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Popular South Bank London Attractions to Visit for First Timers

London is a huge tourist destination, with many distinct neighborhoods and plenty of amazing attractions to see and places to explore. As such, it can be a bit tricky to know where to visit planning your family vacation across the pond, to London, England. One of the first area's we suggest you spend some time is downtown London, specifically the South Bank. The South Bank, or literally the south side of the iconic River Thames, is a great destination for first time tourists and locals alike. This area is filled with diverse cultural and entertainment options, and is a rich locale for photography, dining, and sightseeing. Check out a few of these attractions for a great day of sightseeing, or work them into a large itinerary as one part of an amazing London vacation!

Save on South Bank Attraction Admission

A number of these South Bank London attractions are available on the London Explorer Pass®. Choose as you go from top London attractions and save up to 35% off combined admission vs paying at the gate. See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more. A few fun things to do in London with kids are...

  • The Coca-Cola London Eye
  • The London Dungeon
  • SEA LIFE Aquarium
  • Shrek's Adventure! London
  • and more...

With the recent drop of the British pound your US dollar is even more valuable. So read this if you are planning to visit London on a budget.

The Coca-Cola London Eye

Image of City, Metropolis, Urban, Building, Cityscape, Handbag, Person, Housing, Adult, Male, Man, Photography, House, The Coca-Cola London Eye is a magnificent observation wheel, and was among the first and grandest of its kind when it was constructed around the turn of the Millennium and today it stands as one of London’s most recognizable landmarks. Hop aboard for a delightful and unparalleled sightseeing experience that will showcase large swatches of London and the Thames. Getting In: Coca-Cola London Eye tickets are available on the London Explorer Pass.

London Eye River Cruise

Image of Boat, Vehicle, Water, Waterfront, Person, Ferry, If you want to see more of the South Bank area than you can accomplish on land, then why not head to the River Thames itself? Embark on a London Eye River Cruise for a sightseeing adventure that's full of excitement and information. You'll see many of the biggest London attractions on this 40-minute circular cruise, including the London Eye, Big Ben, the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, and more! Getting In: London Eye River Cruise tickets are available on the London Explorer Pass.

The London Dungeon

Image of Pub, Adult, Male, Man, Person, Chair, Female, Woman, Group Performance, This high-tech attraction showcases the less-than-savory side of British history with its focus on all things criminal and horrific. From the Black Death to Jack the Ripper, there’s an exhibit here to highlight some of the scariest and most terrifying things in English history. Don’t worry, though, The London Dungeon still pretty doable for older kids and is definitely a ton of fun. Getting In: The London Dungeon tickets are available on the London Explorer Pass.

SEA LIFE Aquarium

Image of Adult, Female, Person, Woman, Animal, Sea Life, Fish, Shark, Host to more than 500 different species of aquatic critter, the SEA LIFE London Aquarium is comprised of over 50 displays in 14 different themed zones. You’ll encounter sea life from around the entire globe and all across the waterways of Great Britain. This is an excellent attraction for families, offering fun activities like fish feeding and an interactive touch pool. This wonderful aquarium is actually housed in the historic Lambeth County Hall, so it’s a historic attraction as well! Getting In: SEA LIFE London Aquarium tickets are available on the London Explorer Pass.

Shrek's Adventure! London

Image of Child, Female, Girl, Person, Boy, Male, Teen, Adult, Woman, Baby, Head, A family favorite and popular South Bank attraction, DreamWorks Tours: Shrek's Adventure London is an excellent place to spend an afternoon with the kids. Meet all your favorite characters from the Shrek Universe, wander Shrek's swamp, and even meet characters from other DreamWorks franchises. It's a definite hit with fans of the movie, big and small! Getting In: Shrek's Adventure London tickets are available on the London Explorer Pass.

Southbank Centre

This massive entertainment complex is the heart of London’s performance arts scene. Home to the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Purcell Room (featuring musical and theatrical performances), the BFI Southwark movie theatre, and the Hayward Gallery. It’s also the site of the famed National Theatre. Come here to take in a performance of any variety and truly appreciate British culture. Please note: This attraction is not available on the London Explorer Pass

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

A fantastic replica of the playhouse that William Shakespeare’s company once performed in, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a beautiful reproduction of an Elizabethan theatre. In addition to putting on numerous shows each season – Shakespeare, of course! – they also offer tours and a great gift shop. A visit here is a must for any fan of English literature and history. Please note: This attraction is not available on the London Explorer Pass

Southwark Cathedral

Constructed on the remains of an 11th century monastery, Southwark Cathedral is best known as the final resting place of the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. While the original construction is all gone, there are some sections of the monastery dating to the 13th century! Be sure to check out the historic paintings, too. Please note: This attraction is not available on the London Explorer Pass

Horniman Museum & Gardens

This attraction serves double duty, offering up a charming and fascinating collection alongside 16-acre gardens. They first opened in the nineteenth century and their collections have only grown since that time, although their particular strengths remain in anthropology and musical instruments. The coolest thing about this museum is that you can actually pick up and examine a lot of the exhibits and artifacts – so it’s super interactive and more inviting than perhaps traditional museums. Another awesome thing? Admission here is totally free! Please note: Admission to the Attraction Name is free.

Lambeth Palace

So you don’t have time to visit the biggies, but you still want to see a palace. The South Bank has a solution for you! This modest but still majorly impressive palace was for a very long time the home of the Archbishops of Canterbury (while in residence in London) and is still today a significant site for religious history. Take a detailed tour to learn all about the history of Lambeth Palace and to see all the beautiful artwork and architecture. Please note: This attraction is not available on the London Explorer Pass

Florence Nightingale Museum

Anyone familiar with the history of this British legend will love a chance to visit her museum. Famous for caring for British patients during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was an amazing woman with an amazing story. See artifacts from the war, examples of hospital and medical equipment from the period, as well as portraits of the lady herself. Please note: This attraction is not available on the London Explorer Pass

Save on South Bank Attraction Admission

There you have it – a few great recommendations for some of our favorite South Bank London attractions. Remember, a number of these great attraction options are available on the London Explorer Pass, where you can save up to 35% on combined admission vs paying at the gate. We hope you consider adding a few of these fun options to your upcoming vacation itinerary.

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