Things to do in South Bank and Waterloo

People relaxing on the grass on a bright day at Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, with the London Eye in the background.
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden and the London Eye ©
Find everything from culture and adventure to foodie treats and family fun in South Bank and Waterloo.
  • Attractions in South Bank and Waterloo include the iconic London Eye, SEA LIFE London Aquarium, The London Dungeon and Shrek's Adventure! London.

  • For entertainment, catch a performance or film at the National Theatre, the Southbank Centre, BFI IMAX, plus the Old Vic and Young Vic theatres.

  • For 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 during the 1951 Festival of Britain 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

Stick close to the river for many memorable moments.

  • 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

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

  • SEA LIFE London hosts all kinds of creatures from the deep. Brave the Shark Walk and explore the Coral Kingdom.
  • Meet the lovable ogre and his friends at the interactive Shrek’s Adventure! London.
  • Prepare for a scare or two at the frighteningly good London Dungeon.
  • Become enlightened by the story of “The Lady with the Lamp” at the Florence Nightingale Museum.
  • Discover first-hand wartime stories at IWM London, with plenty of free exhibitions and interactive displays to explore.

Best activities for teens in South Bank and Waterloo

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.
  • Find more ramps at skater and BMX hotspot House of Vans, which hosts regular free gigs, screenings and exhibitions.
  • 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

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

Where to shop in South Bank and Waterloo

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

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 8th-floor 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 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.
  • Wander through 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 Vietnamese treats at Banh Bao Brothers 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 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.
  • Music lover? Spiritland Royal Festival Hall combines DJ sets with food and drink to match.
  • 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.
  • Be delighted by quirky acts, from comedy to cabaret, during Vault Festival.
  • 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

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.

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 

Visit more London neighbourhoods

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