London Eye
Ian Packham

Things to do in South Bank London

Born out of the 1951 Festival of Britain and home to the London Eye, London’s South Bank occupies a prime area of riverside between Blackfriars and Lambeth Bridges. With views across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament, and galleries, theaters and other major attractions to keep you entertained, the South Bank is an unmissable part of the London cultural scene. Check out the top things to do in South Bank London right here!

Enjoy the riverside location

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With so many familiar landmarks and photographic opportunities it would be difficult to list them all, London’s South Bank is a part of the capital you’ll want to tackle on foot. Running uninterrupted from Lambeth Bridge to the west through to Tower Bridge in the east, the Queen’s Walk follows the banks of the Thames past many of the neighborhood’s big ticket attractions.

However, don’t miss the temptation to detour down its warren of side streets, which amongst other points of interest include the graffiti of Leake Street tunnel and the Old Vic Theatre – established in 1818 and still one of London’s most important performances spaces.

Initially constructed as a temporary attraction to celebrate the new millennium in the year 2000, the London Eye has become a firm fixture on London itineraries. With a diameter of 120 meters, it’s one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels, although what sets it apart from the competition is its unrivalled views of the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral. On clear days, the views stretch 65 kilometers.

Sticking firmly in the area, Gabriel’s Wharf is a little bit of authentic London within the glitz and glamor of the riverside. A pedestrianized thoroughfare lined with independent stores, cafés and restaurants, it has something for everyone, including access to the urban beach which appears on the Queen’s Walk each summer.

Take your pick of South Bank’s museums

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When it comes to things to do in South Bank London, its museums should be high on your must-do list. Edging its southern boundary, the Imperial War Museum blends spectacular displays – the main atrium is hung with a Spitfire and V2 rockets – and the voices of ordinary citizens during times of conflict. Recognizable by the giant naval guns that dominate its front façade, also keep an eye out for the slither of Berlin Wall that sits in the gardens.

Green spaces remain the theme of London’s Garden Museum. Using the former Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth as its exhibition space, it displays objects from 400 years of gardening, including the recreation of a 17th Century knot garden. Because of its previous life, the gardens also contain several tombs, such as that to Vice-Admiral William Bligh, the man who survived the Mutiny on the Bounty.

Next door to the Garden Museum is the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the country’s most senior Church of England cleric. Lambeth Palace opens its gardens to the public just a few times each year, most commonly on the first Friday of the month during the spring, with admission fees going to local charities.

Spend an afternoon at the Southbank Centre

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The bare concrete form of the Southbank Centre is an unavoidable presence filling 11 acres of prime real estate with auditoria, galleries, libraries and their adjoining meeting points. Providing performance space for no less than eight orchestras, traveling art exhibitions and a busy calendar of live events, the center is a hub of action right through the day.

The Hayward Gallery hosts three or four exhibitions on modern and contemporary art each year, with past smash hit shows dedicated to Roy Lichtenstein and Bridget Riley. Meanwhile, the National Theatre, the brainchild of Sir Lawrence Olivier, has brought Hollywood royalty to its stage – Helen Mirren, Glen Close and Julie Walters are just a few of its well-known names.

Things to do at the Southbank Centre also include looking for books at the secondhand market, admiring the tricks of the skateboarders in the Undercroft and soaking in the river views from the rooftop garden bar – and that’s when there’s no official event taking place!

For epic cinema experiences, turn your attention to the Odeon BFI IMAX a three minute walk away. Containing the largest screen in the UK, screenings vary between specially created movies and some of the top blockbusters of the moment.

Things to do in South Bank with the kids

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Surely one of the most unusual locations for a day out with the kids, South Bank’s County Hall is a listed building, putting it on a par with Westminster Bridge and the BBC’s Broadcasting House for national significance. But enter its interior and you’ll be faced with a very different scene from when it was home to the Greater London Council in the 1980s.

Situated on the riverfront beside the London Eye, its central portion has been taken over by Shrek’s Adventure!, comprising a live immersive walk-through of a brand new story involving the world’s favorite ogre.

Monsters – human and otherwise – are also in abundance amid the rides and live actors of The London Dungeon next door. Featuring 19 shows and two rides, it takes visitors on a tour of a thousand years of history, stopping by events such as the 1605 Gunpowder Plot and the streets of Whitechapel as they were terrorized by Jack the Ripper.

Altogether more wholesome is the SEA LIFE Center London Aquarium. In the same County Hall building, highlights include the Shark Walk tunnel, a small colony of penguins and the country’s largest living coral reef in a tank 12 meters long.

Discover the wonder of London’s South Bank

Welcome to London’s South Bank, a small area of the British capital big on attractions. Easily accessible by train and Tube, this once humble south London neighborhood now contains some of the most loved attractions in the city.

Things to do in South Bank London include floating above the Thames in one of the pods of the London Eye and sinking to the depths of the ocean in the London Aquarium. In between, there’s narrow streets dating back centuries, important museum collections and a fine array of restaurants too. Explore with Go City and you’ll be able to make great savings as you discover the South Bank for yourself!

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