When I studied abroad in London, I had the great fortune of living right near Waterloo Station on London South Bank. It was close to all the major attractions and also was in the heart of the newly thriving South Bank scene. It wasn’t long ago that London South Bank was an unappealing area. But now it’s got loads to see and do, it has cultural attractions, great markets, trendy restaurants, popular bars, and views abound of the River Thames and the skyline north of the river. Long gone are the days when you would be best suited avoiding the London South Bank. Now, it’s a thriving neighborhood, and a popular place to enjoy some of London’s best. On my recent visit to London I found that this neighborhood is even more popular than it was four years ago. Check out all the things there are to do on London South Bank and get ready to explore:
London South Bank
Where to Eat
Founders Arms – It doesn’t get any more traditional English than fish n chips and a pint of beer overlooking the River Thames. Founders Arms is the perfect pub for a comfortable meal.
Ping Pong – When you’re in the mood for some upscale dim sum and sake bombs, look no further than Ping Pong.
Oxo Tower – If you want to splurge on a nicer dinner, head up to the top of Oxo Tower, where you can enjoy dinner and drinks overlooking the city.
Where to Drink
Topolski – More than just a place to grab drinks, this bar doubles as a gallery. Now you can enjoy some art and toast to it, too!
Central Bar Terrace – Enjoy the alfresco dining when the weather is nice, or even if it’s not, just bundle up and head over to join this popular drinking scene.
The Understudy Bar – This cleverly named bar sits next to the National Theatre and is a very popular watering hole to enjoy after work.
What to See
The London Eye is on the London South Bank, but truth be told it’s usually too crowded and touristy around there to be worth your while. If you’re intent upon riding the modernist ferris wheel for views over the city, book your tickets ahead online. The other great vantage point on the South Bank is The Shard, the highest viewing platform in the city. It was being built back when I went to school in London and is finally complete. Head up to the observation deck to enjoy the views!
Where to Find Art
The London South Bank is a constantly evolving, living canvas, where you’ll find new art installations all the time. Outside the Southbank Centre you’ll usually find some interesting outdoor art to enjoy, and then venture inside because there are some great performances at this the largest centre for the arts in Europe!
Further down along the South Bank you’ll find a sand artist at Gabriel’s wharf. He likes to draw a Bart Simpson head in the sand, and you can test your aim trying to toss coins into his tip jar down in the sand.
The South Bank is also home to the Tate Modern, a gigantic contemporary art museum. It’s free to enter and enjoy, though you do have to pay for certain special exhibits. There was a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit on when I was last there and it was definitely worth the price of admission!
Markets to Explore
One of the best markets in London is on the South Bank, Borough Market. Join the crowds and get lost in the maze of farmers market stands, artisanal bakery stands, multicultural cuisine, and more. Borough Market also hosts a pancake flipping relay race on National Pancake Day (just saying, it’s pretty amazing).
You can also get your artisanal food fix at the Southbank Centre Winter Market, though that delicious option is only around for a few months each year.
And check out the book market under Waterloo Bridge, it’s a book-lover’s dream. Rows and rows and tables of secondhand books are laid out each Friday through Sunday, for your shopping pleasure.
What to Do
Akin to the Freedom Trail in Boston, the Jubilee Way snakes through the London South Bank and if you follow it you’ll see some historic and significant spots along the trail. It’s marked with silver medallions in the ground.
At the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, you can take a tour and learn about the history of Shakespeare’s influence on arts and theatre. You can also enjoy a performance of his plays during the summer season, when theatre troops from all around the world come to perform!
The South Bank scene stretches from Westminster Bridge and Big Ben, all the way over to Tower Bridge and Tower of London. It’s easy to fit some South Bank exploring right into your travel itinerary when you visit London!
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