Over the past decade London’s Southbank has flourished into one of cities tourist hotspots. The Southbank is not only a place to head to for iconic London views, it has also become a place for a family day out or a place to catch up with friends over a bite to eat.
Being located next to Waterloo Station, my main train station into central London, I have spent a lot time in Southbank and each time I am pleased to discover something new about this bustling, ever-evolving part of the capital.
by Sam Buss;
Sam has lived in London her whole life and has a real passion for the city she calls home. When not writing she can be found one of London’s many craft beer pubs or board game cafes.;
What to see and do in Southbank?
1. See marine life at The Sea Life London Aquarium
If you are looking for a fun family day out then look no further than Europe’s largest collection of global marine life.
At the Sea Life London Aquarium children of all ages can learn about the wonderful marine life that lives in our oceans and sea.
Colourful displays, shows and interactive stands make for an engaging day out for all.
For an extra special date night, look out for the ‘Aquarium nights’ events held throughout the year. These special, ticket-only events are strictly for adults only, giving you the chance to see the aquarium without any kids in sight.
— Sam Buss
2. Visit London’s most popular tourist attraction – The Coca Cola London Eye
Previously known as the Millennium Wheel, due to its launch in 2000, The London Eye has become as Iconic to London as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.
The Coca Cola London Eye takes guests on a sightseeing journey 135m over the city, making it Europe’s largest ferris wheel.
Advance booking is advised, as The London Eye is currently the most popular paid tourist attraction in the whole of the United Kingdom!
3. Test your bravery at the London Dungeon
London is known worldwide for its centuries of history, a lot of that history is also quite dark and gruesome.
The London Dungeon recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a gallows humour style with the use of live actors and special effects.
Due to its dark side The London Dungeons are suitable for older children and adults, all of which will be guided through 19 live shows and 2 thrilling rides, where they will learn about everything from The Plague to Jack The Ripper.
4. Belly laugh at the Udderbelly Festival (Summer Only)
In my opinion there is not much better than London is the sunshine and one of my favourite places to spend it is alongside the Southbank at the Udderbelly Festival.
The outdoor seating area is the perfect place to grab a glass of Pimms with a friend before taking in one of the many rib tickling comedy shows which take place there over the summer months.
5. Take in a movie at the BFI Imax
Fan of the big screen? Well, screens do not come much bigger than the BFI Imax.
The London Imax boasts the biggest cinema screen in Great Britain, and with a complete surround sound experience it makes for marvellous place to see the newest release.
6. Marvel at an iconic London view
There are some fabulous attractions and things to do in the Southbank, but one of my favourite things to do is completely free – take in the view.
London’s Southbank resides along the Thames and boasts an impressive view of the houses of Parliament with the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) which sits opposite.
It is a great place just to sit, take photos and really take in the feel of London.
7. Learn about a true hero at the Florence Nightingale museum
Located on the banks of the river Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament, The Florence Nightingale museum celebrates the life and works of the World’s most famous nurse.
In honour of her legacy, the museum offs children and adults alike to learn about her influence on nursing today and the continuing relevance of her work.
8. Discover urban London at the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel is a free-for-all brick canvas tucked away in the heart of London’s street art scene.
Leake Street had its first introduction to spray cans in May 2008, when renowned street artist Banksy himself launched the Cans Festival and while there is not much left of Banksy’s work today, it is, in my opinion, one of the best places to see street art in the whole of London.
9. Feel festive at the Christmas Markets (winter only)
So earlier I mentioned the Udderbelly Festival during the summer months, but did you also know during winter the Southbank also turns festive?
During the months of November and December you can witness a traditional German Christmas market pop-up alongside the Thames. Except seasonal goodies, mulled wine and that festive feeling.
10. Fuel your wanderlust while eating cake at the Four Corners Travel cafe
Self-proclaimed as a cafe for dreamers and schemers, The Four Corners cafe is a perfect place to fuel your wanderlust.
