London Guide: I dropped mum off at Waterloo station on Monday morning and decided to take advantage of the sunny day with a stroll along the London South Bank. I was in the mood for taking photographs rather than being sat at my desk. Located on the banks of the River Thames with cultural centres, independent designer shops and plenty of restaurants, this is a great place to spend a day. Find out about the London South Bank from the London Eye to the Southbank Centre, Gabriel’s Wharf, OXO Tower Wharf and more.
Coca-Cola London Eye and County Hall
Explore London South Bank
Coca-Cola London Eye: Exit 6 at Waterloo station and head for the Coca-Cola London Eye. This amazing structure is a 135m cantilevered observation wheel which is actually the largest in the world. It was designed by Marks Barfield Architects and has been part of the London landscape since 2000. It was originally intended to be a temporary structure but was so popular that it has remained. There are always crowds of people milling around here so if you are seriously thinking about going on the London Eye then it’s a good idea to book in advance. You can hire the capsules to host private dinner parties with your friends or for your loved one if you’re thinking of proposing! Next door to the London Eye you can take a boat tour from The London Eye Pier. There are a few options which include a city cruise hop on and off sightseeing service stopping at key piers of Tower, Greenwich and Westminster or the London Eye River Cruise which you can buy as a ticket combo.
London County Hall: If you’re facing the London Eye on your left you have London County Hall where you will find plenty of family-friendly activities. If you don’t have kids, you might want to head right where you will find the cultural attractions. Family fun includes the Shrek’s Adventure brought to you by DreamWorks. Inside the venue you are taken on a bus tour with the opportunity to interact with live fairy-tale themed shows, the adventure lasts 75 minutes. Teens might prefer being scared senseless at The London Dungeon which unravels London’s murky past. From Jack the Ripper to Sweeney Todd, it will make you jump from fright! Or keep things calm and visit the Sea Life London which is an aquarium. You are just across the water from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament so get your camera out and take a photograph. Ahead is Westminster Bridge which you can walk over if you want to see Big Ben close up.
Jubilee Gardens: If you decide to wander in the other direction towards the cultural attractions, you will see a small patch of green just past the London Eye which is Jubilee Gardens. Locals, tourists and office workers head here in droves as soon as the sun shines. The grounds are managed by the Jubilee Gardens Trust which is a collective of residents and local businesses. The walking path in front of Jubilee Gardens is called The Queen’s Walk. You will find plenty of benches looking out towards the River Thames so sit down and take in the surroundings.
Southbank Centre: Just past Hungerford Bridge you will find the Southbank Centre which dates back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Here you can see a wide variety of cultural events from dance to art, music, performance and the spoken word many of which are free. You can also grab a coffee and a bite to eat at the restaurants and cafes and browse the shops. The Southbank Centre actually occupies 21 acres which include the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and more making it the cultural quarter of the South Bank. Watch the skateboarders underneath the Southbank Centre and take pictures of the graffiti-covered walls.
Queen Elizabeth Hall: At the moment there is a rooftop garden at Queen Elizabeth Hall where you can sit in amongst the plants and enjoy some refreshments which you can purchase from the kiosks. It’s a lovely haven where you get a fantastic view of London.
National Film Theatre: This is a four-screen cinema operated by the British Film Institute which shows a large selection of films ranging from classics through to art house contemporary. There’s a book shop which also sells DVDs on-site and the Reuben Library is a study space which contains masses of material about the moving image. This is a must-visit theatre for film buffs. In front of the National Film Theatre you will find a brilliant second hand and antique book market which is open every day. Read my Southbank Centre Book Market Review.
National Theatre: This building was designed by Sir Denys Lasdun and opened its doors in 1976. The National Theatre houses three auditoriums, rehearsal rooms, terraces overlooking the river, restaurants and bars. You can take set building and scenic painting workshops and make costumes and props here. The National Theatre stage around twenty productions per year which are performed by their company of 150 actors.
Gabriel’s Wharf: If you want to browse around some independent boutiques and shops stop off at Gabriel’s Wharf. You’ll notice a big sign on a building which is home to the ITV This Morning show. Just by the side is an open courtyard with shops either side and in the middle, you will find carved statues and rustic tables and chairs. With a few eateries and also a public toilet, it’s a cute place to explore. You will find galleries, pottery, scarves and bags from India along with jewellery. Next door to Gabriel’s Wharf is the Bernie Spain Gardens where you will often find festivals taking place. Read my Gabriel’s Wharf Review.
OXO Tower Wharf: Another place to shop is at the OXO Tower which is home to many design businesses. The OXO Tower has been a prominent landmark since the 1930s which was originally owned by the OXO brand. In the 1990s it was redeveloped and is now a mixed-use property with residential homes, offices, shops, galleries and restaurants. You will find eateries on the first floor, on the first and second floors are shops and some have offices attached. It’s a great place to buy gifts for design-conscious friends but avoid Mondays as shops may be closed, try from 11 am until 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday. The famous rooftop restaurant and bar is on floor eight. At the back of the tower is the Bargehouse which is a warehouse building hosting exhibitions which can be booked for events.
River Thames: This walk is along the bank of the River Thames which is the longest river in England and the second-longest in the UK. They are plenty of benches situated along the banks so take a seat and watch the activity on the water. You can take a boat on the river if you have time.
If you continue onwards you’ll venture into Bankside where you will find the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, Clink Street Prison Museum, the Golden Hinde II, Southwark Cathedral and eventually Borough Food Market. I cover these in my post about Ten Tourist Things To Do In Bankside.
London South Bank Restaurants
There are plenty of restaurants in the vicinity. You will find restaurants in the Southbank Centre and subsequent buildings. There is a patch of chain restaurants just by the Southbank centre. Gabriel’s Wharf and Oxo Tower Wharf also have plenty of eateries. Along this strip, you will often find pop up restaurants in shipping containers. For an upmarket dining experience try the OXO Restaurant or Skylon both of which have great views of the area.
Travel to London South Bank
You can start this South Bank tour by travelling to Waterloo and exiting at number 6 at the train station. The Waterloo tube station is on the Northern, Bakerloo and Jubilee lines. Or travel to Westminster Tube Station on the Circle, District and Jubilee lines. There is so much to do and see that you can certainly spend an entire day here. If you live in London get yourself down there at the weekend and remind yourself just how fabulous this city is. If you’re a tourist, lucky you, enjoy our wonderful city. Find out more about this area at the South Bank London Website.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London.