Rotherhithe is a small village in the heart of London. It is spectacularly located along the River Thames, just 15-20 minutes from bustling London Bridge.
The area is a bit of a hidden secret and one the locals haven’t been keen on promoting. And why should we? It’s a quiet, charming corner of London that suits a relaxing Sunday stroll – and it has no crowds or tourists at all. It’s without doubt one of the best areas in London!
But if you have been lucky enough to hear about Rotherhithe – whether you already live in London or whether you’re visiting the city from elsewhere, here’s the guide you need.
This local’s guide covers the best places to eat, drink, and see, and I’ve organised all of these into a convenient walking route.
Guide to Rotherhithe, London
How to get here
First things first, how to get to this little corner of London. There are several options using public transport.
You can take the Jubilee Line to Canada Water, which is just two stops from London Bridge and four stops from Waterloo. If coming from the other direction, it’s one stop from Canary Wharf.
Another option is the Overground line (orange on TFL’s map). This train line connects a loop around London, so provides a direct route to Rotherhithe from Clapham Junction, Islington, Shoreditch etc. You can get to Rotherhithe in around 15-20 minutes from these areas.
Finally, the very best way is to walk from London Bridge. The route is so scenic and runs along the River Thames the whole way. You’ll past the historic area of Shad Thames before winding through old wharfs – now mostly converted into super stylish flats.
Walking to Rotherhithe from Tower Bridge
Rotherhithe village is small and best explored on foot. Also, nearly everywhere is dog friendly too, so bring along your beloved pooch for the adventure.
Rotherhithe covers the area directly alongside the river. However, as this is part of a peninsula surrounded by the Thames, you can easily walk into the neighbouring area called Canada Water. It actually makes a delightful walking route.
Looking at this map might make it a bit clearer:
You can see London Bridge and Tower Bridge marked on the map. From here, as mentioned you can walk directly along the river along the Thames Path towards Brunel Museum. This is at the heart of Rotherhithe.
After the Shad Thames area, continuing walking along the river until you reach the road called Bermondsey Wall East, which also forms part of the Thames Path. You’ll see lots of signs for the Thames Path which will also keep you on the correct route.
Rotherhithe Walking Route
Strictly speaking, the Brunel Museum would be at the heart of Rotherhithe village. But, I personally think the ideal Rotherhithe walking route would start at a pub called The Angel (which you can clearly see on the map above). If you fancied a mini pub crawl, this is the perfect starting point in my opinion.
On summer days, huge crowds of locals gather on the grassy patch behind, as well as the paved section directly beside the pub and enjoy takeaway pints. In the winter, you should get a table inside in its cosy riverside seating area at the back.
Legend has it that Captain Cook prepared for his journey to Australia here!
Most people don’t stop to notice this area, but directly opposite the Angel Pub are the ruins of King Edward III’s Manor House! This house was once surrounded by a moat on three sides, with the River Thames on the north side providing access to the Manor House by boat. Amazingly, the house dates back to the 1300s but today you can just see the old walls creating the perimeter of the house.
Continuing on from this area by The Angel Pub, I suggest continuing along the Thames Path through several park areas. After a few minutes, you arrive at Rotherhithe Street. The entrance to this pedestrian only area is between two apartment blocks and it is distinctive as the ground is cobbled stone.
Make sure to admire the converted wharf buildings and steal a nosy peek into these stylish homes. Shortly after, you’ll see the beautiful St Mary the Virgin Church and its scenic grounds and cemetery. If you pass directly though here, you can grab a coffee at the tiny Watchhouse Cafe, before returning back to Rotherhithe Street.
The next place you’ll come to is the incredible Mayflower Pub. Not only is this the oldest pub along the River Thames, dating back to 1550, but it is also the departure point for the Mayflower boat who took the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620. You’ll see the plaque and information outside, and if you head inside to the pub’s wooden deck, you’ll see a huge American flag hanging over the Thames. You can read more on the fascinating history of this pub here.
I highly recommend stopping here for a few beers and lunch, if you fancy too. The food is excellent and inside is like a cosy step back in time!
Shortly after the Mayflower Pub is the Brunel Museum. This is well worth visiting. It is named as such after Isambard Kingdom Brunel (and his father Sir Marc) one of the world’s most important engineers whose projects included The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol and the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Brunel was a pioneer of the tunnelling shield, which later led the way in tunnels being built for the underground tube in London.
