An estimated 14 million people come this way each year, and it's easy to see why. Between the London Eye and Tower Bridge, the South Bank offers a two-mile procession of diverting, largely state-funded arts and entertainment venues and events.
The area's modern-day life began in 1951 with the Festival of Britain, staged to boost morale in the wake of World War II. The Royal Festival Hall stands testament to the inclusive spirit of the project; it was later expanded into the Southbank Centre, alongside BFI Southbank and the concrete ziggurat of the National Theatre. But the riverside really took off in the new millennium, with the arrival of the London Eye, Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and the expansion of Borough Market.
South Bank highlights
South Bank restaurants
After a lengthy stroll along the riverside, the many budget and mid-priced chain restaurants on the South Bank can come as great relief. But for something a bit more special, Skylon is modern and chic (with amazing views), and Benugo has solved BFI Southbank's long-running problem of feeding its cinemagoers properly. House at the National Theatre is also a treat. Think we've missed a great restaurant along the South Bank? Let us know in the comment box below.
What's happening on the South Bank this week
WOW: Women of the World Festival
This festival celebrating all that is great about women and girls (and all the great things they have achieved) is back for a fifth year in 2015 with a week...
Waterloo's underground theatre festival gains a family-friendly world of fun for 2015 in Mini Vault, with a line-up packed with lively performances to please...
Venues on the South Bank
National Theatre, The Shed
The latest, temporary addition to the National Theatre family is this striking temporary structure in front of the main building (occupying the area normally take up by Watch This Space, which is taking the summer off). A replacement for the Cottesloe – which is currently being done up, and will reopen next year as the Dorfman – The Shed is a more intimate black box studio, with a seating capacity of just 200 and no backstage area to speak of. It sports a hipper, more lo-fi programme than the Cottesloe, with acclaimed visiting shows and experimental original work.
Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden Bar & Café
First planted as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951, this rooftop area was left to become concrete tundra for decades. But with guidance from the Eden Project, this rooftop is now replanted every summer. In addition to the Astroturf there is now a real lawn, large planters of vegetables and a wildflower ‘meadow’. The café is run by caterer Company of Cooks, so expect a selection of decent pastries and savoury snacks (with the occasional hot sarnie, too), plus glasses of Pimm’s or pink gin lemonade (both £6.90).