If you’re only in London for a short amount of time but you still want to see as many attractions as you can, it may be tempting to avoid South Bank altogether and stick to Soho and Westminster.
Although it may not have Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus, South Bank still has a wealth of attractions, not to mention many outdoor events that any tourist in London will appreciate.
Here are eight of the many reasons why you should check out South Bank during your trip to London, and what to do, see and eat when you visit:
1. The London Eye
Seeing the London Eye just isn’t the same when you’re standing on the other side of the Thames River, because getting up close and personal with the “ferris wheel” lets you enjoy it in all its glory. If you have some extra time/money on your hands, a ride on The London Eye is a must for any tourist. Tickets may be pricey for the budget traveller, but the stunning view of London from above makes riding The London Eye a purchase of a lifetime.
2. The Queen’s Walk
A walk along the pedestrian street lining the Thames River (also known as the Queen’s Walk) makes for a relaxing night-time activity, as the Walk offers stunning views of the St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament from the other side of the Thames.
The pedestrian walkway is several miles long, and leads you over Westminster Bridge towards Tate Modern, and then back towards the Thames along the Millennium footbridge.
3. Summer festivals
During the summer months South Bank seems to come to life as it hosts a variety of different summer festivals and outdoor events throughout June, July, August and sometimes September. From The Mayor’s Thames Festival, the Waterloo Carnival, The Coin Street Festival, or even the London Literature Festival, you are bound to find some sort of exhibition or celebration that piques your interest.
4. The London Dungeon
If you’ve already been to The Tower Of London and you want to see some other historical (and infamous) attractions in London, then the London Dungeon is a must-see. Not only will you get to meet Jack The Ripper and Sweeney Todd (played by actors, of course), you may even be forced to take a “drop ride to doom” (AKA a free-fall ride set up to look like a public hanging).
5. Shakespeare’s Globe
A trip to Shakespeare’s Globe is an obvious one for any first-time South Bank visitor, as it remains to be one of the most visited theatre venues in London. The Globe is actually a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre (originally built in 1599 but destroyed by a fire in 1613), and it also contains an indoor theatre as well as a reconstruction of an Elizabethan-period theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre.
6. Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is actually four different art galleries packed into one, so if you have a passion for art and love to visit galleries during your travels then the Tate Modern will not disappoint. There are a variety of exhibitions throughout the year focusing on everything from British Folk Art to Andy Warhol, and they often ask famous artists to host lectures as well.
7. Budget eats
Relatively speaking, restaurants in South Bank tend to be quite cheaper than those located in Soho or Westminster, but of course it all depends on whether you choose to dine near the touristy areas or not. Places like The Swan (21 New Globe Walk) have appetizers for around £5 to £7, while The Table (83 Southwark Street) have mains for around £6.
8. Outdoor events
Come rain or come shine, South Bank is known to host a variety of outdoor events during the summer months, and just strolling along the riverside you will almost certainly stumble into some kind of performance or exhibition. From street performers, outdoor films and even outdoor art installations at The Hayward Gallery, there’s a wealth of different options to choose from when it comes to venturing around South Bank.