Just across the river from the Houses of Parliament, the South Bank area of London was energised during the 1951 Festival of Britain by the iconic modern architecture of the Southbank Centre, featuring the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery, the Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall.
This area stretches between Westminster and London Bridges on the south side of the river, and is a perfect location for a sunny day's stroll. There is always a special event going on, as well as a fantastic range of entertainment, arts and dining venues to discover. For a more high-adrenalin sightseeing tour, you can even whizz down the Thames on a speedboat and take in the spectacular views.
Bankside, the South Bank and Waterloo are easy to access: use London Bridge and Waterloo train stations, Blackfriars, London Bridge, Southwark or Waterloo Tube stations, or take one of the numerous buses that travel to the area.
London WaterlooConvenient for access to the South East of England by overland train, London Waterloo is also served by the Jubilee, Northern and Bakerloo lines on the Tube. If you head towards the river from London Waterloo, you will find the Florence Nightingale Museum, the SEA LIFE London Aquarium, the London Eye, the Southbank Centre and the BFI Imax. A new addition to the South Bank is The London Dungeon, which moved here from its location near London Bridge in 2013.
Venturing south instead, will take you to theatregoers' favourites the Old Vic, the Young Vic as well as the shops and market stalls along Lower Marsh. There are plenty of great dining options in this area, from riverside dining at Skylon to dim sum at Ping Pong, or gastro-pub grub at the Anchor and Hope. If that's enough to tempt you into an overnight stay in the area, there are plenty of hotels close to Waterloo.
East of Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank
The riverside walkway is perfect for people watching, spending lazy afternoons in a pavement café or browsing in one of the area's many book and art shops or regular markets. You can see a show at the National Theatre, browse the designer boutiques in the Oxo Tower and Gabriel's Wharf, or enjoy family fun at BFI Southbank. You'll also find excellent cuisine and a chic bar at the Oxo Tower Restaurant and a range of Italian and French cafés at Gabriel's Wharf; while the National Theatre's Terrace Bar is perfect for a relaxing drink.
East of Blackfriars bridge, the area becomes known as Bankside. This is one of the oldest parts of London – entrepreneurs, artists and revellers have flocked here for almost 2,000 years. Bankside is also one of London's most vibrant areas, with a heady mix of culture, foodie delights, attractions and architecture.
Situated along the Thames, Bankside is dominated by Tate Modern, one of the world's finest art galleries.The quirky streets around Tate Modern are perfect for exploring on foot – with galleries including Bankside Gallery and Jerwood Space, and the trendy shops and restaurants of Bankside Mix waiting to be discovered. Playwrights have gathered here since Shakespeare's time, and the area remains a centre for creativity, with the likes of Shakespeare's Globe and the converted Menier Chocolate Factory offering world-class productions. It's also a great area for an immersive historical experience: try the Golden Hinde ship or the Clink Prison Museum.
Time for a drink? Historic pubs such as The George and The Anchor have long been favoured by famous Londoners – from Charles Dickens to Samuel Pepys – or search out The Rake, London's smallest bar. If you fancy a tipple, head to Vinopolis, Bankside's unique wine-tasting attraction, which also features the Whisky Exchange shop and tasting room.
Bankside was once known as London's larder. It's a title that lives on today in the fresh produce of Borough Market and the wealth of fine restaurants, pavement cafés and outlets surrounding it.