The two mile stretch of the River Thames between the London Eye and Tower Bridge is one of London’s most popular districts for arts and entertainment, attracting 14 million visitors every year.
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Until the turn of the 21st century it was mostly home to grown-up concert halls, theatres and arts centres, but the new millennium heralded the arrival of the London Eye, the Millennium Bridge, and a whole host of vibrant street entertainment and events.
It’s a lovely place for a stroll, with plenty of outstanding restaurants and bars where you can take a break and watch the world go by. And be sure to check out Southbank Centre events for special experiences that may well be the highlight of your visit to London.
South Bank restaurants
After several hours taking in the sights of the riverbank, you’ll be ready to relax in one of the South Bank restaurants, pubs and family-friendly cafes. The good news is that there are plenty to choose from, from mid-priced chain restaurants to contemporary, chic dining with a view at the Michelin-starred Skylon in the Royal Festival Hall.
The Brasserie at the OXO Tower is wonderful, with gorgeous cocktails if you’re looking for a pre-theatre drink or a late night tipple. If you’re heading to the National Theatre, the Mezzanine restaurant does pre- and post-theatre menus with a touch of contemporary style.
Shopping at South Bank
The South Bank offers a lovely contrast from the crowds of the West End – this area of London is a centre for design, so you’ll find lots of stylish boutiques along the riverside selling designer homewares, furniture, jewellery and artwork.
Borough Market is just down the road – it’s London’s biggest and best food market, with hundreds of stalls selling everything from fish and olives to fruit and cheese, perfect for throwing something together once you get back to your very own serviced apartment.
If this doesn’t satisfy your shopping needs, it’s just a ten minute walk across Waterloo Bridge to Covent Garden, so the hustle and bustle is never far away!
The South Bank is right in the heart of London, so it’s super-easy to get to. Several major tube stations and national railway stations are just a few minutes’ walk away, including South Bank tube station, and it’s an easy walk across Westminster or Waterloo bridges from all the attractions on the north side of the river.
The South Bank is well signposted, so it’s easy to find if you’re approaching on foot or by bike, and you can also travel by Thames Clipper or water taxi to the London Eye Pier or the Festival Pier.
Things to watch out for
The National Theatre has been making a theatrical buzz for over 50 years, but now the roof is home an apiary containing approximately 60,000 bees. In 2014 the bees produced over 80kg of honey, which you can buy in the National Theatre shop.
Culture and entertainment has always been the main draw of the South Bank – it’s home to a number of arts institutions like the Tate Modern, the Design Museum, the Southbank Centre (which comprises the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Hayward Gallery), the Old Vic Theatre and the Royal National Theatre.
Other significant businesses on the South Bank include the London Sea Life Aquarium, the London Dungeon and the London Film Museum, as well as the London Eye and the OXO Tower. The London Studios, the main home of ITV, is on the South Bank on Upper Ground.