Things to do in South Bank and Waterloo

A man cycling a bike and another person sat on a bench at Westminster with the London Eye in the background
A view of the London Eye and Southbank from Westminster. Credit: Michael Barrow/London & Partners.
Find culture, foodie treats and family fun in South Bank and Waterloo, which is home to the London Eye, National Theatre and Southbank Centre.

Spend the day wandering around South Bank and Waterloo, the home of many attractions including the iconic London Eye, SEA LIFE London Aquarium and the London Dungeon.

You can catch a performance or film at the National Theatre, the Southbank Centre and BFI IMAX, or head over to the Old Vic and Young Vic theatres. 

Feeling peckish? Find many places to eat in South Bank and Waterloo, explore the restaurants and bars along the river, in the street-art-covered Leake Street Arches and around quirky Gabriel's Wharf.

Where are South Bank and Waterloo?

A perfect spot for a stroll on a sunny day, South Bank stretches between Lambeth Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge on the south side of the river Thames. While South Bank is the district right next to the river, Waterloo is the neighbourhood that extends inland and around Waterloo train station.

Things to do in South Bank and Waterloo

Waterloo and South Bank were energised by the iconic modern architecture of the Southbank Centre, and the area has continued to evolve into a top destination for families, culture lovers and foodies.

Don’t miss annual events and pop-ups, from the Southbank Centre's Winter Festival to family-friendly events, that will keep you coming back to South Bank and Waterloo throughout the year.

Attractions and museums in South Bank and Waterloo

Two people walk in front of the pods of the London Eye.
Enjoy 360 degree views of London with a trip on the London Eye. © London & Partners/Michael Barrow

Enjoy many memorable moments along the bank of the Thames.

  • Prep your camera and step into a pod at the iconic London Eye, as you embark on a 30-minute flight full of London landmarks.
  • Stroll the pedestrianised Queen's Walk, a riverside walkway between Lambeth Bridge and Tower Bridge that's perfect for people-watching, lazy afternoons at a pavement cafe, and browsing through bookshops and market stalls.
  • In summer, find a secret hideaway at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden. Relax with a book and soak up the sun or grab a cocktail to sip on among the plants.
  • Learn about the history of British gardening at The Garden Museum, housed in the converted church of St Mary-at-Lambeth.
  • Peek inside one of London's few remaining medieval buildings at Lambeth Palace, where you can take a guided tour of the crypt, guard room, chapel and library.

Family favourites in South Bank and Waterloo

Image of children in front of fish tank at SEA LIFE London's Rainforest Adventure!
Entertain the kids on a family trip to the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. Image courtesy of Stripe Communications.

Find some of London's top attractions for kids in South Bank and Waterloo. 

Best activities for teens in South Bank and Waterloo

People enjoying a boat ride, with their hands up in the air on a bright day.
Speed down the Thames while taking in the iconic views of London. Image courtesy of Thames Rockets.

Enjoy epic days out with teens in tow along South Bank and Waterloo, from free gigs to thrills on wheels and water.

  • The Undercroft of the Southbank Centre, a haven for skateboarders, is the world’s oldest continually used skate park.
  • Venture onto the river and get the adrenaline pumping with a fast-paced speedboat tour with Thamesjet or Thames Rockets.
  • BFI Southbank and BFI IMAX are the places to be for big-screen treats, from the latest film releases to much-loved classics.
  • Instagram-worthy Leake Street Tunnel is full of constantly changing street art. Keep an eye out for workshops to have a go yourself.

South Bank and Waterloo's cultural hangouts

The Southbank Centre's Hayward Gallery on a bright day, with some people sitting at the desks in front of the building.
Admire the brutalist architecture and modern artworks at The Hayward Gallery. Credit: Morley von Sternberg. Image courtesy of the Hayward Gallery.

Get your culture fix at South Bank and Waterloo's many world-class entertainment venues.

Where to shop in South Bank and Waterloo

People browsing through stalls of books at the Southbank Centre Book Market.
Hunt for your new favourite read at the Southbank Centre Book Market. Image courtesy of South Bank BID.

Find one-of-a-kind items at local markets, boutiques and independent shops in South Bank and Waterloo.

  • Browse the designer boutiques in Oxo Tower Wharf to find treasures from ceramics to custom jewellery.
  • Hunt for goodies at the independent shops lining picturesque Gabriel's Wharf.
  • Peruse paperbacks and hunt for hardbacks at Southbank Centre Book Market under Waterloo Bridge.
  • Grab fresh produce and hot takeaway meals from the market stalls and shops along Lower Marsh.

Best restaurants in South Bank and Waterloo

A place of varous brightly coloured vegetables and leaves.
Enjoy a menu of seasonal delights at Skylon. Image courtesy of Skylon Restaurant.

