Packed with cultural hot spots and boasting a uniquely laid-back atmosphere, the South Bank district is a must for anyone curious about London life. Locals and visitors alike stroll the riverbank for striking views of Westminster and beyond, or pop into any of the museums, galleries, theaters, or pubs for which the area is famous.
South Bank boasts many of London’s top landmarks, and a number of city sightseeing tours offer the opportunity to explore by foot or boat. The London Eye and the London Dungeon are popular family-friendly attractions, while art enthusiasts flock to the Tate Modern and Tate Britain. Southbank Centre hosts many cultural events across its venues, and the National Theatre, Young Vic, and Old Vic offer affordable and trendy West End alternatives.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Popular with hip locals, culture vultures, and families, the vibrant district offers something for everyone.
- London’s national museums and galleries are free to visit, but shows and special exhibitions charge an entry fee.
- South Bank’s brutalist architecture can lead to big puddles in the rainy months, so it’s a good idea to pack an umbrella and water-repellent shoes.
- The wide, paved riverside paths are wheelchair-friendly and most attractions offer access, though some do have restrictions.
How to Get There
Waterloo Station, nestled in the heart of South Bank, is served by the Jubilee, Bakerloo, and Northern lines, as well as direct National Rail links to Clapham Junction. Westminster, Blackfriars, and Embankment stations are also located nearby. South Bank is easily accessed by river bus and city cruiser, with London Eye and Festival piers serving the area.
When to Get There
As throughout the rest of London, there is always something happening along the South Bank, making it well worth a visit at any time of year. Winter brings Christmas markets and festive decorations, while funfairs and festivals arrive between April and August.
South Bank Through the Ages
Though South Bank as it exists today is a relatively new district, the south bank of the Thames has been an entertainment hub since the Middle Ages. Even in Elizabethan England, it provided a popular escape from heavy regulation in the city, with draws including Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre. Today, a reconstructed Globe sits farther along the bank, and visitors can catch a show from the traditional standing yard.