London/South Bank

View of the London Eye at night

The South Bank is the tip of a peninsula of the Thames in central London and one the city's cultural centres. It is a small area but it contains many artistic and creative sites, as well as an eclectic range of other attractions, boutique shopping and trendy food and drink places. The size of the district, as well as the pedestrianised area along the bank of the River Thames called "The Queen's Walk" (part of the Thames Path and the Jubilee Walkway) – casually, the London South Bank Walk – make it ideal for exploring by simply strolling around.

Understand

The South Bank has long been associated with the arts. In the Middle Ages, its position just south of the City of London, but outside the reach of its laws, made it an entertainment hub for the citizens, featuring everything from theatres to prostitution (both illegal in the medieval City). This waned for a time as customs changed but waxed again in modern times. In 1951 the "Festival of Britain" was held on this site, intended to give the nation a sense of recovery after the war, and the area was redeveloped to accommodate it. Much of the Southbank Centre dates from this event, as can be inferred from its brutalist concrete architecture.

Further around the peninsula, almost directly opposite The City, is the area known simply as Bankside. This straightforward name is derived from the equally uncomplicated Middle English Banke syde. The same factors that shaped the South Bank were at work here and many medieval theatres stood here, including William Shakespeare's Globe (now marked by a replica). The rowdier neighbourhood also helped justify the Clink, one of the oldest prisons in England. Close by is Borough Market, which has been here in some form since at least the thirteenth century (and may even be Anglo-Saxon). Due to its position near the principal docks of the city, it became one of London's most important food markets in the nineteenth century and was known as "London's Larder". It retains a similar position now, although rather more fashionable and popular with "foodies" than would have been the case for its previous incarnations.

Shad Thames (or Butler's Wharf) is the part of this district furthest to the east. In juxtaposition to the rest of the area, the history of this part is industrial—for example, it held the largest warehouse complex in Victorian London. Now, however, its proximity to The City, just across Tower Bridge, makes its population are largely city workers and its property prices are appropriately high. For the traveller, the restaurants and similar destination here are also frequented by wealthy city workers and consequently somewhat expensive and upmarket.

The whole district is within easy walking distance of Covent Garden, Soho, Westminster and the City of London. It is the perfect location for a relaxing stroll and a spot of people watching. You can take in beautiful views across to the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s, especially in the early morning and at dusk, and the packed programme of theatre, exhibitions, music, film and free events means there are plenty of inspiring things to see and do for all ages.

Get in

By tube

The district is serviced by the following tube stations:

On the north bank, with easy access to this district, are:

By rail

South Bank

Bankside

By bus

The Riverside Bus service (RV1) is a great way to get around. It links over thirty of London’s attractions on its route from the South Bank to Bankside, London Bridge, Tower Gateway and Covent Garden.

By boat

The district is serviced by the following piers:

The Tate Boat runs every 40 minutes between Tate Modern and Tate Britain (Millbank Pier), also stopping at the London Eye. It takes 20 minutes.

By foot

This district borders on several others and is easily accessible by walking, or similar, from these. (The southern districts, Lambeth and London/Southwark-Lewisham, are larger and walking from the further parts of these is no practical; otherwise, any point in the other neighbouring districts is within reach of South Bank.) The pedestrian Hungerford Bridge links Embankment to the South Bank Centre and all road bridges have pavements for pedestrians too. Additionally, the whole area can be reasonably navigated on foot or by wheelchair.

By bicycle

As above, the district borders several others and cycling from most parts of these districts to South Bank is reasonably early.

For travellers without personal bicycles, there is a London-wide Barclays Cycle Hire scheme run by Transport for London. These bikes can be rented for short or long periods using a credit or debit card at any docking station (if staying in London for a long term, special keys can be bought from Transport for London for use instead of a card, which can be cheaper over time).

See

Landmarks

South Bank

From west to east:

Bankside

Museums and galleries

View into the main Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern
Tate Modern

From west to east:

Do

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Theatres

Tours

Itineraries

Buy

Eat

There is a great selection of cafes, bars and restaurants for all budgets, so make sure you take time to watch the world go by. Have a light lunch at the cool Concrete day/night bar in The Hayward, a try crepe in Gabriel’s Wharf, or treat yourself to cocktails-with-a-view at the upmarket Skylon or Oxo Tower Restaurant. There’s also ‘Japanese tapas’ at Bincho and Japanese favourite Wagamama, dim sum at Ping Pong, contemporary English at Canteen, modern oriental at Ozu and Chino Latino, and a brasserie-style menu at Tamesa.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Pubs and bars

South Bank

The cultural centre on the western side of the peninsula includes several notable drinking establishments.

Southwark

The non-riverside core of the district doesn't have quite as many drinking establishments as the other areas but there are places worth visiting.

Bankside

The area around Borough Market, directly opposite The City, attracts as many pubs as it does restaurants.

Shad Thames

The area by Tower Bridge contains some of the best pubs in the city.

Clubs

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

The Southbank Centre, the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall, the BFI Southbank and the BFI IMAX all have free wi-fi available. The London Eye's ticket office, and the area immediately surrounding it, also has free wi=fi.

Waterloo Station offers fifteen minutes of free wi-fi (per 24-hours) after which you will have to register and buy additional access.

The Cloud provides pay-only wi-fi along the Festival Riverside (by the Thames, in front of the Southbank Centre).

London Marriott Hotel County Hall and the local Park Plaza hotels offer free wi-fi, with connection details available at their receptions.

Go next

Routes through South Bank

Leicester Square Covent Garden  W  E  Southwark-Lewisham END
North London Westminster  W  E  Southwark-Lewisham East London
Leicester Square Covent Garden ← Charing Cross branch  N  S  Charing Cross branch → Southwark-Lewisham South London
North London The City ← Bank branch  N  S  Bank branch → Southwark-Lewisham South London
END  W  E  The City END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 19, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.