Art & Culture
Explore the Royal Docks: terrific tours and trails
Steeped in history with iconic buildings, striking architecture, vast open spaces, a waterfront like no other and a reputation for innovation, community and creativity, the Royal Docks has it all. And one of the best ways to immerse yourself in it is by exploring the area.
We’ve got trails and routes to suit all kinds of interests, from history to art, buildings to music. Check out the list below, download one of the trail guides and head off on your own Royal Docks adventure.
Always on walking trails and tours
This self-guided activity trail is a great choice for families with young children. A creative and engaging map, designed by local creative studio Lunes, offers interesting facts and fun challenges to complete. From the ‘Seeking the sleeping giant’ walking tour we learn that a live elephant was once brought by ship into Royal Victoria Dock. To cover more ground, pick up a Brompton hire bike for the ‘Ride to the heart of the docks’ tour, which highlights the best sights of this amazing and vast area.
The Line is East London’s open-air gallery. Discover incredible creations as you explore the three-mile-long route that runs between the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Royal Docks and the O2.
The Line takes in large and striking pieces of public art including Alex Chinneck’s inverted electrical pylon, Richard Wilson’s cutaway ship and Laura Ford’s Bird Boy standing motionless on the edge of a pontoon in Royal Victoria Dock.
The Line can be explored via a digital guide on Bloomberg Connects, the free arts and culture app, which offers various ways of experiencing the trail. You can delve deeper and hear from the artists themselves; focus on nature and local history with anecdotes read by Bill Nighy; or listen to custom made walking meditations. Alternatively, you can just simply download the map and directions.
London Nature Trails: Wanstead to the Royal Docks
The Mayor of London’s Nature Trails for Londoners connects natural spaces in the city’s most built up areas via green “corridors”, such as waterways and tree-lined streets to promote the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature.
The 9-mile Wanstead to the Royal Docks trail is for walking enthusiasts but worth every step. The route takes a rich variety of landscapes, history and wildlife, as well as following a section of The Line’s public art and sculpture trail.
The Capital Ring
The Royal Docks section of the Capital Ring, London’s circular walking route for urban ramblers, has now reopened. Temporarily closed due to redevelopment, the riverside section of this route from Gallions Reach is now accessible and much enhanced by improved landscaping, tree planting and two new play areas.
This is Who We Are
This is who we are is a unique way to explore local spots. Created by arts organisation Arch 468, this is an audio trail stretching the length of the docks, featuring five dramas by local writers who all take inspiration from the docklands environment. The stories focus on the history and future of the docks, their links to the wider world, as well as the experience of living here – all professionally recorded with actors.
If you love music and architecture, this is for you. Musicity commissioned local musicians and sound artists to write tracks inspired by different spaces around the Royal Docks. Grab your headphones and seek them all out on this walk-with-a-difference.
The Millennium Mills Experience: Feeding Edwardian London Walking Trail
Using storytelling, data visualisation, and digital tech you’ll explore how the Royal Docks connected to a global trade network and fed London’s growing population during the early 1900s.
Explore the west
Peppered with vivid historical detail, this trail by Fancy Free Walks begins in the heart of Silvertown among the striking wavy hedges of Thames Barrier Park. Moving west, the 4km route threads together key feats of engineering: the Thames Barrier, the Royal Victoria Dock footbridge, Millennium Mills' towering derelict flour factory, and the IFS Line cable car.
Find the lost pubs of North Woolwich
Over on the eastern side of the docks, the pubs of North Woolwich have stories to tell. From Cundys, a former 19th-century trade union HQ to the eccentric history of The Royal Standard, which was governed by different licensing laws, meaning one side of the premises had to call last orders while the other stayed open! Many of these pubs have long gone, leaving only their tell-tale outlines on the buildings that remain. This Lost Pubs Treasure Trail by the Tate Lives project keeps the memory of these places alive.
Explore the Royal Docks on a Brompton
Still water, broad pavements, wheels for hire, and not a car in sight. Nowhere in London has a waterfront quite like ours so why not try out a Brompton?
Brompton Bikes are available to hire at various locations throughout the Royal Docks including Custom House, Royal Albert DLR station and Royal Victoria Dock just outside City Hall. You can rent one of these nippy folding bikes from £3.50 or treat yourself to a subscription as part of the Brompton Bike hire scheme.
Highlights for bikes include a well-signed loop stretching around Royal Victoria Dock, as well as investment in north-south crossings such as Connaught Crossing and the routes from Freemasons Road down to the Thames. Silvertown Way and North Woolwich Road are being transformed into walker and cyclist-friendly routes, as well being connected to The Leaway to the north and places to experience wildlife along the River Lea.
Stories from around the docks
Art & Culture
Launch of the fifth edition of the Pews & Perches Design Competition
The Royal Docks Team has launched its fifth round of the prestigious Pews and Perches design competition in partnership with the London Festival of Architecture.