is just walking around. That might sound simple, but Paddington is a treasure trove of beautiful buildings. Many of the Victorian townhouses have been turned into hotels now, but their classic beauty has been exquisitely maintained.
You might even be lucky enough to stay in one of these hotels if your budget permits. Ultimately, Paddington is the perfect fusion of urban splendour and green spaces and the best way to experience to the fullest is by getting lost in its winding streets.
13. Explore Hyde Park
Winding up my list of things to do in Paddington is Hyde Park, London’s best-known green space. Here, you’ll find Speaker’s Corner, the Serpentine, the Diana Memorial, and loads and loads of open space. Grab a picnic or a frisbee and make yourself at home in this sprawling patch of natural beauty.
The park is full of things to do and you could easily spend the best of a day here. If hunger strikes while you’re in the park, there are kiosks and cafés, in which you can grab a snack, drink or full-blown meal. It depends on the kind of mood you’re in.
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This post was brought to you in collaboration with The Chilworth and Park Grand London.