Looking for a fun and unique date idea in central London? Head to Paddington’s Merchant Square and hire a canoe for two! This is the ultimate date activity, perfect for enjoying the sunshine as you paddle down the beautiful Paddington Basin.

Why Canoeing at Merchant Square is the Perfect Date

This experience is a hands-down winner for a first date in London. It eliminates the awkwardness of small talk by throwing you straight into an activity where you can see if your personalities gel and how well you communicate. Merchant Square feels like a whole new dimension of London, no hustle and bustle, just friendly people and beautiful waterways, almost like you’ve been transported to Venice!

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Canoe Rental in London

You can book your canoe rental in London via GetYourGuide from just £33 for two people for one hour.

Meeting Point; The Rolling Bridge, S Wharf Rd, London W2 1NW, UK.

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I had an amazing day with my best friend Sarah on a beautiful June day, filled with laughter and love, spending our time outdoors in the city we adore!

What to Expect When You Arrive

Arrive 10 minutes before your rental time to receive an informative safety, route, and ‘how-to’ guide. You’ll get fitted with buoyancy vests, paddles, and a watertight bag for your belongings. Decide who will be the ‘captain’ to steer the boat, no pressure! The friendly staff will answer all your questions and help you into your boat, making sure you feel at ease.

Even if you’re new to paddling, the staff will guide you through the manoeuvres needed to get started. We managed a 180-degree turn out of the starting point, without any prior experience!

Enjoying Your Canoe Adventure

Once you’re on your way, you’ll paddle through Little Venice and Westbourne Park, enjoying romantic scenery while still being in the heart of the city. Share some light-hearted chit-chat, laugh at your canoeing skills, and simply enjoy the experience of trying something new together!

At one point, you might encounter a busier area (think of it as a roundabout for boats). Even with the increased traffic, we never felt in danger or pressured to move quickly. The larger tour boats were considerate, giving us plenty of room and even slowing down to wave as they passed by.

Top Canoeing Date Tips

  • Drink Break: Very close to the canoe rental, there’s an M&S Food. They sell a variety of drinks, from soft drinks to cocktails. We enjoyed a drink in the sun during our paddle, cheers from passersby included!
  • Time Management: Set an alarm for halfway through your rental time to ensure you paddle back on time. We took the one-hour experience and found it was just right, leaving our arms pleasantly sore the next day!
  • Pack Wisely: Bring a change of clothes in case you get wet. I packed a maxi dress, wipes, deodorant, lipstick, a brush, and powder, wearing a denim jacket that worked with both casual and date-night looks. For more outfit inspiration, check out our styling guides.

Date Ideas in Merchant Square, London

If the date is going well and you want to extend it, here are some great ideas in Merchant Square;

  1. Picnic: Head back to M&S for picnic supplies and enjoy people-watching along Paddington Basin.
  2. Boat Drinks: Visit Darcie & May Green Boat for a drink. Their brunch is also delicious if you catch a table!
  3. Rooftop Drinks: Head to Skylark Roof Garden, one of London’s largest rooftop terraces, for some stunning views and cocktails.
  4. Find Paddington: Find the Paddington Bears or take a Paddington walking tour.
  5. Explore: Check out the activities and events in Merchant Square (details below).

Darcie and May in Paddington; date ideas in London
Darcie and May Green

If you’d like to explore another area, hop on a direct tube from Paddington Station to Embankment Station (just a 15-minute ride). Enjoy a walk along the Thames and have iced cocktails at the National Theatre’s Kerb. Try their frozen Pimms, it’s the perfect summer drink!

Things to Do in Merchant Square

If hiring canoes feels like too much effort, why not opt for a GoBoat rental in Paddington? It’s a super popular choice and from £95 per group of up to 8 passengers, you’ll see loads of friends cruising along the canal on a self-drive boating adventure. Picture it: a couple of beers, some bubbles, and a picnic in tow as you travel through Little Venice, soaking in the vibrant colors of the barges. It’s like your own floating party!

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If you’re looking for more to do, here are some other great ideas in Merchant Square:

  • Street Food: Monday to Friday, 12-2:30 pm, featuring gems like Katsu King and Hola Guacamole.
  • Paddle Boarding: Another fun water activity.
  • GoBoat rental; effortless water picnic
  • Table Tennis: Enjoy a quick game.
  • Fan Bridge: Spot this unique landmark.
  • Floating Pocket: Grab a coffee.
  • Beach Volleyball: Available during summer months.
  • Merchant Square Events: Check out the ‘What’s On’ guide for events like open-screen showings, wellness yoga, annual rubber duck races, and floating bar pop-ups.

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Staying in London Paddington

Make a weekend of it and find hotel deals on Booking.com


If you’re staying in the city, Paddington Station have luggage storage.

FAQs About Canoeing in London Merchant Square, Paddington

This FAQ section is designed to answer all your questions about canoeing in London, Merchant Square, Paddington. Whether you’re curious about safety, the best times to go, or what to bring along, we’ve got you covered.

Q: Do I need to have experience in canoeing? A: Not at all! No prior experience is required. Their friendly guide will give you a fun and informative 10-minute master class before you set out. You’ll be paddling like a pro in no time, ready to impress your date with your newfound skills!

Q: How long is the experience? A: You can choose between a 1-hour or 2-hour rental. Whether you want a quick adventure or a leisurely paddle through the waterways, there’s an option that suits your perfect date idea.

Q: When is canoeing in Paddington available? A: Canoeing is available on weekends only, from 11am to 4pm. It’s the ideal weekend activity to add a splash of excitement to your date in the heart of London.

Q: Do I need to take a waterproof bag for my belongings? A: No need to worry about your belongings getting wet. A waterproof bag will be provided to keep everything dry and secure while you enjoy your time on the water.

Q: Are there lockers at Merchant Square? A: Yes, the canoe rental place has you covered. You can leave your bags in their office, or they will supply you with a waterproof bag to take your belongings with you on the canoe. Convenience at its best!

Q: Is canoeing safe in Paddington? A: Absolutely! Safety is a top priority. You’ll be provided with buoyancy aids, and the guide will give you clear instructions on steering, the route to take on the Grand Union Canal, how to stop and move to the side, and what to do if you were to fall in. You’ll feel safe and confident throughout your adventure.

Q: Where is the canoe experience in London? A: The canoeing adventure starts by the Rolling Bridge in Paddington, just 50 meters from GoBoat London. It’s an easily accessible location, making it simple to kick off your date idea with a splash!

Ready for a unique and memorable date? Grab a paddle and experience the charm of canoeing in London at Merchant Square!

Where is Merchant Square?

Merchant Square is right by London Paddington Station, just a 3-minute walk from Edgware Road Station.

What is Paddington Basin?

The Paddington Basin is a vibrant area part of the wider Paddington Waterside scheme, surrounded by modern buildings and bustling with canal-side restaurants, bars, street food, and events.

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