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South Bank London Sightseeing Guide

4th October 2015

It’s almost impossible to believe, looking at the thronging, restless cast of merrymakers that form such a part of today’s South Bank, that this area of London was once half-dead, all but obliterated by Second World War bombing.

The first new shoots were the cheery, futuristic structures built for the 1951 Festival of Britain – only the Grade I-listed Royal Festival Hall remains – followed by the National Theatre complex downstream.

Now the two kilometres of pedestrianised bank between Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges, across the river from Whitehall and Charing Cross, is a ball of energy, alive with theatres, cinemas, concert halls, show tents, street performers, bars, restaurants and cafes.

 London's South Bank with City Hall (Image: Getty)

How To Get There


Stroll across the Hungerford Pedestrian Bridges from Embankment Tube station, or for the best views, across Waterloo Bridge from the Aldwych.

Tube or train

Waterloo Station & Underground at one end and Blackfriars Station and Underground at the other, both accessible overland or by Tube .


The RV1, a single-decker riverside bus, stops by the London Eye before zipping along to London Bridge. Waterloo is served by numerous buses, shown on the TfL website.


There’s a pier at the London Eye, served by City Cruises and Thames Clippers.

 Ferries can dock at the London Eye, one of the city's sightseeing highlights (Image: Getty)

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Tour Or No Tour?

The Southbank London website has downloadable walks themed for families, history/architecture, cultural kicks or indulgence, but really it’s an area that’s all about the moment, just letting yourself be swirled along and joining in with whatever’s happening (there’s always something.)


Pop into the National Theatre or Southbank Centre before the evening shows; there’s usually a free performance – chamber orchestra, readings, writer discussions – on offer.

Start the day with a hour-long Sunrise Yoga session by Agua Spa in the Rumpus Room of the Mondrian Hotel, high above Blackfriars Bridge, at 7.30am.

The Sherling High-Level Walkway is a chance to peer into the National Theatre’s backstage area as they prepare for new productions. The gallery walk above the Dorfman Theatre has been planned by one of the production designers.

 The National Theatre (Image: Getty)

Best Time To Visit

September, when the weather’s often lovely and the annual festival Totally Thames is rocking the river, but attention is slowly turning indoors for a packed autumn of events.

Where To Eat

For great views, eat at Skylon at the Royal Festival Hall, which serves contemporary European food using British ingredients wherever possible.

For buzz, try out packed cafe, bar and restaurant The Riverfront at the BFI, which is run by Benugo. There’s a cafe bar at the front and a more sophisticated restaurant and big u-shaped bar at the back.

Best bar-with-a-view by far is the Rumpus Room on top of the Mondrian Hotel (see above), which also hosts live jazz Skyline Sessions on Wednesdays at 7pm.

Best View

From the top of the London Eye, of course, as you sail slowly up to the apex of the wheel at 135 metres high, looking for the Wembley Arch on the horizon. Book for sunset, as the sun sinks and the city lights up.

South Bank Tip

It’s not just the river: a short walk south around The Cut, Lower Marsh and The Old Vic Theatre are some great little restaurants, local pubs and street markets.

For the latest deals on travel, browse our great range of offers online, visit your local Escape Travel or call 1300 556 855.

This article was written by Sophie Campbell from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.