Tourist Information Guide

A Visitor's Guide To London's Southbank

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The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre
The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre
The Southbank is an area of London in Waterloo. As the name suggests, it is an area stretching along the southern banks of the River Thames. The area is famous for its cultural venues (there was even a television programme devoted to culture known as the South bank show). It is the place to head to if you would like to discover some of the capital's best art galleries, cinemas and museums. It is also well know for its theatre and live music. Even if you don't fancy committing to something specific, it is worth heading to the Southbank to simply take a stroll around - there is an interesting cultural atmosphere in the area and lots of cafes and restaurants where you can while away the hours.

This page will give you and overview to what to expect on a trip to the Southbank. You will find links to pages dealing with each of the main attractions along the Southbank. On each of the individual pages you will find a description of what the place offers, contact details, ticketing information where relevant and a location map. We will also provide you with a short overview of what the Southbank has to offer.


London Southbank overview: what makes the area special

A piece of art in the Southbank
A piece of art in the Southbank

The Southbank plays home to some of London's well-known cultural attractions National Theatre, Royal Festival Hall, the Southbank Centre, the London Eye Tate Modern and the London Aquarium. Also, the Southbank offers an interesting vantage point for seeing some of the best of what London has to offer - from the banks of the River Thames you will be able to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben the MI5 building and the Savoy Hotel.

Even if you are not heading to one of the area's specific attractions, a lot of Londoners head down to the Southbank to simply take a stroll. In the area you will find a wide selection of bars, cafes and restaurants. You will also find attractions including an outdoor book market and occasional outdoor events that happen throughout the year (to find out more about the events it is best to check the official Southbank centre website - see link below).


The BFI

The BFI is the British Film Institute. The Southbank's BFI centre is like a shrine to cinema - it offers the opportunity to see interesting films (everything from series of particular directors to old classics) and also see exhibitions related to film. The BFI also own the nearby IMAX cinema where you can view interesting and unique films on one of Europe's largest cinema screens.

To find out more about what the BFI has to offer, with useful information on location, tickets, opening times and events, see our Guide to the Southbank BFI in Waterloo.


The Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre actually comprises a variety of the area's important venues: the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Poetry Library. The Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall are spaces devoted almost entirely to live music (most of which is classical). The centre also includes shops and places to eat. If you would like to find out more about general activities that might be taking place around the Southbank, their website is worh a visit to look at. Past events have included the Festival of Britain and the Underbelly Festival.

For more information on the Southbank Centre, with information on the different areas, location details, events information and contact details, see our page on Southbank Centre in London.


The National Theatre

The National Theatre is one of the important theatres in London. It offers the opportunity to see classic theatre productions and new plays. If you want to see a play at the National Theatre we recommend you book in advance because it is popular. It is also worth remembering that the theatre itself is a place to head to for a cup of coffee or a wander around- you don't have to have tickets to a play to take a look around the building.

For advice on how to get tickets, location details, contact information and photos, see our page on The National Theatre in London.


The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern on the Southbank
The Tate Modern on the Southbank

The Tate Modern is an enormous modern art museum that is located in an old power station right on the banks of the River Thames. It houses a permanent collections of modern art. It also has regularly changing forward thinking temporary exhibitions.

Visit the official Tate Modern website to find out what temporary exhibitions might be taking place during your visit.

For our detailed guide to the Tate Modern, with information on how to get there from the nearest tube station, photos, ticketing information and contact details, see our page on Tate Modern in London.


Royal Festival Hall

The Royal Festival Hall is home to one of the UKs largest music auditoriums. It offers the opportunity to experience live music in a setting with dynamic acoustics and an electric atmosphere. The Royal Festival Hall is a building that is worth a visit even if you don't have tickets for a show - you can take a wander round and grab a drink or a bite to eat.

To find out details for a trip to the Royal Festival Hall, including advice on buying tickets, photos, a location map and contact details, see our page on The London Royal Festival Hall.


The London Eye

The London Eye and a view along the River Thames
The London Eye and a view along the River Thames

Since the London Eye's construction it has fast become one of London's most iconic structures - a large ferris wheel sitting on the edge of the River Thames. It offers an opportunity to see London from on high - as you go around in large pods on the big wheel you will be able to see London's landscape from different perspectives. It is a good idea as a place to head to for special occasions - the London Eye offer special deals such as romantic packages and packages for groups.

For a guide, with photographs, advice on booking tickets, location details and contact information, see our Guide to the London Eye.


The London Aquarium

The London Aquarium is popular with the kids - a large underground space housing a wide variety of creatures from the sea. The centre has been well-designed to keep the whole family entertained, with special activities for kids, interesting facts for the grown-ups.

To find out how to get to the aquarium, where to buy tickets, what to expect when you get there and hotels nearby, see our page on The London Aquarium.


Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Shakespeare's Globe is an absolute must for fans of both literature and theatre. It is a theatre that has been built to replicate the theatres that would have existed in this area during Shakespeare's time, and specifically, the original Globe theatre that housed some of Shakespeare's plays for the first time. The theatre is open air and a lot of the tickets are standing - in true keeping with the original theatre. If you don't have tickets to see a play there it is still worth doing the tour - you can find out about the history of the building and the plays that were staged in it.

To read our guide to Shakespeare's Globe, with details on the history, pricing, location and contact, visit our page on The London's Globe Theatre.


Restaurants

Restaurants on the Southbank
Restaurants on the Southbank

In and around the Southbank area you will find a selection of restaurants to rival any of the best gastronomical areas of London. You will find a useful mix of old favourites, popular chains and quirky independent establishments.

For a guide to the restaurants that are in Waterloo and in easy walking distance of the Southbank area, with links to individual pages for each restaurant, see our Guide to the restaurants in Waterloo.

If you would like to find out more specifically about the restaurants that can be found along the Southbank, you can find these in the restaurants section on our Guide to the Southbank Centre.





How to get to the Southbank:

Tube Tube: Waterloo (Black Line / Northern Line, Brown Line / Bakerloo Line, Grey Line / Jubilee Line, and Pink Line / City Line)

When you leave Waterloo tube station you will be in the main Waterloo train station building (to find out more about the train station, see our Guide to Waterloo Train Station in London). Follow signs for the Southbank. Leave the building via a flight of stairs. Once you have reached the bottom of the stairs, cross York Road and keep walking. The Royal Festival Hall is directly in front of you. Walk up the steps that are to the left hand side of the building. Once you reach the top of the steps you are at the centre of the Southbank area.


Festival of Britain event at the Southbank
Festival of Britain event at the Southbank

Ask a lot of Londoners and they will tell you that the Southbank is their favourite place to head to for a day out. There is something here for everybody - interesting museums, impressive art, good places to walk, areas where you can sit and watch the world go by and high quality eateries. Prior to your visit, do a bit of research so that you can make the most of your time there.


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