Take a stroll along the dazzling South Bank, in the heart of central London. A hub of culture and creativity, the district features must-see attractions including the National Theatre, Southbank Centre and the London Eye. Come rain or shine, there’s plenty of fun activities to immerse yourself in with friends, family, or as part of a solo sightseeing trip. Attracting 30 million visitors annually, the buzzing hotspot has everything from outdoor food and book markets, to a skatepark and regular exhibitions.
While visiting South Bank is free, when you travel by train with a National Rail ticket, you’ll get 2FOR1 entry to attractions such as the London Eye, SEA LIFE London and The London Dungeon. Read on for more information on South Bank (London), including how to get there, things to do and places to stay.
South Bank is located in central London on the south side of the River Thames, stretching all the way from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge. It’s just minutes from London Waterloo on foot, making it the perfect spot to begin your adventures of the city.
Since parking is limited in the city, it’s recommended that you use public transport to get to London Waterloo and then walk to South Bank from there.
There are fantastic train links into London Waterloo from around the south west of England, including from Woking, Basingstoke, Guildford, Winchester, Haslemere, and Southampton. When you get to London Waterloo, follow station exit signs for London Eye or Southbank.
And remember, when you travel by train with a National Rail train ticket, you can get 2FOR1 tickets to some of the South Bank’s most exciting attractions. Check if your train ticket is eligible.
Things to do in South Bank, London
Perfect for solo explorers, couples, and family days out in London, South Bank offers a wide range of activities to keep visitors of all ages entertained. Come rain or shine, there’s plenty to do here including visiting the attractions, meandering along the walkways while admiring London’s skyline, indulging in a spot of shopping, revelling in the cultural offerings and enjoying the nightlife.
South Bank’s many attractions are ideal for keeping little ones entertained during Christmas, Easter or summer holidays. For a frightfully fun outing, head to shows at The London Dungeon, or discover Shrek’s Adventure! where kids can enjoy a 4D experience as well as interactive shows. For an educational trip that is far from boring, visit SEA LIFE London, home to sea creatures big and small.
If you’re heading to London with a partner or friends, experience the spectacular city sights from 443 feet high on the London Eye. Or board a city cruise from London Eye Waterloo Pier, where you’ll spot the Tower of London and more by boat. Alternatively, simply wander along the riverside and look on in awe at the stunning city views.
On sunnier days out in London’s South Bank, soak up the rays on the manicured lawns of the Jubilee Gardens, complete with an adventure playground to keep the kids busy, plus views of the London Eye and other famous sights. Walk a little further, and between the Oxo Tower and Gabriel’s Wharf you’ll also find the beautiful Bernie Spain Gardens, surrounded by boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
See spectacular street art at the renowned Leake Street tunnel, which is constantly transforming as artists from around the world make their mark. A cheap but memorable day out, the outdoor activities at South Bank are free to visit and suitable for all seasons whether you’re venturing through the Christmas market or taking a spring-time stroll.
Filled with creative exhibitions and imaginative architecture, South Bank is a pivotal part of London for arts and culture aficionados. On your waterside walk, look out for Art Deco and Brutalist buildings, particularly the contemporary art space that is Hayward Gallery, along with quirky structures and historical monuments. If you’re looking to dip into the action, discover shows at the numerous venues in the area including House of Vans and The Vaults.
For school trips and history buffs, a visit to the Imperial War Museum’s award-winning galleries is a must. Alternatively, catch a play at the National Theatre, The Old Vic or the Young Vic, or see one of the South Bank Centre’s many performances, talks and concerts.
The fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down at South Bank, as there are plenty of night-time activities to keep you entertained. For incredible exhibitions, plus great talks and events, head to the swanky Mezzanine at the BFI. Check out the many free exhibitions at the National Theatre or visit the world’s longest-running artist-curated music festival, Meltdown, which runs in June every year.
The South Bank’s shopping facilities are an underrated gem, where you can pick out treats to remind you of your visit. Ideal for perusing unusual and artisan gifts, there are plenty of shops to be found. The Southbank Centre Shop is full of goodies for children and adults alike, with coffee table books, trinkets and even jewellery on its shelves.
Head to Gabriel’s Wharf for everything from fashion to fabulously-chic furnishings, while design fans will delight in the OXO Tower Wharf shops – some of the pieces are even made in South Bank. There will soon be a new shopping centre in London Waterloo, too, which is set to be filled with a carefully-curated selection of brands.
Food and drink
From fine British fare to sumptuous veggie eateries and brilliant breakfast spots, South Bank has it all, so you’ll never be short of places to eat and drink when you visit. Catering for every occasion, you can kick back at a riverside bar or glam up for a special meal at one of its many venues.
Dig into a hearty breakfast at Côte Brasserie, Founder’s Arms, Mulberry Bush, Albion or Strada before exploring the stretch. Or, if you’re looking for a satisfying meal on-the-go, explore one of the markets around London Waterloo such as the Southbank Centre Food Market and Lower Marsh Market, which have a multitude of delicious street eats to choose from. The Cut – a street that stretches between Waterloo and Southwark – is also home to a variety of cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of options in The Green Room, Locale and Pieminister – their tofu 'chicken' Mock-a-Doodle pie is a must-try. And if you’re in town for a special occasion, take your meal to the next level by dining at the sublime Skylon Restaurant and Bar, The Refinery, Camino Bankside, the Sea Containers Restaurant or Seabird.
Places to stay
Given its superb location in the heart of the city, South Bank is the perfect place to stay during your London trip. There’s no shortage of options, whether you’re splashing out on a luxurious getaway or simply looking for a cosy place to rest your head after a day of fun.
For a decadent treat with impressive views of the city, opt for Bankside Hotel or London Marriott County Hall. Enjoy the offerings of a boutique hotel at Sea Containers London, Hoxton Southwark or CitizenM London Bankside.
Or, for a fuss-free, budget stay where all your needs are taken care of, Hilton London Bankside, Premier Inn County Hall Hotel, Park Plaza County Hall, ibis London Blackfriars or Novotel London Blackfriars are all close to the heart of the action.
South Bank (London) accessibility
South Bank and the Southbank Centre ensure that there is access for everyone, including step-free accessibility and assistance for blind and visually impaired visitors. Contact the Southbank Centre to inform them of your access needs and queries ahead of your visit.