Discover the South Bank
This area sparkles with attractions – not least the EDF Energy London Eye. Explore our interactive maps to inspire your next visit
With stunning views of the Thames, the Houses of Parliament to the west and St Paul’s to the east, a day spent along the South Bank is one of the most wonderful introductions to London that you can offer friends who are staying with you from out of town. Take your time exploring some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks, stopping here or there for a drink, and sample one of the many world cuisines on offer at restaurants that overlook the river.
Below the London Eye sits the elegant London Eye Millennium Pier – great for jumping on a boat to sail down the Thames. Get onboard the stylish London Eye Barracuda from here and you can see London without all that walking. This two-hour indulgence includes music, an afternoon tea with champagne, smoked salmon and scones, and a fast track ticket onto the London Eye before or after your sailing.
While you’re taking in the sights, you’ll find plenty of excuses to stop and browse South Bank’s eclectic shops, too. Find stylish stationery, elegant designer furniture and unique gifts at the Southbank Centre Shop on Festival Terrace, and a branch of Foyles bookshop on the Southbank Centre’s Riverside. Through the week, there are also often stalls along Jubilee Walk and the piazza at the back of Royal Festival Hall.
About ten minutes’ walk from the London Eye, you’ll find this fascinating little museum. Located in a discreet corner of St Thomas’ Hospital (where the pioneering nurse founded a nurses’ training school in Victorian times), the galleries here tell the story of Nightingale’s life and achievements. It also presents exhibitions and regular events.
Set inside the Royal Festival Hall, with a row of window tables that enjoy glorious views of the river, Skylon is a fabulous place to eat when you have a special occasion to mark. Go for a cocktail in the sumptuous bar, treat guests to lunch in the more formal restaurant, or keep things relaxed with a brasserie-style dinner at the Grill.
Walk east along the riverside and you come to Bankside. Here, The Globe is an evocative and unique theatre experience. Its annual season attracts the greatest actors, and audiences enjoy sitting or standing to watch the action as their ancestors might have done in William Shakespeare’s time. This year’s main season (April to October) is now booking and includes performances of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' and 'Macbeth'.
Anyone new to London should take a stroll around the magnificent building and permanent collection (free entry) of this world-class art gallery, which is also on Bankside and stands virtually next door to The Globe. The current blockbuster exhibition is devoted to the iconic pop art work of Roy Lichtenstein. For a different perspective, pop along to one of their concerts or have lunch in one of their great cafés.
For decades, the National Theatre’s various performance spaces have played host to groundbreaking plays, and many acting legends have appeared here. The daily backstage tours offer a glimpse into the National’s incredible history. There are also tours suitable for families, and special event talks with actors, playwrights and directors. On selected Saturdays, you can discover more about the craft of the costume department, too.
The Old Vic is one of London’s great theatres and since Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey became artistic director in 2003, its programme has been consistently excellent. The current run of Terence Rattigan’s 'The Winslow Boy' (until May 25) is receiving rave reviews, but lovers of 'Sex and the City' might want to wait until Kim Cattrall appears in the powerful Tennessee Williams classic 'Sweet Bird of Youth' (June 1-August 31).