The Museum is also home to an awesome al fresco botanical cocktail garden called the Midnight Apothecary where you can enjoy delicious drinks by campfire.
Continuing on, it’s a beautiful walk along the Thames and around the peninsula. The next pub to arrive at is the Salt Quay which has a spectacular waterside position and offers views across the whole of London. Make sure to stop here for a drink, but I’d recommend eating before at the Mayflower at one of the other eating spots in my guide.
After the Salt Quay, continue wandering along Rotherhithe Street (also noted on signs as the Thames Path). It weaves in and out of wharf apartment blocks and goes directly above the river. There’s also stretches of beach you can go and explore too (but definitely not for sunbathing).
The old wharf buildings along Rotherhithe Street used to home seafarers, and shipbuilders, with small bridges linking the building for the movement of goods. In fact, Rotherhithe was the first place to have docks in London and was established in around the 17th Century. However, most the docks were destroyed in WWII, and many of the shipyards became timber yards or ship salvages.
The last ship left in 1970, and many of the docks were drained and filled in as part of a huge regeneration of the area.
Enjoy the views and the scenery as the shiny, sparkling buildings of Canary Wharf emerge ahead of you.
In case this sounds quite far now, to give the context, the walk between the Salt Quay and The Blacksmiths Arms is just 14 minutes.
From here, I recommend continuing along Rotherhithe Street, past the pleasant green spaces of Durant’s Wharf until you come to Surrey Docks Farm. It’s absolutely worth a stop if you’re there in the daytime. This charming riverside farm has a great array of farm animals and a wonderful cafe too, with outside seating.
The next, and penultimate pub I recommend visiting is The Ship & Whale.
As you can see, my walking route continues along the Thames Path and this is a great spot for another drink.
The Ship & Whale marks the end of my Rotherhithe walking tour, but it doesn’t have to mark the end of your area of exploration. To get back to one of the main stations nearby (Canada Water or Surrey Quays), I recommend either walking back through Russia Dock Woodlands, or going back along Greenland Dock.
If you take the option to wander through Russia Dock Woodlands (the huge green area in the heart of the peninsula), you’ll find a quiet oasis that you’ll struggle to believe is so close to the city. There’s even an ecological park here, brimming with wildlife and drawing passionate birdwatchers to the area. Make sure to climb to the top of Stave Hill for magical views across the whole of London.
Alternatively, if you take the option of Greenland Dock, you can admire all the boats moored up in the docks. The views back to Canary Wharf are incredible and this fully pedestrianised area is lovely to walk in.
Finally, why not stop at one of my favourite neighbourhood sister Italian restaurants for dinner before heading home? Canada Water Cafe and the Plough Way Cafe are both run by the same group of Italians and serve up excellent food, with an amazing cocktail list. I truly believe these are some of the best places to eat Italian food in London!
Where to eat and drink in Rotherhithe
So that’s the end of my walking route for this Rotherhithe guide. It simply winds its way along the peninsula following the Thames the whole way. I thought I would also add my list of the best places to eat and drink in Rotherhithe here, including a couple not mentioned in the above walking route.
Watchhouse Cafe, by St Mary Church Rotherhithe
Bru Coffee, near Russia Dock Woodlands and Stave Hill
Pear Tree at Greenland Place, by Greenland Dock (Excellent Australian spot)
Plough Way Cafe, by Greenland Dock
Canada Water Cafe, by Canada Water Station
Leadbelly’s, by Canada Water Station
Cafe East, by Russia Dock Woodlands (Amazing Vietnamese)
Columbia Restaurant, inside the Doubletree Hilton hotel by The Blacksmiths Arms
Pubs & Bars
So there’s my guide to this beautiful corner of London. Rotherhithe Village is a quiet, peaceful and scenic neighbourhood, with plenty of charming, traditional pubs and excellent lesser known restaurants.
I love living here, especially as it’s so close to the centre of London. I enjoy dog walks in Russia Dock Woodlands and Greenland Dock every single day, and marvel at the views and local wildlife every time.
Coupled with the excellent eating and drink spots dotted around the area, I believe Rotherhithe is one of the best places to visit in London!
I do hope this Rotherhithe guide has been helpful and inspires you to explore more of London. Please, as always, do let me know if you have any questions!
Disclaimer: This guide has no involvement from the local tourism board or a hotel.
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