Enjoy London’s summer with a day on the Southbank

August 5, 2014 9:00 am

Ask any Londoner what one of their favourite things to do in London is, or where their favourite place to go is, and we’ll bet you a steaming cuppa their likely answer is the Southbank. A favourite haunt of locals and visitors alike, the Southbank attracts hordes of people on a daily basis; no matter the season, or the hour.

What is the Southbank? It’s the southern bank of the Thames, stretching from the London Eye and Aquarium, opposite the Houses of Parliament, all the way down to the Tate Modern and Blackfriars Bridge. Known as one of London’s most cultural hubs, it’s home to the National Theatre, the British Film Institute and the London Television Centre. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a famous face as UK premieres are usually hosted in the area, too.

The best time to visit the Southbank (due to popular belief) is during the summer when you can spend all day exploring the man-made beaches, coastal-inspired beach-huts and pop-up shops – not to mention the museums and landmarks along the way.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Southbank is the sweeping views over the Thames, which stretch down to the iconic MI5 buildings by Vauxhall, all the way up to Greenwich. Ok, you might not be able to see that far without bendable binoculars, but a quiet walk along the Southbank offers you a wealth of sightseeing opportunities from a totally unique perspective. Stand back and admire the spires of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, not to mention the huge clock face at Big Ben, and observe the ever changing urban landscape of London.

Hungerford Bridge, which links Waterloo to the Embankment, could mark this area as the ‘centre’ of the Southbank. Lined with restaurants and bars it’s a great place to go for a jug of Pimms and a bite to eat as the sun goes down. To the west of you is the London Eye and Aquarium – and the pop-up Udderbelly which runs from April-July every summer – and to the east, the daily book fair under the arch, a popular skate park and the quirky Gabriel’s Wharf full of independent shops, a top notch fish and chippy and unique wood carvings to picnic on.

The Queen’s Walk promenade takes you up further along the river to the iconic Oxo Tower which serves as another notable Southbank landmark, full of gallery spaces and craft shops to explore (perfect for finding that really unique souvenir, too!) If you fancy something a little more special, take the lift up to the Oxo Tower’s brasserie and dine at the high end restaurant overlooking the Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral for a truly memorable Southbank experience.

Further east and you’ll come to the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where you can catch some of the Bard’s most famous plays including Anthony & Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and King Lear among many others. Tickets start at just £5 for standing – an unbeatable price! Around the corner from the Globe is the Tudor ship the Golden Hinde II – a perfect reconstruction of the 16th century ship sailed by Sir Francis Drake, worth a visit if you’ve got kids who love tales of the sea and piracy!

To end on a real cultural high, the Tate Modern is the perfect place to complete your experience of the Southbank and Bankside (just to get particular). The Tate Modern hosts around 4.7 million visitors a year and is held in an old power station, which accounts for its industrial feel and huge open spaces. Displaying works from 1900 to today, there’s a wide range of artworks to explore, including Henri Matisse on show this summer.

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