South Bank, London
In London, south of the River Thames, the atmosphere is relaxed and bohemian. There is a host of fun and exciting things to do in South Bank, from strolling along the riverside to having a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants or whiling away an afternoon in a museum or theatre. The South Bank is widely seen as London’s cultural heart; a lively hub for creativity, entertainment, and the arts.
Here, you are never far from quirky eateries, fascinating art galleries, and concert halls - The National Film Theatre, The London Eye, and the South Bank Entertainment Centre are just a few! London's Southbank also offers unprecedented public transport access to the rest of the capital. It’s no surprise that South Bank is a highly desirable tourist and residential location in London.
Where is South Bank?
South Bank is located in Central London in zone 1, opposite the City of Westminster; it’s a narrow pedestrianised bank over a mile long by the River Thames. It is a significant tourist district, stretching from the Design Museum in the east to the London Eye in the west.
Wondering how to get to South Bank? Several major railway stations are within walking distance. The river is also a great means of transport, with piers along the South Bank at the London Eye, Royal Festival Hall, Bankside and London Bridge. A series of bridges also connect the area to the northern bank of the Thames, including the Golden Jubilee and Millennium pedestrian bridges.
Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden are all just 10 minutes’ walk away.
The History of Southbank
Southbank’s history is very different from that of the affluent north bank of the River Thames. The area developed much more slowly because of its shallower channel and tricky access. In the middle ages, it was a largely rural area that was known for its theatres (like the Old Vic theatre), prostitution and bear-baiting!
The Industrial Revolution resulted in the growth and urbanisation of the area grew as well as the development of the nearby Waterloo Station. The South Bank went from a rural riverside location to an industrial centre.
Although the area was bombed during World War Two, this kickstarted the regeneration of the South Bank. It was chosen as the site for the Festival of Britain in 1951, which aimed to boost British post-war morale by celebrating the nation’s achievements in science, architecture and more.
So, The Royal Festival Hall was built and was soon followed by the National Theatre, the National Film Theatre, ITV London and many others. This has helped South Bank to develop a reputation as a vibrant and creative hub for the arts and media.
Things to do in South Bank
There are plenty of things to do in South Bank, making it a great day out. No wonder it’s one of the most popular tourist areas in London.
- Meander down South Bank’s leafy riverside or wander in the Jubilee Gardens for some beautiful green space
- Visit the South Bank Centre to marvel at the Brutalist architecture of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery, and discover countless shows and exhibitions
- See sharks, exotic fish and more at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium in the converted County Hall
- Book a show at the world-famous Royal National Theatre or The Old Vic
- Go on the iconic London Eye and see London like never before
- Explore the OXO Tower wharf and find galleries, shops and boutiques as well as the world-renowned OXO Tower Restaurant, run by Harvey Nichols.
- Enjoy a drink or bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in South Bank, including The Rake or Skylon Bar
- Discover artisan gems, craft beers and more at the nearby Borough Market
- Brush up on your history with a trip to the Imperial War Museum London
- See the latest blockbuster film or a re-release of a classic at the BFI Southbank.
- London Bridge
- Tower Hill
- Charing Cross
- London Bridge
- The London Eye Pier
- Festival Pier
- Bankside Pier