At Four Corners you can eat cake and drink tea while being surrounded by travel souvenirs, including a ton of travel guidebooks – making it the place to go when you want to plan your next adventure across the globe.
11. See a unique show The Vaults
London’s West end is not the only place to head to if you enjoy the theatre, if you want to take in something a little less mainstream then you may want to head to The Vaults.
The Vault’s is London’s home for immersive and alternative theatre, set in a maze of disused railway arches under Waterloo station.
An evening show at The Vault’s encourages the use of imagination, often transporting guests into a different realm or reality.
12. Treat the family to a day at Shrek’s Adventure
Take the kids to Far Far Away to meet all their favourite characters of the Shrek movies we all know and love.
The one of a kind immersive walkthrough includes live shows, actors, special effects and incredible animation.
Your children will also get the chance to meet some of their favourite dreamworks heroes including Kung-fu Panda as well as the Ogre himself – Shrek!
13. Find something unique at Gabriel’s wharf
London’s Southbank is not necessarily known for its shopping, however, it is a good shout if you are looking for something unique.
Towards the end of the Southbank parade is an arty enclave offering a treasure trove of independent boutique stores.
At Gabriel’s Wharf you will find vintage stores nestled between handmade gift stores, as well as plenty of independent cafes and restaurants – making it the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon.
If you are looking for something truly unique for your wedding day then stop by Head Rules Heart at Gabriel’s Wharf. The boutique wedding store offers one of kind accessories and fascinators perfect for making you stand out in a crowd.
— Sam Buss
14. Visit the Southbank Beach
Beaches do not automatically come to mind when you think of London – but we have one and it resides along the Southbank.
Between the months of May and September you do not need to leave London to get to visit the seaside, as 85 tonnes of golden play sand is provided for the public, all you need to do is bring your bucket and spade.
15. See a different kind of history at the Southbank Skatepark
The undercroft of the Southbank Centre has been the beating heart of London’s skateboarding scene for the past 40 years.
The tunnelled area underneath Southbank’s buildings has been set aside to allow the skaters to show off their skills.
There is also a railing to prevent the hundreds of tourists who stop to watch from getting too close and potentially in the way.
16. Relax in the Jubilee Gardens
Situated in front of the London Eye is the Jubilee Gardens, a vibrant green area amongst some of London’s most famous tourist attractions.
The gardens provide a space to sit and relax during the summer months and there is even a play area to keep children entertained.
17. Be amazed at the Tate Modern
Renowned for some of its more bizarre pieces, The Tate Modern is the home of contemporary and modern art in London.
While it may not be for everyone, having your art displayed in the Tate Modern is a life dream of many artists and creators across the world.
Entry to the gallery is free, however, on occasion some exhibitions require a small fee.
The Tate Modern Cafe boats a spectacular view over the river and rooftops, with St Paul’s Cathedral dominating, it’s beauty unperturbed by the uniformly grey buildings framing it. Head up here to grab a smoothie or tea, while taking in one of the best yet cheapest views of London.
— Sam Buss
18. Have a dinner with a view in The Oxo Tower
You will find another fabulous view at the Oxo Tower, however this one also comes with a fabulous price tag to match.
Since its opening in 1996, the Oxo Tower has been a space for some of London’s best restaurants, where you can dine alongside breathtaking views of London’s skyline.
On the levels below you will find space created for artists and multiple exhibitions.
19. See a class at Shakespeare’s Globe
Shakespeare’s Globe is undoubtedly London’s most beautiful theatre.
Standing just a few hundred yards from its original site, the globe takes pride daily in remembering William Shakespeare and all of his plays.
Alongside seeing a play, you can also book tickets for guided tours and any current exhibitions.
20. Bring music to your ears at the Royal Festival Hall
The Royal Festival Hall is London’s leading classical music venue located on the banks ofthe River Thames at the heart of Southbank Centre.
Built in 1951 as part of the festival of Britain, the main auditorium is big enough to host 2500 people, so if you are looking to indulge in British culture of the classical type then you will want to pick up tickets to a show here.