Tourist Information Guide

A Visitor's Guide To The Southbank Centre in Waterloo, London

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The Royal Festival Hall - part of the Southbank Centre
The Royal Festival Hall - part of the Southbank Centre
Arrive at the Southbank on a sunny day and you will get a taste of why Londoners never tire of heading to this area on their days off. The Southbank Centre comprises of a cluster of buildings (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery) and outdoor spaces that sit on the banks of the River Thames, watched over by the London Eye and Big Ben. The area is busy with people who come to people watch, stroll and soak up the festival atmosphere. The Southbank Centre is a festival site, where the atmosphere and aesthetic of the area is different depending on what is happening there during your visit. For the "Festival of Britain" birthday celebrations we were transported to the British seaside with coloured bunting and vibrant beach huts lining the banks of the Thames. At the "Imagine Children's Festival" there were hoards of little ones shrieking through the outdoor fountain and getting their hands messy at the art stalls.

This page will give you an overview of what the Southbank Centre has to offer you. There is an explanation of the different parts that make up the whole that is the Southbank centre. Find out how to get to the Southbank Centre, contact details (address, telephone number and official website), photos of the Southbank Centre. You will also find out about ticketing and we also give you links to more detailed page on some of the Southbank Centre's most important buildings - the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery.


London Southbank Centre overview: what makes the centre special

A sign at the Southbank Centre showing you where the different buildings are
A sign at the Southbank Centre showing you where the different buildings are

Southbank Centre is a festival site: a collection of venues (see below) and outdoor spaces that host festivals with a running theme across the venues. For example, at the Festival of Brazil there could be Brazilian music concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, a Brazilian art exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and outdoor events in the areas surrounding the buildings such as free Brazilian dance workshops and food stalls.

Southbank Centre is made up of three different buildings (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward gallery). However, it is more than the sum of its parts - the areas surrounding the buildings are used in an imaginative way to pull the whole area together. You will find art installations, pop-up eateries and even sometimes a man-made beach in the area.

It specialises in cultural festivals and fairs, such as fairs celebrating Middle Eastern arts or children's literature festivals. You may decide to pick a single concert, performance or event but it is likely to make up part of a larger programme. Fairs will have both paying and free events. Past festivals have included Women of the World, the Meltdown Music Festival and the Imagine children's festival.

Southbank Centre is known as an epicentre for art, music and dance. It is an arts complex where you can find a wide selection of cultural options in one area.

On an almost daily basis there are free activities that take place in the centre. These include the likes of outdoor book fairs, international food stalls, dance workshops. Here we will explain the different areas that make up the Southbank Centre:

Royal Festival Hall: The Royal Festival Hall is one of the largest buildings along the Southbank. It offers an auditorium space in which you can see live classical music and other events. To find out more about the centre, with information on ticketing, location and contact details, see our Guide to the London Royal Festival Hall.

The Hayward Gallery
The Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery: The Hayward Gallery is an important modern art gallery in London. It is a unique building that people tend to either love or dislike, with a modernist sixties style. To find out more about the gallery, see the Official Southbank Centre Website Hayward Gallery page.

Queen Elizabeth Hall: Queen Elizabeth Hall is a smaller concert hall than the Royal Festival hall, but it is still the second largest in the Southbank area. It is a place to head to for checking out chamber orchestras, quartets, choirs and dance performances. To find out more, check out the Official Southbank Centre Website Queen Elizabeth Hall page.

Poetry Library: The Poetry Library houses the poetry collection that is owned by the Arts Council. It offers you the opportunity to access a massive collection of modern poetry. The collection dates from 1914 and covers poetry from around the UK. To find out more, check out the Official Southbank Centre's Poetry Library page.


How to get tickets

The Southbank Centre is made up of various components (see above for more details). Therefore, to find out about the tickets that are on offer at the various establishments and how to get your hands on them, it is best to check out the Official Southbank Centre Website's tickets page.


Opening times

The Operating hours of the Southbank Centre vary depending on what area of the centre you head to. Therefore, to find out about the exact opening times of each place in the Southbank Centre it is best to go to each building's individual web page to find out more (see above for the necessary website links).


The Southbank Centre Shop

The Southbank Centre has its own shop. You can head here if you would like to pick up a souvenir of the area. You can buy everything here from art postcards relating to what is showing at the Hayward Gallery to Festival of Britain tea towels. To find out more about the location and opening times of the shops (and also, if you would like to buy something from their online shop), see the Official Southbank Centre Website's Shop page.


Contact details

Southbank centre
Belvedere Road
South Bank
London
SE1 8XX

Tel: +44 (0) 20 3879 9555

Email: [email protected]
Website: Official Southbank Centre Website




Closest tube

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

On exiting Waterloo tube station you will find yourself in the main Waterloo train station building (to find out more about the train station, see our Guide to Waterloo Train Station in London.

On arrival in the main station building, follow signs for the Southbank. Exit the station building by heading down a flight of stairs. When you have gotten to the bottom of the stairs, cross the large road (York Road) and keep walking. The Royal Festival Hall is right in front of you. Walk up the steps that are at the left of the building. Once you reach the top of the steps you will be able to get an overview of the different buildings that make up the Southbank centre.


Restaurants nearby

The Southbank Centre is surrounded by places in which you can enjoy a drink or a bite to eat. Some of the best options can be found in and around the Royal Festival Hall. These include eateries such as Canteen and Ping Pong. To find out more about the options available to you in and around the Royal Festival Hall, see our Guide to the London Royal Festival Hall.


tip On a sunny weekend or weekday night there tends to be queues for the restaurants that make up part of the Southbank Centre. Therefore, you should either be prepared to queue (some don't take bookings - see the individual restaurants pages for more details) or book ahead where possible.


If you are on the look-out for somewhere with that added touch of cool, you could try out Concrete bar and café in the Hayward Gallery. During the day they serve light meals such as pizzettas, cakes and hot pots. By night the space has more of a bar feel, serving cocktails and often showcasing local DJs.

Restaurants near the Southbank Centre
Restaurants near the Southbank Centre

Also, if you fancy exploring the area of Waterloo, you can venture slightly further afield from the Southbank centre. Areas like The Cut and Lower Marsh can be reached from the Southbank in around ten minutes if you are on foot. These places offer something a little bit special if you fancy trying somewhere a bit different, with independent restaurant options. To find out more about Waterloo's dining options, see our Guide to Restaurants in Waterloo.


Parking in the area

The Southbank area is surrounded by parking options. The closest car park to the Southbank Centre is at the neighbouring National Theatre. To find out more about the parking options, including opening times, location and prices, see the National Theatre Official Website Car Park page.


The Southbank Centre is made up of a variety of venues, coming together to offer an eclectic and interesting cultural experience. It is worth doing some prior planning to make the most of your Southbank experience - many of the events that take place in the area will require tickets (and there's nothing worse than being disappointed by an event being sold out). Check the links above to the detailed programmes of events and you can find out more about what will be happening there during your visit. It is worth checking whether there are any other features at the Southbank during your visit, this is due to the fact that features change on a regular basis.


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