This pair of art galleries on the Paddington Arm contain some of the finest contemporary art in the country

Words by Steph Wetherell

Posted on 30/10/2019

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The Serpentine Galleries are two distinct galleries, separated by a bridge that spans the slow arc of the Serpentine Lake. The original Serpentine Gallery has surely one of the most stunning settings of any gallery in London, housed in a 1930’s tea pavilion in Kensington Gardens. Opening in 1970, the gallery focuses entirely on contemporary art and architecture, intermingling work by established artists alongside the most exciting up and coming talent. In 2013, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery was opened in a former gunpowder store in Hyde Park, adding an additional 900m2 of gallery space and a restaurant called The Magazine, a nod to the former use of the building.

If you visit in summer you’ll also be lucky enough to see one of the temporary pavilion installations on the lawn outside the Serpentine Gallery, which for the last 20 years have been designed and installed by an architect who has not completed a building in the UK.

Once you’ve had your fill of the exhibitions, amble through the stunning surroundings of Hyde Park and past the broad arches of Paddington Station to reach the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. The canal opened in 1801, creating an important trade route between the City of London and the Midlands; at this point Paddington was just a small village on the outskirts of the city.

Joining the canal at Paddington Basin, pause for a moment to appreciate the Rolling Bridge, a curious structure that can curl up into an octagonal sculpture, before heading towards the junction with the Regents Canal at Little Venice. Originally known as Paddington Broadwater, this large pool contains its very own island, known as Robert Browning’s Island after the poet who lived nearby, now a haven for willow and birds.

If you fancy a longer wander, follow the towpath west, until you reach Meanwhile Gardens, a hidden gem of a small park on the border of North Kensington and Westminster. This community garden boasts a range of different landscapes, from woodland to ponds, veg beds to skate bowls.

Plan your day out along the Paddington Arm with our online guide

Illustration by Alexander Baxevanis