Splash out on fine dining, taste a quirky new dish or savour the views from your table at South Bank and Waterloo's eclectic mix of restaurants.

  • Plenty of fine dining restaurants in South Bank and Waterloo are ideal for celebrations. Try the terrace at Oxo Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie, trendy Seabird on The Hoxton hotel's rooftop, or panoramic Skylon at Royal Festival Hall.
  • Savour a side helping of river views with your prime cut at Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar in London Marriott Hotel County Hall or tuck into a quintessential afternoon tea in the hotel’s Library, where you can enjoy spectacular views over the Thames and Westminster.
  • Explore the selection of bars, cafes and restaurants at Gabriel’s Wharf.
  • Are you seeing a show at the National Theatre? It’s home to two restaurants, two cafes and even indoor street-market stalls for a pre-show meal.
  • Take your pick from authentic Polish fare at Mamuśka or American treats at Passyunk Avenue in the Leake Street Arches.
  • Looking for delicious food on the go? Southbank Centre Food Market is bursting with all sorts of flavours and takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Bars for a fun night out in South Bank and Waterloo

Grab a drink and unwind in one of the many bars in South Bank and Waterloo. These bars serve it all, from cocktails to craft beer.

  • If you're craving a cocktail, head to Sea Containers’ destination bar Lyaness, which mixes unusual creations with sweeping river views.
  • If beer’s more your bag, head to The Understudy at The National Theatre for keg-loads of options from craft breweries.
  • Underneath the arches leading to Waterloo Station, you’ll find Topolski, the former studio of Polish expressionist painter and draughtsman Feliks Topolski that's been turned into a bar and restaurant.
  • Are you looking for a night out with fun activities? Challenge your friends to a board game at Draughts, which has more than 800 games to choose from.

Unmissable South Bank and Waterloo events

South Bank and Waterloo play host to events all year round, so take your pick of what's on.

  • Let the kids take centre stage at the annual Imagine Children’s Festival.
  • Celebrate gender and equality each year at Women of the World festival, with talks, workshops and performances.
  • Tune into Southbank Centre’s long-running Classical Season. Keep coming back for the hundreds of concerts from leading artists and orchestras throughout the year.
  • Mix twinkling lights with foodie delights during Southbank Centre's Winter Festival, complete with a seasonal market.
  • Enjoy plenty of gigs during the annual Meltdown music festival, which is curated by a big-name artist each year.
  • The London Literature Festival brings together poetry, talks, readings and more, as it hosts famous authors from across the globe.

Stylish South Bank and Waterloo hotels

A balcony overlooking the river Thames and Houses of Parliament
Marvel at the views of Westminster from the London Marriott Hotel County Hall. Image courtesy of Antoine Buchet.

Have South Bank and Waterloo within arm's reach by staying in the heart of the action.

How to get to South Bank and Waterloo

South Bank and Waterloo are easy to access with London Waterloo, London Waterloo East and London Blackfriars train stations all close by.

London Waterloo connects to the south and south-west of England, including Bournemouth, Southampton, Exeter and Weymouth.

Waterloo East serves Kent and East Sussex, including Dover, Canterbury and Hastings. Blackfriars is connected via Thameslink services to destinations on the northern and eastern outskirts of London, such as Hertfordshire and Kent.

The nearest Tube stations to South Bank are Waterloo and Southwark. Waterloo Underground station is on the Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo and Waterloo & City Tube lines. The Jubilee Line also serves Southwark, a short walk away.

The Uber Boat by Thames Clippers RB1 line stops at London Eye Pier, with services to North Greenwich, Royal Wharf and Woolwich Arsenal piers. You can also take a river cruise from London Eye Pier with City Cruises.

More about South Bank

Find out more about South Bank at southbank.london

Visit more London neighbourhoods

Where to next? Check out other top London areas, including nearby London Bridge and Westminster.

What is around Waterloo Station in London?

There are many exciting things to do around Waterloo Station in London, from restaurants, clubs and theatres to fun family-friendly activities within walking distance.

What is South Bank known for?

South Bank is one of London's top locations, boasting a fantastic selection of galleries, museums and frequent cultural events. Nestled on the river Thames, the South Bank offers views of the iconic London Eye, Big Ben and National Theatre.

What is Waterloo station famous for?

Waterloo station is the biggest station in Britain, making it a popular destination to visitors and locals alike. Surrounded by some of London's most famous activities and attractions, the area has become a landmark London destination. 

What is there to do for free in South Bank?

Many of the activities and events around South Bank are free to enjoy, whether you're looking to take in the art and culture or experience one of the many free events that take place year-round.